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The Ecosystem. An Introduction. Ecosystem. A community of interdependent organisms and the interactions with the physical environment in which they live. It can also be defined as the abiotic and biotic factors and the interactions between them.

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the ecosystem

The Ecosystem

An Introduction

  • A community of interdependent organisms and the interactions with the physical environment in which they live.
  • It can also be defined as the abiotic and biotic factors and the interactions between them.
  • The interaction between organisms and the environment is the key!
differentiate between the following terms
Differentiate between the following terms:
  • Organism
  • Species
  • Population
  • Community
  • Niche
  • Habitat
in your notebook draw a picture of a bunch of little organisms
In your notebook, draw a picture of a bunch of little organisms
  • Label: The organisms of the same type (species)
  • Circle: individuals of the same species (Population)
  • Draw interactions between the populations (Community)
compare the terms habitat and niche
Compare the terms habitat and niche
  • Sometimes people confuse these terms.
  • Figure out the differences between the terms.
niche vs habitat
Niche vs habitat
  • A habitat is wear an organism lives. The habitat must provide a source of food, water and shelter for the organism.
  • Niche: The role of the organism. This is largely to do with the trophic level of the organism.
  • For example: plants produce food for the rest of the food chain. Tigers keep herbivore populations under control.
abiotic and biotic factors
Abiotic and Biotic factors
  • Biotic Factor: A living, biological factor that may influence an organism or a system.

Example: predation, disease, competition

Abiotic factor: A non-living, physical factor that may influence an organism or a system

Examples: Temperature, salinity, pH, light

which factors are biotic
Which factors are biotic?
  • Rabbits
  • Cacti
  • Daylight hours
  • Precipitation
  • Moss
  • Soil composition
  • Bacteria
limiting factors
Limiting factors
  • An abiotic factor can limit the population size if there is too much or too little of it. Even if there is the right amount of other factors
  • Examples to consider:




Nutrients in the soil

trophic levels
Trophic levels
  • Ecosystems are often broken up and described according to feeding relationships.

Trophic level:

  • The position of an organism in a food chain
  • A group of organisms that occupy the same place in a food chain
trophic levels in food chains
Trophic levels in food chains

Be able to give an example of each!

  • Primary producers (autotrophs)
  • Primary consumers (herbivores)
  • Secondary consumers(carnivores)
  • Tertiary consumers (top carnivores)
  • Decomposers
  • Detrivores
  • Scavengers


lAutotroph - “self” + “feed”

lAn organism that obtains organic food molecules without eating other organisms but by using energy from the sun or inorganic molecules to make organic molecules

lRemember: This trophic level supports all of the others

lThe role of producers is to convert energy into a form useable for other organisms


lMost producers are photosynthetic

(e.g. algae, mosses, diatoms, some bacteria, plants etc.) but some are chemosynthetic (e.g. hydrothermal vent bacteria)



lAn organism that obtains energy by breaking down dead organic matter, including dead plants, dead animals and animal waste, into more simple substances

lExamples include: bacteria and fungi

L Interconnects all trophic levels since the organic material making up all living organisms is eventually broken down

lRole of decomposers is to return valuable nutrients to the system so they can be used again


lHeterotroph - “other” + “feed”

lAn organism that obtains its nutrition by eating other organisms

lPrimary consumer (herbivore) - eats producers e.g. sea urchin, copepod

lSecondary consumer (carnivore) - eats primary consumers e.g. wolf eel, herring

lTertiary consumer - eats secondary consumers e.g. sea otter, seal

lQuaternary consumer - eats tertiary consumers e.g. killer whale

  • The role of the consumer is to transfer energy from one trophic level to the next.
  • Notice that consumers have different names, depending on what they eat:
  • Herbivores: plant eaters
  • Carnivores: meat eaters
  • Omnivores: eat plants and animals
food webs
Food webs

Show energy flow through an ecosystem

L An ecosystem’s trophic structure determines energy flow and nutrient cycling

second law of thermodynamics
Second Law of Thermodynamics
  • There is a tendency for numbers and quantities of biomass and energy to decrease along food chains.
  • The pyramids become smaller at the top because around 90% of the energy is “lost” between each level and only 10% is available in the body of the organism for transfer to the next level.