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Hiriya School 2011- Science Students

Ecology

Learning Objectives

State that the sun is the principal source of energy input to the biological systems.

Describe the non-cyclical nature of the energy flow

Define the following terms and establish the relationships of each in food webs.

  • - Producer

  • - Consumer

  • - Herbivore

  • - Carnivore

  • - Decomposer

  • - Food Chain Describe energy losses between trophic levels and infer the advantages and

disadvantages of short food chains. Describe and interpret pyramids of number and pyramids of biomass.

Ecology

Ecology is the branch of biology that studies relationships between living organisms and the non-living components of the environment in which they live.

Organisms’ interactions may be competitive or beneficial. Organisms may interact with one

another in several ways. Some of these relationships include Producer-Consumer, Predator- Prey, and Parasite-Host relationships.

Ecological Terms

1)

Species: Closely related organisms which can interbreed to produce fertile young offspring. Example: - Mouse

2)

Population: A group of organisms of the same species living in a particular area. Example: - A group of mice.

3)

Community: An assemblage of all the living organisms of different species living in a particular area. Example: - A group of mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and small birds, living on a huge oak tree (habitat).

4)

Ecosystem: The basic functional unit of nature, including the different communities and the non-living environment in an area. In other words, it is a unit of space in which all the biotic and abiotic factors interact in a balanced manner so that energy flow is maintained. Example: - A group of mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and small birds, living on a huge oak tree, along with the air, soil, sunlight, etc. in that area.

Hiriya School 2011- Science Students

5)

Biome: A collection of similar ecosystems extending over a large natural area. Example: - A rainforest. (Includes the emergent, canopy, understory and forest floor ecosystems. (Visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainforest for more information))

6)

Biosphere: Part of the earth and its atmosphere inhabited by organisms (All the biomes

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combined together). Habitat: The place in which an organism lives. Hence, the place in which the organism

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feeds and breeds. Example: - Ocean, Fresh Water (Rivers, ponds, lakes, etc.), Terrestrial (Land), Estuarine (Mouth of the river, partly salt water and partly fresh water). Ecological niche: The role played by an organism in an ecosystem. It is the way of life, which enables species to occupy a particular place within a community and maintain the ecological balance. Example: - How it finds food, the type of food it eats, etc.

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Levels of Organisation

Hiriya School 2011- Science Students Levels of Organisation Types of Ecosystems  Natural Ecosystems Natural ecosystems
Hiriya School 2011- Science Students Levels of Organisation Types of Ecosystems  Natural Ecosystems Natural ecosystems

Types of Ecosystems

Natural Ecosystems

Natural ecosystems operate by themselves under natural conditions without any major interference by man. Based upon the particular kind of habitat, these are further divided as:

1. Terrestrial e.g. forest, grassland, desert

2. Aquatic which is further distinguished as:

-

Freshwater which may be spring, stream or river lake, pond, pools, ditch, swamp, etc.

-

Marine, e.g. sea or ocean (deep bodies) and estuary (shallow bodies).

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Artificial Ecosystems

Artificial Ecosystems are also called man-made or man-engineered ecosystems. They are maintained artificially by man where, by addition of energy and planned manipulation, natural balance is disturbed regularly, e.g. croplands such as sugarcane, maize, wheat, rice-fields; orchards, gardens, villages, cities, dams, aquarium and manned spaceship.

Components of the Ecosystem

Each distinct ecosystem consists of two major components: Abiotic components and biotic components.

Abiotic components

Abiotic components include:

Inorganic substances such as chemical substances like oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and

compounds such as carbon dioxide and water. Organic substances such as potentially nutritional chemical compounds like proteins, humus,

fats. Climatic factors such as the temperature, humidity, light, etc.

Biotic components

Biotic components are the organisms that live in the ecosystem and interact with one another to sustain the biome.

There are three types of biotic components:

Producers - capable of making their own organic sustenance, such as trees.

These are green plants which synthesize their own food by photosynthesis. The green plants convert light energy from the sun into chemical energy in glucose. All the other organisms use chemical energy stored in the plants in the form of food.

Consumers - unable to make their own food and dependent on the other biotic components for feeding.

These are animals that are directly or indirectly dependant on the producers. Based on the dependence, they can be grouped again into primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary, etc.

Decomposers - those organisms that live on the dead animals and plants in the ecosystem. These include microbes such as bacteria, fungi etc. They depend on dead and decaying organic matter. They secrete enzymes which break down the complex dead bodies of plants and animals into simple forms which can be easily absorbed. During this process, many simple substances like phosphates and nitrates are produced which can be absorbed and used by producers. Hence decomposers are also called transformers. In certain ecosystems there can also be the involvement of scavengers or detritivores. They feed on detritus (dead plants and animals) and break them down. E.g. Earthworm, Millipede, Woodlice, etc.

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Food Chains

A food chain is a series of organisms through which energy is transferred from one organism to another as one is eaten by another.

The prime source of energy is always the sun.

Sun Grass Grasshopper
Sun
Grass
Grasshopper

Frog

Hiriya School 2011- Science Students Food Chains A food chain is a series of organisms through

Snake

Hiriya School 2011- Science Students Food Chains A food chain is a series of organisms through

Hawk

Producers are always at the start of the food chain. Top carnivore is at the end.

Hiriya School 2011- Science Students Food Chains A food chain is a series of organisms through

Hiriya School 2011- Science Students

Food Webs

A food web consists of two or more food chains interlinked together.

Hiriya School 2011- Science Students Food Webs A food web consists of two or more food

Food Chains in this food Web:

Hiriya School 2011- Science Students Food Webs A food web consists of two or more food

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Food Cycles

Food cycles are formed when decomposers are added to the food chains.

Hiriya School 2011- Science Students Food Cycles Food cycles are formed when decomposers are added to

All of the organism die and are decomposed by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. The organic matter is broken down into simple substances such as nitrates and phosphates. These substances are left behind in the soil, and used up by plants again.

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Trophic Levels

The energy levels in an ecosystem are called trophic levels. The producer forms the first trophic level. The primary consumer forms the second trophic level, and so on.

4th Trophic Level 3rd Trophic Level 2nd Trophic 1 ST Trophic Level Advantages of Short Food
4th Trophic
Level
3rd Trophic
Level
2nd Trophic
1 ST Trophic Level
Advantages of Short Food Chains
Less number of trophic levels
More amount of energy transferred to higher trophic level.

Ecological Pyramids

The ecological pyramids are a graphical representation of the nutritional relationship and the energy flow from one trophic level to another in the ecosystem. The producers form the base and the consumers from the subsequent tiers of the pyramid.

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1) Pyramid of Number This is a type of ecological pyramid in which the number of
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Pyramid of Number
This is a type of ecological pyramid in which the number of organisms in each trophic
level is represented diagrammatically. The widths of the bars represent the number of
organisms at each trophic level.
2)
Pyramids of biomass

A pyramid of biomass is a pyramid constructed using the dry mass of the organisms at

each trophic level in a food chain.

Hiriya School 2011- Science Students 1) Pyramid of Number This is a type of ecological pyramid

Hiriya School 2011- Science Students

Energy Flow in an Ecosystem

The ultimate source of energy is the sun. The energy enters the ecosystem in the form of light. About 95% to 99% of energy is lost into the atmosphere by conduction, convection and radiation. Plants trap the remaining 1-5% of the light energy by the green pigment called chlorophyll present in the chloroplasts, and use this energy for photosynthesis. Thus green plants convert light energy into chemical energy. This energy is stored in the plant biomass and is used by other organisms when they eat the plant.

When a plant is consumed by an animal, 30% of the energy acquired is lost as heat in respiration. 60% is lost as excretory wastes and faecal material, and only 10% is used for growth.

A similar loss of energy happens at every stage of the food chain.

The energy passes through the ecosystem in the form of a food chain. The primary consumers obtain their energy from the producers. About 90% of this energy is lost in excretion, egestion and respiration. The remaining 10% is stored as the animal biomass, which can be transferred to the next trophic level. The secondary consumers obtain this energy when they feed on the primary consumers. They also lose 90% of the energy and store 10% of the energy in biomass which can be transferred to the next trophic level. Thus, by eating and being eaten, energy passes through an ecosystem. However, less energy is available the further we go up the food chain.

If we want to eat an energy efficient diet, we should eat from low down the food chain. Eat the plants rather than the herbivores.

When organisms die, the decomposers break down the organic matter into inorganic materials, which can be used by the plants. By this process, energy is lost from the ecosystem in the form of heat. SO, ENERGY IS NOT RECYCLED IN THE ECOSYSTEM.

-Raudha Athif

*************** Good Luck!!

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