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Energy Flow and Nutrients in an Ecosystem

Energy Flow Introduction

Energy flow is basically related to the flow of energy through an ecosystem. All energy that is on this Earth, starts with the sun. That energy is transferred into plants, who do photosynthesis, and create sugars so that animals that eat them can have the energy. Then, it's transferred up the pyramid of energy step by step.

Keep in mind that as we move up the pyramid of energy, we lose 90% of the available energy in the form of HEAT. That's why as we move up, it takes up less and less room (duh, it's a pyramid...get's smaller as you move up). Also, keep in mind the reference in your notes of the $1000 at the bottom where producers usually are, $100 where primary consumers are, $10 where secondary consumers were, and $1 where tertiary consumers usually are.

Take a look at this pyramid of energy/biomass
They've also been known to call it a Pyramid of Biomass. Tomato, tomatoe. Same difference. Biomass is the total amount of living material in each trophic level. As you can see above, there's 900 kg's of mass available in the producers/autotrophs trophic level. As you move up, it get's less and less "biomass".

Based off this pyramid of biomass/energy (it's all the same thing), you can see that to sustain/maintain every 10kg (kilograms) of owls, it would take 900kg of grasses. THAT'S CRAZY!!!

Ecological Pyramid (Biomass or Energy) Video

Simple Definitions to Remember from this section

Make sure you remember the following

AUTOTROPHS/PRODUCERS
Anything that conducts photosynthesis and basically "produces" its own food or energy. This includes plants, trees, shrubs, flowers. Uses sunlight energy to create "glucose", or sugar.

HETEROTROPHS/CONSUMERS
Anything that does respiration and basically "consumes" its food or energy. This is most animals. There are a few types of consumers, and they are differentiated based on what they consume.

Herbivores aka Primary Consumers
Immediately above Producers in pyramid. Eat producers (plants, grasses, etc)
Carnivores aka Secondary and Tertiary Consumers
Immediately above Primary Consumers in pyramid. Eat meat.
Omnivores
eat both plants and meat

Decomposers (Heterotrophs)
break down dead and decaying material and return nutrients to the soil so they can be reabsorbed into the cycle by plants.

Autotrophs vs. Heterotrophs Video

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