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Trophic relationships of ecosystems: definition and examples

In any terrestrial or marine ecosystem live communities of living beings. These living beings establish different types of links between them depending on their nutrition, distinguishing between producing, consuming or decomposing organisms. We define a trophic level as the set of organisms that share the same type of food within the ecosystem. As the way living beings feed and what we know as the food chain is vital for the balance on our planet, in this AgroCorrn article, we talk about the trophic relationships of ecosystems, their definition and examples .

What is an ecosystem

An ecosystem is defined as the set of biotic communities that inhabit the same area (populations of living organisms) and the abiotic conditions that affect them. The term ecosystem also includes the interactions between the living beings of that community and between these organisms and the physical environment. We say, therefore, that an ecosystem includes the biotope (physical space and its conditions) and biocenosis (community of living beings and their interactions).

In an ecosystem a constant flow of energies and chemical compounds is established between the environment and organisms, defining nutritive or biogeochemical cycles such as those of water, nitrogen, phosphorus or carbon. These cycles are essential for the life and maintenance of these ecosystems.

In these other articles you can consult definitions and examples of ecosystems :

The importance of trophic relationships in ecosystems

In ecosystems there are constant changes in their functions and structures. These changes occur due to interactions between living beings and with the environment , which in turn favor the establishment of new living organisms. The changes and substitutions of some organisms for others within ecosystems are called successions and they occur in an orderly manner over time, until finally reaching a stabilized ecosystem that is in complete equilibrium with environmental conditions.

A climax community is defined as that community that is established, remains for a time, and is replaced in the course of successions, that is, they are not communities that last a long time.

We differentiate a primary succession like that which begins with the total absence of living beings and completely bare surfaces exposed to the environment. Primary successions are established after devastating events such as volcanic eruptions or glacier movements. While a secondary succession is established after the destruction of part of the ecosystem as in the case of a fire or flood. Secondary successions are capable of starting the reconstruction of the ecosystem. Likewise, trophic relationships in ecosystems are part of their balance .

Autotrophic or producer organisms in trophic relationships

These organisms are responsible for creating organic molecules from the simplest inorganic compounds , for which they use an energy source that is usually the sun.

In most ecosystems, it is plants through photosynthesis that play this role (or aquatic plants, such as algae, in marine ecosystems). These organisms play a very important role within the ecosystem, as they are a source of food for the other organisms in the ecosystem.

Consuming or heterotrophic organisms in trophic relationships

These organisms consume and obtain their energy from the organic matter produced by the producer organisms . However, in this category we must differentiate herbivores or primary consumers, carnivores or secondary consumers and omnivores.

  • Primary consumers or herbivores: they are those that feed directly on producing organisms, their parts or their fruits. In this group would be hares, rabbits, cows or horses.
  • Secondary consumers or carnivores: they are those that feed on other consuming organisms. In this group would be the hyenas, felines or eagles.
  • Consumers or omnivorous organisms: they are those that cover both categories, that is, they consume both primary and secondary organisms. In this group would be dogs, pigs or humans. Learn more Examples of omnivorous animals here.

Also within the carnivores, there would also be scavengers , which would be those that feed on dead animals. In this group would be scavenger beetles, flies, vultures and other scavenger birds.

Decomposing or detritivore organisms in trophic relationships

These organisms play a very important role within ecosystems, as they feed on and decompose the organic matter consumed by other organisms and transform it back into inorganic matter , thus closing the cycle of the elements. They are very important in agriculture. Within these organisms we can find bacteria, fungi, insects, worms or slugs, among others.

It is worth mentioning that within an ecosystem, energy flows from autotrophic organisms to heterotrophs, while decomposing organisms are necessary to complete the cycle.

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