Outline of unit

Ecosystem is a broad term that includes all living organisms and the physical environment that surrounds them. All things are dependent on each other for their survival. Matter is recycled continually through the system. Energy is never lost, however it is converted to a form that is difficult to reuse. As a result, energy must be constantly replaced to ensure the survival of other living organisms. The ultimate form of energy is the Sun.

In this unit students investigate the relationships between different organisms. Students:

  • explore interactions between organisms such as predator/prey, competitors, pollinators and disease
  • examine factors that affect population sizes such as seasonal changes, destruction of habitats and introduced species
  • consider how energy flows into and out of an ecosystem via the pathways of food webs, and how it must be replaced to maintain the sustainability of the system
  • investigate how ecosystems change as a result of events such as bushfires, drought and flooding
  • plan and conduct investigations that focus on models of change in populations due to environmental changes, such as the impact of flooding or fire on rabbit or kangaroo populations
  • consider the impacts of human activity on an ecosystem from a range of different perspectives
  • use internet research to investigate problems and to evaluate information from secondary sources as part of the research process. They combine ideas from their own or others’ investigations and experiences to investigate further
  • design and construct appropriate graphs to represent data and analyse graphs for trends and patterns. They will use spreadsheets to present data in tables and graphical forms to carry out mathematical analyses on data.

Cross-curriculum priority


Australian Curriculum content descriptions

Science Understanding

Biological sciences

Ecosystems consist of communities of interdependent organisms and biotic components of the environment; matter and energy flow through those systems (ACSSU176

Science as a Human Endeavour

Nature and development of science

Advances in scientific understanding often rely on developments in technology and technological advances are often linked to scientific discoveries (ACSHE158

Science Inquiry Skills

Questioning and predicting

Formulate questions or hypotheses that can be investigated scientifically (ACSIS164

Planning and conducting

Plan, select and use appropriate methods, including field work and laboratory experimentation, to collect reliable data; assess risk and address ethical issues associated with these methods (ACSIS165

Select and use appropriate equipment, including digital technologies, to systematically and accurately collect and record data (ACSIS166)

Processing and analysing data and information

Analyse patterns and trends in data, including describing relationships between variables and identifying inconsistencies (ACSIS169

Use knowledge of scientific concepts to draw conclusions that are consistent with evidence (ACSIS170


Evaluate conclusions, including identifying sources of uncertainty and possible alternative explorations, and describe specific ways to improve the quality of the data (ACSIS171)

Critically analyse the validity of information in secondary sources and evaluate the approaches used to solve problems. (ACSIS172


Communicate scientific ideas and information for a particular purpose, including constructing evidence based arguments and using appropriate scientific language, conventions and representations (ACSIS174

 Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). 

Achievement standard

This lesson sequence provides opportunities to gather information about students’ achievement of specific components in the standards (which are bolded in the statements below).

By the end of year 9, students explain chemical processes and natural radioactivity in terms of atoms and energy transformers and describe examples of important chemical reactions. They describe models of energy transfer and apply these to explain phenomena. They explain global features and events in terms of geological processes and timescales. They analyse how biological systems function and respond to external changes with references to interdependencies, energy transfers and flows of matter. They describe social and technological factors that have influenced scientific developments and predict how future applications of science and technology may affect people’s lives.
Students design questions that can be investigated using a range of inquiry skills. They design methods that include the control and accurate measurement of variables and systemic collection of data and describe how they considered ethics and safety. They analyse trends in data, identify relationships between variables and reveal inconsistencies in results. They analyse their methods and the quality of data, and explain specific actions to improve the quality of their evidence. They evaluate others’ methods and explanations from a scientific perspective and use appropriate language and representations when communicating their findings and ideas to specific audiences.

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Red desert sand dunes, © John White Photos/Getty; Cattle graze in English field, Globalism Pictures, CC BY 2.0; Antarctic beech forest, © Steve Parish/Steve Parish Publishing/Corbis; Tyrant ants attending to Imperial Blue butterfly pupae, © John La Salle/CSIRO.

Additional information for teachers


Background information (PDF, 427 KB)

Safety advice (PDF, 331 KB)

Materials and equipment (PDF, 363 KB)


Developing programs in science for gifted and talented students 
(Australian Science Innovations)