Energy is transferred from plants to animals through Food Chains. Sunlight energy
Phytoplankton are floating microscopic plants. They are very important estuary producers. Phytoplankton are eaten by floating animals, zooplankton - and by bigger animals like snails, clams, and barnacles. Phytoplankton Zooplankton Small but Mighty
Plants and animals: 1.Burn energy when they move and grow. 2.Store energy in their bodies. 3.Release unused energy as waste and heat. food energy in Undigested food energy out Energy used for swimming Food energy stored in fish - ready to be eaten
In an estuary, not every animal or plant gets eaten. Plants like eelgrass die back each year, just like the grass in a field. This stored-up energy is still important.
When a plant or animal dies, it rots. Bacteria breaks down the stored energy into food that can be used by other animals. Detritus: dead and rotting bits of plants and animals Detritivore: an animal that eats detritus.
Estuary food chains often overlap, making food webs.
Relative Importance Of Food Web Linkages Primary (75-100% of Total) Secondary (50-74% of Total) Tertiary (25-49% of Total) Incidental (0-24% of Total) Pacific Staghorn Sculpin Great Blue Heron Penpoint Gunnel Sharpnose Sculpin Small Fish (inc. herring, perch) Buffalo Sculpin Chum Salmon (juv.) Tubenose Poacher Mysids Gammarid Amphipods Detritus Cumaceans Padded Sculpin Tunicates Starry Flounder (juv.) Sanderlings,Long & Short-billed Dowitchers, Greater Yellowlegs Saddleback Gunnel Benthic Meiofauna Hippolytid, Crangonid, And Penaeid Shrimp Polychaete Annelids Gastropod Molluscs Saltmarsh Plants & Eelgrass Phytoplankton Microphytic Algae Whimbrel, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Pintail, Western Sandpiper English Sole (juv.) Crescent Gunnel Nemerteans Tidepool Sculpin Shiner Perch Brachyuran Crabs Harpacticoid Copepods Snake Prickleback Gastropod Molluscs Anthozoans Bivalve Molluscs Snow Goose, Canada Goose, black Brant, American coot Flabelliferan Isopods Macrophytic Algae Silverspotted Sculpin Tanaids Bay Pipefish Valviferan Isopods From Simenstad et al. 1979 Because many animals eat more than one thing, tracing energy through the estuary can get messy.