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Elements of Sustainability
Maintaining a sustainable ecosystem relies on the interaction of 4 elements:
Ecosystem sustainability is determined by the relationship between these elements, and together they determine the level of resources that can be taken from an environment and still maintain it sustainably.
Productivity is the growth rate of each living part of an ecosystem; the animals, plants and other organisms that make up an ecosystem. Productivity affects the basic level of resources an ecosystem can provide. Diversity, the number of habitats, the kinds of species and the amount of genetic variability also influence productivity. Diverse ecosystems use their resources efficiently because different species use an ecosystem's resources in many different ways.
A moderate amount of disturbance, such as storms or other natural events, also increases productivity, but too much lowers productivity (and so sustainability). Most ecosystems can balance disturbance with regrowth. Our activities add to the disturbance rate, and can tip an ecosystem into unsustainablity if the combined level of disturbance becomes too great. Resilience is the ability of an ecosystem to resist and recover from disturbance events, and is influenced by both productivity and diversity.
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