SUMMARY OF ENERGY FLOW THROUGH THE FOOD CHAIN

  • Producers use energy from the sun and the resources in the soil to create their own energy, and are the source of all energy brought into the food chain.

  • Herbivores consume plant matter and store the excess energy in their cells. Energy that is not available to carnivores, because they are unable to effectively digest plant matter, is transferred into animal cells, a form they can process.

  • When animals die, decomposers break down the dead and decaying organic matter into smaller forms until the microbial community in the soil breaks them down into basic nutrients again. The plants absorb them again, thus continuing the cycle of energy and nutrients.

  • Each trophic level supports the next. To keep an ecosystem sustainable, the nutrients and energy taken from it must be returned. Otherwise producers do not have the necessary resources to create more energy.

Nature keeps the ecosystem healthy by constantly cycling energy and nutrients through the food chain.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

 

Abiotic components: 
Non-living chemical and physical parts of the environment that affect living organisms and the functioning of ecosystems.

Amino acid:
A structural unit that builds proteins.  

Autotrophs:
An organism that is able to form nutritional organic substances from simple inorganic substances such as carbon dioxide.

Biotic:
Any living component that affects another organism or shapes the ecosystem.

Carnivore:
An animal that feeds on flesh.

Consumers:
Organisms that need to eat (i.e., consume) food to obtain their energy.

​Decomposers:
Organisms that breaks down dead organic material.

Detritivores:
Heterotrophs that obtain nutrients by consuming dead and decaying organisms.

Ecology:
The study of interactions between biotic and abiotic factors that influence their location, population, and distribution.

Ecosystem:
A community of living organisms that live in and interact with each other and their environment.

Essential nutrients:
Nutrients required for normal physiological function that cannot be created within our body.

Fossil Fuel:
A natural fuel such as coal or gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms.

Herbivores:
An animal that feeds on plants.

Heterotrophs:
An organism that eats other plants or animals for energy and nutrients.

Nature:
The phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth.

Omnivores:
An animal that eats both plants and animals.

Organism:
A form of life.

Photosynthesis:
The process by which green plants and some other organisms use sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water. Photosynthesis in plants generally involves the green pigment chlorophyll and generates oxygen as a byproduct.

Primary Consumers:
Organisms that eat the primary producer.

Producers:
Organisms that make their own food.

Saprovores:
An organism that decomposes organic matter outside their body using enzymes.

Secondary Consumers:
Organisms that eat primary consumers for energy.

Trophic Level:
A group of species that share the same link in the food chain/ food web.

Trophic pyramid:
Explains the movement and amount of energy passed through the food chain.

Copyright © New England Primate Conservancy 2021. You may freely use, copy and share these Learning Activities for educational purposes. 
​For questions or comments, e-mail us at [email protected]