Energy flow (ecosystem): definition, process and examples (2023)

oneecosystemIt is defined as a community of diverse organisms that interact with each other and their environment in a given area. It is responsible for all interactions and relationships between the two.biotic(Live andabiotic(I do not live).

Energy drives the ecosystem to thrive. and while allmatter is preservedin an ecosystemEnergyflowsby an ecosystem, which means it is not conserved. Energy enters all ecosystems in the form of sunlight and is gradually released back into the environment as heat.

However, before the energy leaves the ecosystem as heat, it flows between organisms in a process called thermal energyenergy flow. This flow of energy, coming from the sun and going from organism to organism, is the basis of all interactions and relationships within an ecosystem.

Definition of energy flow and trophic levels

The definition of energy flow is the transfer of energy from the sun to each subsequent level of the food chain in an environment.

Each level of energy flow in thefood chainin an ecosystem it is denoted by a trophic level, which refers to the position that a particular organism or group of organisms occupies in the food chain. The beginning of the chain that would be at the base of the energy pyramid is thatfirsttropical plain. The first trophic level includes producers and autotrophs, which convert solar energy into usable chemical energy through photosynthesis.

The next level in the food chain/energy pyramid would be considered thatsecond trophic level, which is usually occupied by some type of primary consumer such as a herbivore that eats plants or algae. Each subsequent step in the food chain corresponds to a new trophic level.

Worth knowing terms for the energy flow in ecosystems

In addition to trophic levels, there are a few other terms you need to know to understand energy flow.

Biomass:Biomassis organic material or organic matter. Biomass is the physical organic material in which energy is stored, such as B. the mass of which plants and animals consist.

Productivity:Productivity is the rate at which energy is incorporated into the bodies of organisms as biomass. You can define productivity for each individual trophic level. For example,primary productivityis the productivity of primary producers in an ecosystem.

Gross Primary Productivity (PPB):GPP is the rate at which energy is captured from the sun into glucose molecules. Basically, it measures the amount of total chemical energy produced by the primary producers in an ecosystem.

Net Primary Productivity (PPN):The PNP also measures how much chemical energy is produced by the primary producers, but also accounts for the energy lost due to the metabolic needs of the producers themselves. So, NPP is the rate at which solar energy is captured and stored as biomass, and equals the amount of energy that the others do organisms in the ecosystem is available. is the nuclear power plantforevera value less than the GPP.

NPP varies by ecosystem. It depends on variables like:

  • sunlight present.
  • nutrients in the ecosystem.
  • soil quality.
  • Temperature.
  • Humidity.
  • CO2levels

energy flow process

Energy enters ecosystems in the form of sunlight and is converted into usable chemical energy by producers such as land plants, algae and photosynthetic bacteria. Once this energy enters the ecosystem through photosynthesis and is converted into biomass by these producers, the energy flows through the food chain as organisms eat other organisms.

The grass uses photosynthesis, the bug eats grass, the bird eats bugs, etc.

Current flow is not 100% efficient

As you move up the trophic levels and move further up the food chain, the flow of energy is not 100% efficient. Only about 10 percent of available energy passes from one trophic level to the next, or from one organism to another. The rest of this available energy (about 90% of this energy) is lost as heat.

Each level's net productivity decreases by a factor of 10 as you advance in each trophy level.

Why isn't this transmission 100% efficient? There are three main reasons:

1.Not all organisms at every trophic level are consumed:Think of it this way: Net primary productivity is equal to the total energy available to organisms in an ecosystem, provided by the producers of those organisms at higher trophic levels. In order for all this energy to flow from this level to the next, all of these generators would have to be consumed. Every blade of grass, every microscopic piece of algae, every leaf, every flower, etc. This doesn't happen, which means that some of that energy doesn't flow from that level to the higher trophic levels.

2. Not all energy can be transferred from one level to the next:The second reason why the flow of energy is inefficient is that some of the energy cannot be transferred and is therefore lost. For example, humans cannot digest cellulose. Although cellulose contains energy, humans cannot digest it or derive energy from it, and it is lost as "waste" (also known as feces).

This is true of all organisms: there are certain cells and pieces of matter that they cannot digest and that are excreted as waste or lost as heat. Although the available energy of a food is a lot, it is impossible for an organism that eats it to get all the energy units available in that food. Some of this energy is always wasted.

3. Energy metabolism:After all, organisms use energy tometabolic processeslike cellular respiration. This energy is consumed and cannot be transferred to the next trophic level.

How energy flow affects the energy and food pyramid

The flow of energy through food chains can be described as the transfer of energy from one organism to the next, beginning with the producers and moving up the chain as the organisms consume each other. Another way to represent this type of chain, or simply to represent trophic levels, is with food/energy pyramids.

Because the flow of energy is inefficient, the lowest level of the food chain is almost always the highest in terms of energy and biomass. That is why it appears at the base of the pyramid; this is the highest level. As you move up each trophic level or level of the food pyramid, both energy and biomass decrease, so the number of levels decreases and becomes visually narrower as you move up the pyramid.

Think of it this way: you lose 90% of the available amount of energy when you ascend. Only 10 percent of the energy flows, which cannot support as many organisms as the previous level. This results in less energy and less biomass at each level.

This explains why there are generally more organisms at the bottom of the food chain (such as grasses, insects and small fish) and far fewer organisms at the top of the food chain (such as bears, whales and lions). . Example).

How energy flows in an ecosystem

Here is a general chain of how energy flows in an ecosystem:

  1. Energy enters the ecosystem through sunlightsolar power.
  2. primary producers(also known as the first trophic level) converts this solar energy into chemical energy through photosynthesis. Common examples are terrestrial plants, photosynthetic bacteria, and algae. These producers are photosynthetic autotrophs, meaning they make their own food/organic molecules using energy from the sun and carbon dioxide.
  3. Part of this chemical energy that the producers create is thenintegrated into the topicthat make up these producers. The rest is lost in the form of heat and used in the metabolism of these organisms.
  4. They are then consumed bymain consumer(also known as the second trophic level). Common examples are herbivores and omnivores that eat plants. The energy stored in the matter of these organisms is transferred to the next trophic level. Some of the energy is lost as heat and waste.
  5. The next trophic level includes other consumers/predators that eat the organisms in the second trophic level (Secondary consumer, third consumer, etc.). Every time you move up the food chain, some energy is lost.
  6. When organisms diedecomposerlike worms, bacteria and fungi break down dead organisms and recycle nutrients in the ecosystem and provide energy themselves. As always, some energy is still lost as heat.

Without producers, there would be no way to bring energy into the ecosystem in a usable form. Energy must continually enter the ecosystem through sunlight and these primary producers, otherwise the entire food web/chain in the ecosystem would collapse and cease to exist.

Ecosystem example: temperate forest

temperate forest ecosystemsThey are a great example to show how energy flow works.

It all starts with the entry of solar energy into the ecosystem. This sunlight plus carbon dioxide is used by various primary producers in a forest environment including:

  • Trees (such as maples, oaks, ash and pines).
  • Herbs.
  • vineyards.
  • Algae in ponds/streams.

Then come the main consumers. In the temperate rainforest, this would include herbivores such as deer, various herbivorous insects, squirrels, ground squirrels, rabbits, and more. These organisms eat the primary producers and incorporate their energy into their own bodies. Some of the energy is lost as heat and waste.

Secondary and tertiary consumers then eat these other organisms. In a temperate rainforest, these include animals such as raccoons, predatory insects, foxes, coyotes, wolves, bears, and birds of prey.

When one of these organisms dies, decomposers decompose the bodies of the dead organisms and energy flows into the decomposers. In a temperate rainforest, these would be worms, fungi, and various types of bacteria.

The pyramid concept "energy flow" can also be demonstrated with this example. Most available energy and biomass is at the bottom of the food/energy pyramid: producers in the form of flowering plants, grasses, shrubs and more. The tier with the lowest amount of energy/biomass is at the top of the pyramid/food chain in the form of high-end consumers like bears and wolves.

Ecosystem example: coral reef

timemarine ecosystemsSince a coral reef is very different from terrestrial ecosystems like temperate forests, you can see how the concept of energy flow works in exactly the same way.

The main producers in a coral reef environment are primarily microscopic plankton, microscopic plant-like organisms found in corals and swimming freely in the water surrounding the coral reef. From there, various fish, mollusks, and other herbivorous creatures such as sea urchins that live on the reef consume these producers (mainly algae in this ecosystem) for energy.

The energy then flows to the next trophic level, which in that ecosystem would be larger predatory fish like sharks and barracuda along with moray eels, snappers, rays, squid and more.

Decomposers are also found in coral reefs. Some examples are:

  • The sea cucumber.
  • types of bacteria.
  • Shrimp.
  • Brittle starfish.
  • Various types of crabs (e.g. the ornamental crab).

You can also see the pyramid concept with this ecosystem. Most of the available energy and biomass exists at the first trophic level and at the bottom level of the food pyramid: the producers in the form of algae and coral organisms. The tier with the least amount of accumulated energy and biomass is at the top in the form of high-level consumers like sharks.

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