Scientists use diagrams called _________ to trace the flow of energy through ecosystems.

1 Answer

  • The other component shown in the diagram are the inorganic nutrients. They are inorganic because they do not contain carbon-carbon bonds. These inorganic nutrients include the phosphorous in your teeth, bones, and cellular membranes; the nitrogen in your amino acids (the building blocks of protein); and the iron in your blood (to name just a few of the inorganic nutrients). The movement of the inorgA trophic level refers to the organisms position in the food chain. Autotrophs are at the base. Organisms that eat autotrophs are called herbivores or primary consumers. An organism that eats herbivores is a carnivore and a secondary consumer. A carnivore which eats a carnivore which eats a herbivore is a tertiary consumer, and so on. It is important to note that many animals do not specialize in their diets. Omnivores (such as humans) eat both animals and plants. Further, except for some specialists, most carnivores don't limit their diet to organisms of only one trophic level. Frogs, for instance, don't discriminate between herbivorous and carnivorous bugs in their diet. If it's the right size, and moving at the right distance, chances are the frog will eat it. It's not as if the frog has brain cells to waste wondering if it's going to mess up the food chain by being a secondary consumer one minute and a quaternary consumer the next. Energy Flow Through the Ecosystem The diagram above shows how both energy and inorganic nutrients flow through the ecosystem. We need to define some terminology first. Energy "flows" through the ecosystem in the form of carbon-carbon bonds. When respiration occurs, the carbon-carbon bonds are broken and the carbon is combined with oxygen to form carbon dioxide. This process releases the energy, which is either used by the organism (to move its muscles, digest food, excrete wastes, think, etc.) or the energy may be lost as heat. The dark arrows represent the movement of this energy. Note that all energy comes from the sun, and that the ultimate fate of all energy in ecosystems is to be lost as heat. Energy does not recycle!!