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Ecosystem and Its Energy Sources Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Feb 13th, 2021

The laws of thermodynamics

Thermodynamics is defined by two basic laws. The first law, also referred to as the law of conservation of energy, proclaims that energy cannot be created as well as it cannot be destroyed. Energy can only take different forms. This means that ultimately total energy remains constant in the universe. The second law states that energy changes result in a rise in entropy within an isolated system. Entropy is a measure of energy dispersal. A system is at equilibrium if it reaches maximum energy dispersal. The entropy of a system will constantly increase until this state is reached.

The source of energy for most of the world’s producers

Producers are self-sustaining organisms due to the fact that they produce their own food by a process, called photosynthesis. The fundamental source of energy for these producers is solar energy (the sun). Photosynthetic organisms use sunlight to convert water and carbon (IV) oxide, in the presence of chlorophyll, into food.

What would happen if there was no new energy added to an ecosystem or if nutrients stopped being recycled?

Life is manifested by the changes in energy and the ecosystem is, therefore, existent by a virtue of a continuous flow of energy that is being transmitted through the chain of food. Energy and nutrients are transferred through the food chain when one living organism feeds on another one. If no new energy is added or nutrients stop being recycled, then an inevitable effect is the death of living parts of the ecosystem. Lack of energy leads to stunted growth and poor reproduction or even death of producers. This, in turn, leads to the death of primary consumers due to the lack of food. Ultimately, secondary and tertiary consumers die. Flora and fauna die in due course.

The food web, the food pyramid, and the food chain of an ecosystem

A food chain is defined as the manner in which organic matter and energy move from the producer to decomposers through consumers. It shows how each organism obtains food and usually starts with producers (plant life), ending with animal life. Decomposers are considered to be the final link and they have the role of breaking down dead organisms. A food web is a construct of several food chains. Generally, most animals belong to more than one food chain. Animals may feed on several different foods, hence complicating the food web.

An ecological food pyramid is a summary of energy or matter contained in each food level within a food chain or food web. An ecological pyramid can be divided into a pyramid of numbers (which is the number of organisms in each trophic level), and a pyramid of biomass (which is a representation of the amount of energy contained in biomass).

A food web of a grassland ecosystem

A food web of a grassland ecosystem

The main source of energy in an ecosystem

Essentially, the main source of energy in an ecosystem is solar energy (sun). Autotrophic organisms (self-sustaining) use solar energy to produce energy-rich carbohydrates, which are then used by producers to maintain their life processes. Organic matter sustains the consumers and equally the decomposers. Therefore, solar energy sustains the entire ecosystem through energy flow. The primary energy source that supports any ecosystem is the sun.

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