Tina's passion for creative writing began in her teens. She holds a Master of Arts (writing) and works as a freelance writer.
Ecosystems of a Fictional World
Exploring the ecosystems is a useful tool for fictional world building. It can help provide a deeper insight into a fictional world, exploring the relationships and dependencies of inhabitants with their environment, while provoking a deeper thought of the consequences of extraordinary events that can change a fictional world.
In an Earth-like world, ecosystems will constantly evolve as the life forms within them adapt to the constant changes of their environment. An ecosystem consists of all its life forms and their relationships with their environments, each other, and their reaction to change.
What is an ecosystem?
An ecosystem includes both biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) factors. When combined, they create an ecosystem. The ecosystem's sustainability depends upon the consistent interactions between the biotic and abiotic factors. Any changes to these interactions, whether or not they are caused by external or internal influences, may drastically change the behavior and lifespan of an ecosystem and end in extinction.
Human science has identified two different types of ecosystems, natural and artificial. Natural ecosystems are those environments that humans deem to be made by nature. A natural environment can be further broken down into terrestrial (land) or aquatic (water) environments. Artificial environments are environments and are generally man-made or machine-made.
A fantasy or science fiction world may have ecosystems that are similar to those of an Earth-like world. The environments might also include space, alien, and magical elements, as well as different physical laws. All of these environments might be artificial or natural or a combination.
As a writer, it is important to understand what makes up the ecosystems of your fictional world. Each ecosystem is like a jigsaw piece that plugs into another until the whole puzzle of your world is completed.
Ecosystems provide services to inhabitants and ultimately to civilizations. The table below provides a list of common services that you might find in an Earth-like ecosystem and those you might discover in a fictional world.
Services in a Fictional Ecosystem
|Earth-Like Services||Fictional & Fantasy Services|
Spiritual & Cultural Services
Communication With Gods
Fertilisation of a Race's Eggs
Alien Connections & Dependancies
Decay of Life
Shade & Shelter
Soil Erosion, Fertility, & Health
Interactions With Parallel Spheres
Water Services, Including Filtration
Ecosystem Template for a Fictional World
Once you have recognized and listed the major ecosystems of your fictional world, you may want to explore them further. This helpful template can be used for exploring them in a geofiction or for background research in a fiction book:
- Service: What service or services does the ecosystem provide? Does the it interact with any other ecosystems?
- Type: What type of ecosystem is it? Is it artificial, real, or a combination of the two?
- Location: Whereabouts is the ecosystem located? Provide a geographical description. If your ecosystem is stationary, provide coordinates for where the ecosystem can be found.
- Fauna: What animals are involved in the delivery of your ecosystem? List the types of animals and their population numbers. Which animals live within the ecosystem and which animals interact with your ecosystem from outside? Do any of the animals provide a threat to the ecosystem?
- Flora: What plants are involved in the delivery of your ecosystem? List the types of plants and their population numbers. Are there any plants that live outside the ecosystem that interact with it? Are any of the plants endangered or overpopulated? Do any of the plants provide a threat to the ecosystem?
- Structures: What structures exist within the ecosystem? What are the significant features of your structures? Which of these structures enhance the ecosystem? Which structures provide a hindrance?
- Elements: Is the ecosystem rich in any of the fictional world's elements?
- Observations of Interactions: If you were a scientist who was observing your ecosystem, what would you notice? How do the plants, animals, and structures interact? Are there any significant cycles or dependencies?
Fictional Ecosystems on the Net
- Worldbuilders: Epona
Epona is an imaginary world. You're familiar with the concept. Science fiction and world modelling are two faces of a coin. But Epona is different from the rest: Epona is consistent and complete. Why don't they all look like this?
K S Lane from Melbourne, Australia on February 06, 2018:
I love it when writers build their worlds thoughtfully and deeply. Though obviously not all of the behind-the-scenes details make it onto the page I feel that it always shows when a world has been built properly, as opposed to when it's been planned at a more shallow level. Considering the world's eco-system seems like a fantastic way to make sure you're in the former category. Great Hub!
Monday's Hero on June 29, 2011:
Agreed. Skills in Photoshop can also help an author create multi-layered maps that, when made visible, can show trade routes, economic hubs, and elevation. (If an author is willing to invest in researching the various political structures in their fantasy, investing a little extra time to build a map that will help them plan out their plot and world better can only help.)
Tina Dubinsky (author) from Brisbane, Australia on June 25, 2011:
Thanks Monday's Hero. A world map is certainly a useful tool for providing a picture of how it all fits together. A useful way for doing this is to create a layered map (using different layers of tracing paper) to show the different levels and interactions.
Monday's Hero on June 23, 2011:
Great article. It is always important to develop the world alongside the characters. A badly planned world and ecology (which is normally expressed on the world map) is one of the first turn-offs for me when I pick up a book off the shelf.