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Energy Flow through Ecosystems

6 April, 2016 - 17:26

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the basic types of ecosystems on Earth
  • Differentiate between food chains and food webs and recognize the importance of each
  • Describe how organisms acquire energy in a food web and in associated food chains
  • Explain how the efficiency of energy transfers between trophic levels effects ecosystem

An ecosystem is a community of living organisms and their abiotic (non-living) environment. Ecosystems can be small, such as the tide pools found near the rocky shores of many oceans, or large, such as those found in the tropical rainforest of the Amazon in Brazil (Figure 20.2).

Figure 20.2 A (a) tidal pool ecosystem in Matinicus Island, Maine, is a small ecosystem, while the (b) Amazon rainforest in Brazil is a large ecosystem. 

There are three broad categories of ecosystems based on their general environment: freshwater, marine, and terrestrial. Within these three categories are individual ecosystem types based on the environmental habitat and organisms present.