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Food Relationships

Food web
describes the eating relationships
between species within an ecosystem or
a particular living place.
Many types of food chains or webs are
applicable depending on habitat or
environmental factors.

Food web

Trophic Levels
describes the position that an organism
occupies in a food chain
what an organism eats, and what eats the

An autotroph is an organism that
produces complex organic compounds
from simple inorganic molecules
using energy from light (by photosynthesis)
plants & algae

or inorganic chemical reactions (by

Bacteria in hydrothermal vents

A Heterotroph is an organism that uses
organic substrates to get its chemical energy
for its life cycle.
This contrasts with autotrophs such as plants
which are able to directly use sources of
energy such as light to produce organic
substrates from inorganic carbon dioxide.
Animals, Fungus eat other things


Herbivory is a form of predation in which an
organism, known as a herbivore, consumes
principally autotrophs
such as plants, algae and photosynthesizing
Herbivory is generally restricted to animals
eating plants.
Organisms that feed on autotrophs are known
as primary consumers.


A carnivore means meat eater
An animal that derives its energy and
nutrient requirements from a diet consisting
mainly or exclusively of vertebrate and/or
invertebrate animal tissue, whether through
predation or scavenging
A carnivore that sits at the top of the
foodchain is an apex predator.


Omnivores are species that eat both plants and animals as
their primary food source.
They are opportunistic, general feeders not specifically adapted
to eat and digest either meat or plant material exclusively
Crows are another example of an omnivore that many people see
every day

There are reported cases of herbivores eating meat matter as

well as examples of carnivores eating plants, the classification
refers to the adaptations and main food source of the species in
general so these exceptions do not make either individual
animals nor the species as a whole omnivores.


Detritivores are heterotrophs that obtain nutrients by
consuming detritus
decomposing organic matter)

They contribute to decomposition and the nutrient cycles.

Detritivores are an important aspect of many ecosystems.
They can live on any soil with an organic component, and
even live in marine ecosystems where they are termed
interchangeably with bottom feeders.
Typical detritivorous animals include millipedes, woodlice,
dung flies, many terrestrial worms, burying beetles, some
sedentary polychaetes such as amphitrite, terebellids and
fiddler crabs.

primary vs secondary
vs tertiary
Primary Consumer - organism which gets its food from
plants (rabbit, squirrel, deer, mouse, honey bee, aphid,
grasshopper, tadpole, duck, black bear, mosquito,
humpback whale, other animals at times).
Secondary Consumer - organism which gets its food
mainly by eating primary consumers, but can also be prey
itself. (weasel, shrew, mole, merganser, snake, spider, frog,
most fish, other animals at times).
Tertiary Consumer - organism which gets its food mainly
by eating other consumers, but rarely becomes prey itself.
(hawk, wolf, shark, fox, dragonfly, orca, human). APEX

Decomposers and scavengers break down dead
plants and animals.
They also break down the waste (poop) of other
Decomposers are very important for any ecosystem.
If they weren't in the ecosystem, the plants would
not get essential nutrients, and dead matter and
waste would pile up.
There are two kinds of decomposers, scavengers
and decomposers.


biomass pyramid
pyramid of biomass is a diagram of
different trophic levels in an ecosystem
usually plotted as dry matter per unit area or
Typically this gives a gradually sloping
pyramid, except where the sizes of organisms
vary dramatically from one trophic level to

Biomass pyramid

Energy and Nutrients

pyramid of energy is a diagram of the rates of
flow of energy through the different trophic levels of
an ecosystem.
Each bar of the pyramid represents the amount of
energy per unit area or volume which flows through
that trophic level in a given time period.
The pyramid reflects the rates of photosynthesis,
respiration, etc.
pyramid of numbers is a diagram of the numbers
of individual organisms present at each trophic level
of an ecosystem.

Energy Pyramid

Energy Flow
Energy flows in a one way direction
At each level of the food chain, about 90% of the energy is lost
in the form of heat.
The total energy passed from one level to the next is only about
one-tenth of the energy received from the previous organism.
Therefore, as you move up the food chain, there is less energy
Animals located at the top of the food chain need a lot more
food to meet their energy needs.
NOTE!! Each organism in the food chain is only transfering onetenth of its energy to the next organism.

Nutrient Cycling
Energy does NOT cycle through an ecosystem, chemicals
(Nutrients) do.
Nutrients cycle through the organisms, the atmosphere, the
oceans, and rocks.
Since these chemicals cycle through both the biological and the
geological world, we call the cycles biogeochemical cycles.
Each chemical has its own unique cycle, but all of the cycles do
have some things in common.
Reservoirs are those parts of the cycle where the chemical is
held in large quantities for long periods of time.
The energy for transportation of chemicals is provided either by
the sun or by the heat released from the mantle and core of the

Sand County
Almanac/Aldo Leopold
Aldo Leopold died in 1948 without seeing his book in
print, but when A Sand County Almanac was published
in 1949 it spoke his voice clearly and plainly, and has
had a profound effect on its readers ever since
A Sand County Almanac is built around three main ideas:
Land is a community of living things. This idea argues for
the study of ecology.
Land is to be loved and respected. This idea argues for
conservation ethics.
Land yields a harvest of culture. Leopold calls this "a fact
long known, but forgotten recently."