Open In App

Energy Flow of Ecosystem

Last Updated : 07 Mar, 2024
Like Article

The energy flow of ecosystem means the pathway energy takes to move from one organism to another in an ecosystem. The energy flow of an ecosystem is a fundamental concept of ecological studies. The direction of flow of energy in an ecosystem is unidirectional and is typically in the form of food energy that flows from one trophic level to another. It harnesses the energy that cascades through the food chain and food webs. Read this article to learn about energy flow in ecosystem notes, the laws of thermodynamics that govern it, and the mechanism of energy flow.

What is Ecosystem?

An ecosystem consists of plants, animals, and their physical environment. It is an area in which all these components interact with each other. An ecosystem has biotic components (living) which include plants, animals, and humans, and it also contains abiotic components (non-living) such as soil, air, water, etc. An ecosystem contains various levels called trophic levels. There is a flow of energy from one trophic level to the other which sustains the ecosystem. In this article, we shall discuss the energy flow in an ecosystem in detail.

What is Energy Flow of Ecosystem?

Energy flow in an ecosystem is defined as the movement or transfer of energy from one trophic level to another in an ecosystem. The energy that is passed is in the form of chemical energy.

Energy flow is the phenomenon that is responsible to sustain life on this planet. All the biotic components in this ecosystem need energy for their survival. If the energy flow in an ecosystem is disturbed, then it leads to ecological imbalance. This energy flow occurs on the Earth through the biogeochemical cycle.

Energy Flow of Ecosystem Diagram

The diagram of energy flow of ecosystem is given below:


Laws of Thermodynamics in Ecosystem

The energy flow in an ecosystem is governed by the first two laws of thermodynamics. These two laws are explained as follows;

  • First Law of thermodynamics: It states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but it keeps changing from one form to the other. Similarly in an ecosystem, the main source of energy is the sun, and this energy from the sun is transferred from one level to the other.
  • Second Law of thermodynamics: It states that when energy transforms from one form to another, some part of it is lost as heat to the surroundings. Thus the energy at one level is never completely transferred to the other.

What is the Direction of Energy Flow of Energy in an Ecosystem?

The direction of the energy flow in an ecosystem is unidirectional. It flows from the primary source of energy i.e. the sun’s light energy to producers or autotrophs which then transferred to the consumers. The producer uses the solar energy to produce organic food which flows through a series of trophic levels. Each trophic level captures a portion of this energy for its metabolic needs, while the rest is passed to the next level. The flow of energy follows the following pathway;

Solar Energy –> Producer (autotrophs) –> Consumer (herbivores) –> Consumer (carnivores) –> Consumer (higher levels of carnivores)

Mechanism of Energy Flow in Ecosystem

Animals get energy in two forms: radiant energy and fixed energy. Radiant energy comes from electromagnetic waves, like light. Fixed energy is stored in objects and substances as chemical energy.

Organisms that convert radiant energy to fixed energy are called autotrophs. Heterotrophs get their energy from autotrophs. The sun is the main source of energy in our ecosystem. But less than half of the sun’s energy is used by plants for photosynthesis i.e. 50% of this energy is photosynthetically active radiation (PAR).

Plants convert radiant energy to fixed energy and pass it on to other organisms. When the sun shines on plants, they use it along with carbon dioxide and water to make glucose and oxygen. The oxygen goes into the atmosphere and the glucose stays in the plant. When herbivores eat plants, they get energy from the plant. Some of this energy is lost as heat.

When carnivores eat herbivores, there is again a loss of some energy. We call this the 10% law because only 10% of the energy available at one level is transferred to the next level. The flow of energy in an ecosystem is unidirectional, meaning it only goes in one direction. We can’t transfer energy to a previous level. To understand this, we need to learn about trophic levels and the food chain.

Trophic Levels

An ecosystem is divided into various levels called trophic levels. Various trophic levels are as follows:

  • First trophic level: This level is occupied by the producers which include the plants.
  • Second trophic level: It is occupied by the primary consumers that consume plants. For example herbivores such as cows, goats, etc.
  • Third Trophic Level: This level is occupied by the primary carnivores or secondary consumers such as snakes, frogs, birds, etc.
  • Fourth trophic level: Large carnivores that are also called tertiary consumers make up this level. Example: Lion, Tiger, Cheetah, etc.

Food Chain

The food chain represents the flow of energy from one level to the other in an ecosystem. It is based on the fact that an organism is consumed by another organism in the ecosystem. In general, the food chain exists only in small ecosystems, and this is replaced by a food web in complex ecosystems.

Food Chain

In the above food chain:

  1. In the first stage, plants are eaten by herbivores such as grasshoppers.
  2. Then herbivores such as deer are consumed by carnivores such as lions, tigers, etc.
  3. On the death of carnivores, they are consumed by scavengers such as eagles and vultures.
  4. When vultures die, their bodies are broken down by bacteria and fungi to nutrients.
  5. These nutrients are again used by the plants for their growth.

Significance of Energy Flow in Ecosystem

Following are some of the significance of Energy Flow in an Ecosystem;

  1. It is vital for all living thing sin ecosystem to survive and function properly.
  2. It helps us to understand who eats whom in nature.
  3. More the diversity of organisms more stable the ecosystem is.
  4. It shows how all creatures in an ecosystem depend on each other and how changes can affect each other.
  5. It helps us to see how human action are affecting the ecosystem.
  6. Understanding the flow of energy in an ecosystem helps us to devise proper conservation techniques to save the ecosystem.

Conclusion – Energy Flow of Ecosystem

The energy flow of an ecosystem is essential for ecological balance. Energy flow involves the transfer of energy from one organism to another, primarily through food. This flow is governed by the laws of thermodynamics. It is unidirectional from the sun to producers and then to consumers, sustaining life. Understanding trophic levels and the food chain helps in learning about the process of flow of energy in ecosystem which is crucial for maintaining biodiversity.

Also Read:

FAQs on Energy Flow of Ecosystem

Explain Energy Flow in Ecosystem Class 11?

Energy flow in an ecosystem is defined as the movement or transfer of energy from one trophic level to another in an ecosystem.

What is the Energy Flow in an Ecosystem Called?

Calories is the unit that is used to measure the energy content of food. So the energy flow in an ecosystem is called calorific flow.

How Many Types of Energy Flow in Ecosystem are There?

There are two types of energy flow in an eosystem i.e. the radiant energy of sun or solar energy, and the fixed energy.

What is 10% Rule?

As per the 10% rule the flow of energy from one trophic level to another will only be 10% of the total energy as the rest 90% energy will be used for metabolism and loss in the form of heat.

Who Discovered Energy Flow?

Energy flow in an ecosystem in the form of 10% rule was discovered by Raymond Linderman in the year 1942.

What is the Direction of Flow of Energy in an Ecosystem?

The direction of energy flow in an ecosystem is unidirectional i.e moving from the primary source, usually sunlight, to producers, then to consumers and decomposers.

What is the Universal Model of Energy Flow?

The universal model of energy flow is a Y-shaped model which was developed by E.P. Odum in 1983. It is called universal as it can be applied to both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem, and to any living component.

Why is the Energy Flow Unidirectional?

The energy flow is unidirectional because only producers can convert solar energy to chemical energy which then moves to higher trophic levels.

What are the Energy Sources and Flows?

Energy sources in an ecosystem begin from the sun that provides radiant energy, which is converted to chemical energy by producers. This energy is then transferred through the food chain or web to consumers, ultimately exiting the ecosystem as heat.

Previous Article
Next Article

Similar Reads

Types of Ecosystem Services - CBSE Class 12- Ecosystem
Types of Ecosystem Services: Ecosystem Services is an effort sponsored by the UN in order to study and analyze the impact of human actions on the ecosystem because humans directly interact with the ecosystem and derive a number of benefits from the ecosystem and these actions of humans also lead to changes in the ecosystem. This effort under the ti
5 min read
Define Kinetic Energy, give two Examples of Kinetic Energy.
Kinetic energy is a fundamental concept in physics that helps us understand the energy of moving objects. Let's learn the definition of kinetic energy and two real-world examples to illustrate its significance. Define Kinetic EnergyKinetic energy is the energy possessed by an object due to its motion. It depends on both an object's mass (m) and its
1 min read
Difference between Kinetic Energy and Potential Energy
The capacity to do work is called energy. This energy can be stored in various forms. Energy is one of the physical quantities because it is proportional to the mass of an object. The body's ability to push or pull a natural force, such as gravity, determines what that energy is. Energy is ubiquitous and exists in many forms, the two most common of
8 min read
Difference between Gravitational Potential Energy and Elastic Potential Energy
Potential energy is defined as the energy stored in a body due to its physical properties like the mass of the object or position of the object. It is the force that a body could potentially develop when it is put into motion. There are different forms of potential energy, such as elastic potential energy, gravitational potential energy, electric (
6 min read
The Pressure Flow or Mass Flow Hypothesis
In Plants, the system made sense of the movement of sugars from source to sink alludes to the strain stream speculation. Glucose produced by photosynthesis at the source is switched over completely to sucrose which is moved to the phloem sifter tube cells through the friend cell by dynamic vehicle. The excess vehicle in the phloem is done by the di
6 min read
Difference between Real Flow and Money Flow
The circular flow of income is an economic model that reflects how money or income flows through the different sectors of the economy. A simple economy assumes that there exist only two sectors, i.e., Households and Firms. Households are consumers of goods and services and the owners of the factors of production (land labour, capital, and enterpris
2 min read
Forests - Definition, Ecosystem, Types, Importance
Forests are absolutely necessary for human survival. We are all dependent on forests in some way for survival. Forests supply us with clean air, food, medicines, and other resources such as timber, fodder, and other raw materials for industry. Forests help to keep the earth stable by preventing soil erosion. A forest is a dense land or a complex ec
5 min read
State the main causes which are a threat to the ecosystem
The ecosystem is the base for the existence of any organism. With the increase in human population in existence, this led to increasing demand for resources and the activities lead to the destruction of the balance of the ecosystem. An ecosystem is the entire unit of biological and physical elements inside a certain specified area or volume. An eco
7 min read
What is an Ecosystem? How do Human Beings influence Ecology?
An ecosystem is defined as a community of living things, composed of non-living components that interact with each other. An ecosystem is a structural and functional unit of ecology in which living organisms interact with each other and with the environment. In other words, an ecosystem is a chain of interactions between an organism and its environ
9 min read
What are Environment and Ecosystem?
Difference Between Environment and Ecosystem: The environment is the surrounding area, whereas the ecosystem is the interaction between the environment and living species. The environment is the place in which living beings exist. The ecosystem is the community in which biotic and abiotic factors interact. Both environment and ecosystem correlate w
4 min read