Ecosystem components energy flow and matter cycling
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Ecosystem Components, Energy Flow and Matter Cycling. Chapter 4 Miller’s Living in the Environment !3th Edition. Chapter 4 Ecology, Ecosystems, and Food Webs. 4-1 Ecology and Life 4-2 Earth’s Life-Support Systems 4-3 Ecosystem Concept 4-4 Food Webs and Energy Flow in Ecosystems

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Ecosystem Components, Energy Flow and Matter Cycling

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Ecosystem components energy flow and matter cycling

Ecosystem Components, Energy Flow and Matter Cycling

Chapter 4

Miller’s Living in the Environment

!3th Edition

Chapter 4 ecology ecosystems and food webs

Chapter 4Ecology, Ecosystems, and Food Webs

  • 4-1 Ecology and Life

  • 4-2 Earth’s Life-Support Systems

  • 4-3 Ecosystem Concept

  • 4-4 Food Webs and Energy Flow in Ecosystems

  • 4-5 How do Ecologists learn about Ecosystems?

  • 4-6 Ecosystem Services and Sustainability

4 1 ecology and life

4-1 Ecology and Life

  • Ecology- study of relationships between organisms and their environment

    • Ecology examines how organisms interact with their nonliving (abiotic) environment such as sunlight, temperature, moisture, and vital nutrients

    • Biotic interaction among organisms, populations, communities, ecosystems, and the ecosphere

Distinction between species

Distinction between Species

  • Wild species- one that exists as a population of individuals in a natural habitat, ideally similar to the one in which its ancestors evolved

  • Domesticated species- animals such as cows, sheep, food crops, animals in zoos



  • Population

    • Group of interacting individuals of the same species that occupy a specific area at the same time

  • Genetic Diversity

    • Populations that are dynamic groups that change in size, age distribution, density, and genetic composition as a result of changes in environmental conditions

Ecosystem components energy flow and matter cycling

  • Habitat

    • Place where a population or individual organism naturally lives

  • Community

    • Complex interacting network of plants, animals, and microorganisms

  • Ecosystem

    • Community of different species interacting with one another and with their nonliving environment of matter and energy

  • Ecosphere or Biosphere

    • All earth's ecosystems

What is life

What is Life?

  • All life shares a set of basic characteristics

    • Made of cells that have highly organized internal structure and functions

    • Characteristic types of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) molecules in each cell

Living organisms

Living Organisms

  • Capture and transform matter and energy from their environment to supply their needs for survival, growth, and reproduction

  • Maintain favorable internal conditions, despite changes in their external environment through homeostasis, if not overstressed

Living organisms1

Living Organisms

  • Perpetuate themselves through reproduction

  • Adapt to changes in environmental conditions through the process of evolution

Ecosystem components energy flow and matter cycling

4 2 geosphere

The Earth contains several layers or concentric spheres

  • Lithosphere

    • Crust and upper mantle

  • Crust

    • Outermost, thin silicate zone, eight elements make up 98.5% of the weight of the earth’s crust

4-2 Geosphere

4 2 geosphere1

  • Core

    • Innermost zone, mostly iron, solid inner part, surrounded by a liquid core of molten material

    • Inner Core is hotter than surface of the Sun

  • Mantle

    • Surrounded by a thick, solid zone, largest zone, rich with iron, silicon, oxygen, and magnesium, very hot

4-2 Geosphere

4 2 atmosphere

4-2 Atmosphere

  • Thin envelope of air around the planet

    • Troposphere

      • extends about 17 kilometers above sea level, contains nitrogen (78%), oxygen(21%), and is where weather occurs

    • Stratosphere

      • 17-48 kilometers above sea level, lower portions contains enough ozone (O3) to filter out most of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation

4 2 hydrosphere

4-2 Hydrosphere

Consists of the earth’s liquid water, ice, and water vapor in the atmosphere

What sustains life on earth

What Sustains Life on Earth?

  • Life on the earth depends on three interconnected factors

    • One-way flow of high-quality energy from the sun

    • Cycling of matter or nutrients (all atoms, ions, or molecules needed for survival by living organisms), through all parts of the ecosphere

    • Gravity, which allows the planet to hold onto its atmosphere and causes the downward movement of chemicals in the matter cycles

Ecosystem components energy flow and matter cycling


  • Fireball of hydrogen (72%) and helium (28%)

  • Nuclear fusion

  • Sun has existed for 6 billion years

  • Sun will stay for another 6.5 billion years

  • Visible light that reaches troposphere is the ultraviolet ray which is not absorbed in ozone

Solar energy

Solar Energy

  • 72% of solar energy warms the lands

  • 0.023% of solar energy is captured by green plants and bacteria

  • Powers the cycling of matter and weather system

  • Distributes heat and fresh water

Ecosystem components energy flow and matter cycling climch/clichgr1.htm

Type of nutrients

Type of Nutrients

  • Nutrient

    • Any atom, ion, or molecule an organism needs to live grow or reproduce

    • Ex: carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen… etc

  • Macronutrient

    • nutrient that organisms need in large amount

    • Ex: phosphorus, sulfur, calcium, iron … etc

  • Micronutrient

    • nutrient that organism need in small amount

    • Ex: zinc, sodium, copper… etc

Biomes large regions characterized by distinct climate and specific life forms

Biomes– Large regions characterized by distinct climate, and specific life-forms

Climate– Long-term weather; main factor determining what type of life will be in a certain area.

Ecosphere separation

Ecosphere Separation

  • The Ecosphere and it’s ecosystem can be separated into two parts

    • Abiotic- nonliving, components

      • Ex: air, water, solar energy

      • Physical and chemical factors that influence living organisms

    • Biotic- living, components

      • Ex: plants and animals

Range of tolerance

Range of Tolerance

  • Variations in it’s physical and chemical environment

    • Differences in genetic makeup, health, and age.

    • Ex: trout has to live in colder water than bass

Limiting factor

Limiting Factor

  • More important than others in regulating population growth

    • Ex: water light, and soil

    • Lacking water in the desert can limit the growth of plants

Limiting factor principle

Limiting Factor Principle

  • too much or too little of any abiotic factor can limit growth of population, even if all the other factors are at optimum (favorable) range of tolerance.

    • Ex: If a farmer plants corn in phosphorus-poor soil, even if water, nitrogen are in a optimum levels, corn will stop growing, after it uses up available phosphorus.

Dissolved oxygen content

Dissolved Oxygen Content

  • Amount of oxygen gas dissolved in a given volume of water at a particular temperature and pressure.

    • Limiting factor of aquatic ecosystem



  • amount of salt dissolved in given volume of water

Living organisms in ecosystem

Living Organisms in Ecosystem

Producers or autotrophs- makes their own food from compound obtained from environment.

  • Ex: plant gets energy or food from sun

Living organisms in ecosystem1

Living Organisms in Ecosystem

Photosynthesis- ability of producer to convert sunlight, abiotic nutrients to sugars and other complex organic compounds

  • Chlorophyll- traps solar energy and converts into chemical energy

Ecosystem components energy flow and matter cycling

  • Producer transmit 1-5% of absorbed energy into chemical energy, which is stored in complex carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acid in plant tissue



  • Bacteria can convert simple compounds from their environment into more complex nutrient compound without sunlight

    • Ex: becomes consumed by tubeworms, clams, crabs

    • Bacteria can survive in great amount of heat

Consumers or heterotrophs

Consumers or Heterotrophs

  • Obtain energy and nutrients by feeding on other organisms or their remains



  • Herbivores (plant-eaters) or primary consumers

  • Feed directly on producers

    • Deer, goats, rabbits



  • Carnivores (meat eater) or secondary consumers

  • Feed only on primary consumer

    • Lion, Tiger



  • Tertiary (higher-level) consumer

  • Feed only on other carnivores

    • Wolf



  • Omnivores- consumers that eat both plants and animals

    • Ex: pigs, humans, bears



  • Scavengers- feed on dead organisms

    • Vultures, flies, crows, shark



  • Detritivores- live off detritus

    • Detritus parts of dead organisms and wastes of living organisms.

  • Detritus feeders- extract nutrients from partly decomposed organic matter plant debris, and animal dung.



  • Decomposers - Fungi and bacteria break down and recycle organic materials from organisms’ wastes and from dead organisms

    • Food sources for worms and insects

    • Biodegradable - can be broken down by decomposers



  • Aerobic Respiration

    • Uses oxygen to convert organic nutrients back into carbon dioxide and water

    • Glucose + oxygen  Carbon dioxide + water + energy

  • Anaerobic Respiration or Fermentation

    • Breakdown of glucose in absence of oxygen

Food chain

Food Chain

  • Food Chain-Series of organisms in which each eats or decomposes the preceding one

    • Decomposers complete the cycle of matter by breaking down organic waste, dead animal. Plant litter and garbage.

    • Whether dead or alive organisms are potential (standard) sources of food for other organisms.

Second law of energy

Second Law of Energy

  • Organisms need high quality chemical energy to move, grow and reproduce, and this energy is converted into low-quality heat that flows into environment

    • Trophic levels or feeding levels- Producer is a first trophic level, primary consumer is second trophic level, secondary consumer is third.

    • Decomposers process detritus from all trophic levels.

Ecosystem components energy flow and matter cycling

Food Web

  • Complex network of interconnected food chains

  • Food web and chains

    • One-way flow of energy

    • Cycling of nutrients through ecosystem

Food webs

Food Webs

  • Grazing Food Webs

    • Energy and nutrients move from plants to herbivores

    • Then through an array of carnivores

    • Eventually to decomposers

(100,000 Units of Energy)

Food webs1

Food Webs

  • Grazing Food Webs

    • Energy and nutrients move from plants to herbivores

    • Then through an array of carnivores

    • Eventually to decomposers

(1,000 Units of Energy)

Food webs2

Food Webs

  • Grazing Food Webs

    • Energy and nutrients move from plants to herbivores

    • Then through an array of carnivores

    • Eventually to decomposers

(100 Units of Energy)

Food webs3

Food Webs

  • Grazing Food Webs

    • Energy and nutrients move from plants to herbivores

    • Then through an array of carnivores

    • Eventually to decomposers

(10 Units of Energy)

Food webs4

Food Webs

  • Grazing Food Webs

    • Energy and nutrients move from plants to herbivores

    • Then through an array of carnivores

    • Eventually to decomposers

(1 Units of Energy)

Food webs5

Food Webs

  • Detrital Food Webs

    • Organic waste material or detritus is the major food source

    • Energy flows mainly from producers (plants) to decomposers and detritivores.

Pyramid of energy flow

Pyramid of Energy Flow

  • More steps or trophic levels in food chain or web, greater loss of usable energy as energy flows through trophic levels

  • More trophic levels the Chains or Webs have more energy is consumed after each one. That’s why food chains and webs rarely have more than 4 steps

Pyramid of energy flow1

Pyramid of Energy Flow

  • Loss of usable energy as energy flows through trophic levels of food chains and webs

  • Rarely have more than 4 steps



  • Dry weight of all organic matter contained in organisms.

    • Biomass is measured in dry weight

      • Water is not source of energy or nutrient

    • Biomass of first trophic levels is dry mass of all producers

    • Useable energy transferred as biomass varies from 5%-20% (10% standard)

Pyramid of biomass

Pyramid of Biomass

Storage of biomass at various trophic levels of ecosystem

Pyramid of numbers

Pyramid of Numbers

Number of organisms at each trophic level

Ecosystem components energy flow and matter cycling

Gross primary productivity gpp

Gross Primary Productivity (GPP)

Rate in which producers convert solar energy into chemical energy (biomass) in a given amount of time

Net primary productivity npp

Net Primary Productivity (NPP)

  • Rate in which energy for use by consumers is stored in new biomass of plants

    • Measured in kilocalories per square meter per year or grams in biomass

    • NPP is the limit determining the planet’s carrying capacity for all species.

    • 59% of NPP occurs in land / 41% occurs in ocean

Ecological efficiency

Ecological Efficiency

  • Percentage of energy transferred from one trophic level to another.

    • 10% ecological efficiency

      • 1,000,000 units of energy from sun

      • 10,000 units available for green plants (photosynthesis)

      • 1000 units for herbivores

      • 100 units for primary carnivores

      • 10 units for secondary carnivores

Studying ecosystems

Studying Ecosystems


    • Going into nature and observing/measuring the structure of ecosystems

    • Majority of what we know now comes from this type

    • Disadvantage is that it is expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to carry out experiments due to many variables


    • Set up, observation, and measurement of model ecosystems under laboratory conditions

    • Conditions can easily be controlled and are quick and cheap

    • Disadvantage is that it is never certain whether or not result in a laboratory will be the same as a result in a complex, natural ecosystem


    • Simulation of ecosystem rather than study real ecosystem

    • Helps understand large and very complicated systems

Ecosystem importance

Ecosystem Importance

  • Ecosystem services are the natural services or earth capital that support life on the earth

  • Essential to the quality of human life and to the functioning of the world’s economies

Ecosystem importance1

Ecosystem Importance

  • Ecosystem services include:

    • Controlling and moderating climate

    • Providing and renewing air, water, soil

    • Recycling vital nutrients through chemical cycling

    • Providing renewable and nonrenewable energy sources and nonrenewable minerals

    • Furnishing people with food, fiber, medicines, timber, and paper

Ecosystem importance2

Ecosystem Importance

  • Ecosystem services include

    • Pollinating crops and other plant species

    • Absorbing, diluting, and detoxifying many pollutants and toxic chemicals

    • Helping control populations of pests and disease organisms

    • Slowing erosion and preventing flooding

    • Providing biodiversity of genes and species

Why is biodiversity so important

Why Is Biodiversity So Important?

  • Food, wood, fibers, energy, raw materials, industrial chemicals, medicines, …

  • Provides for billions of dollars in the global economy

  • Provides recycling, purification, and natural pest control

  • Represents the millions of years of adaptation, and is raw material for future adaptations

Two principles of ecosystem sustainability

Two Principles of Ecosystem Sustainability

  • Use renewable solar energy as energy source

  • Efficiently recycle nutrients organisms need for survival, growth, and reproduction

Nutrient cycles and soils

Nutrient Cycles and Soils

Matter cycling in ecosystems

Matter Cycling in Ecosystems

  • Nutrient or Biogeochemical Cycles

    • Natural processes that recycle nutrients in various chemical forms in a cyclic manner from the nonliving environment to living organisms and back again

Nutrient cycles closed system energy flow open system








Energy Flow

Nutrient Cycles (Closed System) Energy Flow (Open System)

Biogeochemical cycle locations

Biogeochemical Cycle Locations

  • Hydrosphere

    • Water in the form of ice, liquid, and vapor

    • Operates local, regional, and global levels

  • Atmospheric

    • Large portion of a given element (i.e. Nitrogen gas) exists in gaseous form in the atmosphere

    • Operates local, regional, and global levels

  • Sedimentary

    • The element does not have a gaseous phase or its gaseous compounds don’t make up a significant portion of its supply

    • Operates local and regional basis

Nutrient cycling ecosystem sustainability

Nutrient Cycling & Ecosystem Sustainability

  • Natural ecosystems tend to balance

    • Nutrients are recycled with reasonable efficiency

  • Humans are accelerating rates of flow of mater

    • Nutrient loss from soils

    • Doubling of normal flow of nitrogen in the nitrogen cycle is a contributes to global warming, ozone depletion, air pollution, and loss of biodiversity

  • Isolated ecosystems are being influenced by human activities

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