# Carrying Capacity, Food Chains, Food Webs, and the Transfer of Energy

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Carrying Capacity, Food Chains, Food Webs, and the Transfer of Energy
Ecology Notes Carrying Capacity, Food Chains, Food Webs, and the Transfer of Energy

Limits to Population Growth
Carrying Capacity Maximum population size existing in an ecosystem at a given time without damaging ecosystem

Carrying Capacity Key Point: We can read a carrying capacity graph to predict changes in population size Time Population size Graph line = Population size at a specific time Dotted line = Carrying Capacity A = x-axis = time C = y-axis = population size B = graph shows population size at any given time D = carrying capacity

Carrying Capacity Time Population size Remember from math class, exponential increase = constantly doubling. (Makes a curved line on a graph.) Analogy: each person at the party invites a new friend. Each one of them invites another new friend. Etc. When a population is BELOW its carrying capacity, it will INCREASE in size Birth rate exceeds death rates

Carrying Capacity Time Population size Analogy: We run out of food at the party, and people start to leave. Remember over the last few days, when one population in a food web died, so another population that ate it decreased in size? That’s because the carrying capacity decreased! But if it increases too much and rises ABOVE its carrying capacity, it will DECREASE in size Death rate exceeds birth rate

Carrying Capacity Time Population size Analogy: Once there’s enough food again, more people will come. But we’ll probably be a bit more cautious, and not invite people as quickly. So if we go over carrying capacity, it won’t be by as much. This happens over and over… but the increases and decreases get smaller and smaller…

Has Earth reached our carrying capacity?

Limits to Population Growth
Limiting factor Anything preventing growth of a population Examples: Space Food Climate and Weather Disease Human Activity

Autotrophs A group of organisms that can use the energy in sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into Glucose (food) Without autotrophs, there would be no life on this planet Ex. Plants and Algae

Heterotrophs Organisms that do not make their own food
Another term for Heterotroph is consumer Ex. Rabbits, Deer, Mushrooms

Heterotrophs Consumers
1. Scavengers/Detritivores – feed on the tissue of dead organisms (both plants and animals) Ex. – Vultures, Crows, and Shrimp

Heterotrophs Consumers 2. Herbivores – eat ONLY plants
Ex. – Cows, Elephants, Giraffes

Heterotrophs Consumers 3. Carnivores – eat ONLY meat
Ex. – Lions, Tigers, Sharks

Heterotrophs Consumers 4. Omnivores – eat BOTH plants and animals
Ex. – Bears and Humans

Heterotrophs Consumers
5. Decomposers – absorb any dead material and break it down into simple nutrients or fertilizers Ex. – Bacteria and Mushrooms

Transfer of Energy When a zebra eats the grass, it does not obtain all of the energy the grass has When a lion eats a zebra, it does not get all of the energy from the zebra (much of it is lost as heat)

Transfer of Energy The two (2) previous examples of energy transfer show that no organism EVER receives all of the energy from the organism they just ate Only 10% of the energy from one trophic level is transferred to the next – this is called the 10% law

Trophic Levels Energy moves from one organisms to another when it is eaten Each step in this transfer of energy is know as a trophic level The main trophic levels are producers, consumers, and decomposers

Food Chains The energy flow from one trophic level to the other is know as a food chain It involves one organism at each trophic level Primary Consumers – eat autotrophs (producers) Secondary Consumers – eat the primary consumers Tertiary Consumers – eat the secondary consumers Decomposers – bacteria and fungi that break down dead organisms and recycle the material back into the environment

Food Chain

Food Web Most organisms eat more than JUST one organism
When more organisms are involved it is known as a FOOD WEB Food webs are more complex and involve lots of organisms

Food Web

Food Web Notice that the direction the arrow points  in the direction of the energy transfer, NOT “what ate what”

Food Web

Biomass The total mass of the organic matter at each trophic level is called biomass Biomass is just another term for potential energy – energy that is to be eaten and used. The transfer of energy from one level to another is very inefficient (10% Law)

Biomass

Ecological Pyramid An ecological pyramid shows the relationship between consumers and producers at different trophic levels in an ecosystem Shows the relative amounts of energy or matter contained at each trophic level The Pyramid shows which level has the most energy and the highest number of organisms

Ecological Pyramid

Ecological Pyramid

Ecological Pyramid Which level has the most energy?
Which level has the most organisms? Which level has the least organisms? Which level has the least energy?

Ecological Succession
A change in the community in which new populations of organisms gradually replace existing ones 1. Primary Succession – occurs in an area where there is no existing communities and for some reason (s) a new community of organisms move into the area

Ecological Succession
A change in the community in which new populations of organisms gradually replace existing ones 2. Secondary Succession – occurs in an area where an existing community is partially damaged

Ecological Succession
A change in the community in which new populations of organisms gradually replace existing ones 3. Climax Community – a community that is stable and has a great diversity of organisms

Ecological Succession

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