Have you heard about the Ecological Pyramid?
We all are familiar with the impending climatic crisis that is about to scar our survival.
Still, you might be thinking, “What does ecology have to do with all of this?”
“What difference does it make?”
Well, ecology plays the main protagonist in this scenario. Ecology is a convoluted section of biological sciences. It is concerned with the association between organisms, human beings with the environmental aspects.
However, It primarily focuses on the impacts of the environment on all the living organisms of it.
Ecology gave us all the solutions to various mysteries that it holds. Yet, we tend to be ignorant and inconsiderate towards it.
This article is a scientific approach to understand the ways of nature a little bit more!
WHAT IS ECOLOGICAL PYRAMID?
An ecological pyramid is an imaginary pyramidal representation that illustrates the number of organisms biomass, living organisms.
It paved the way for understanding the food chain that dominates every trophic level. The founding fathers of this theory were G.Evylen Hutchinson and Raymond Lindeman. The definition of an ecological pyramid is easy and crystal clear. It is a graphical portrayal of energy transfer from one trophic level to another.
Generally, the ecological pyramid diagram portrays the graph with producers (plants) at the bottom. Then they move on with others like herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores.
THE 10% LAW
In relevance to the ecological pyramid, Raymond Lindeman regulates the 10% law. It illustrates that whenever there is a transfer of energy from one trophic level to another: only 10% of the total energy passes on.
You might be thinking, “Then why do the numbers decrease as we go up the ecological pyramid?” Well, as we level up, the producers are autotrophic. So, they are the only ones to receive maximum energy from the sun. However, as we go further up, the consumers are heterotrophic. They cannot produce food. Consumers depend on the producers for their survival. Primary consumers or herbivores feed only on plants.
Also, secondary consumers or carnivores feed on primary consumers. As predation or feeding continues, the energy absorption decreases gradually. In simpler terms, as we level up, energy or food decreases.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ECOLOGICAL PYRAMID
It is plausible for you to think that this is how the environment works. How can this have an effect on us? Well, it does. It does have a significant effect on our daily lives.
However, the discussion has deep roots. Ecology has an impact on our society, well-being, and sociological trends. Ecological pyramidal activities extend beyond the concept of food chains.
- Ecological pyramids represent the food chain of organisms in different ecosystems.
- They also illustrate the energy transfer efficacy.
- It also has a significant impact on our lives. These pyramids also provide us with ecological services. However, these pyramids can also be beneficial for monitoring. We can monitor the conditions and changes in the ecosystem. It can help us preserve our ecosystem more efficiently.
FUNCTIONS OF ECOLOGICAL PYRAMID
Ecology is a part of us. It is a balance that we should maintain with the help of ecological engineers. Apart from this, these pyramids help us have an insight into the food chain of different ecosystems. Also, it can help us study the actual inefficiency of energy. Ecological pyramids help us demonstrate the change in various trophic levels. It is a very efficient method of studying the impact of change in trophic levels.
Also, the ecological pyramid diagrams show us the changing and adapting nature of the environment.
We are standing on the verge of an environmental crisis. With the detrimental conditions in our environment, we need to take action. However, ecological pyramids might be the key to these problems. The change in the food can indicate worsening conditions. Following this, we can come up with practical ideas to dodge this bullet.
TYPES OF ECOLOGICAL PYRAMIDS
In ecology, there are three types of ecological pyramids.
1. Pyramid Of Biomass
It shows us the amount of biomass available in a living organism per unit area at each trophic level. Also, biomass is the quantity of organic and living matter present in a living organism.
This ecological pyramid diagram draws firstly, positioning the producers at the bottom. The carnivores or the consumers placed at the top.
Also, the calculation of the pyramid of biomass occurs by conglomerating the living organisms inhabiting a trophic level. Each of the trophic levels performs a separate calculation. We need to measure the dry weight of each trophic level. Each trophic level of an ecological pyramid has a significant mass. This mass measures as the biomass. Apart from this, this pyramid solves the errors of the pyramid of numbers.
Apart from this, this ecological pyramid diagram has divisions. They further divide into two subgroups:
Upright Pyramid Of Biomass
The majority of the ecological pyramids of land ecosystems have a base with smaller trophic strata. In simpler terms, the producers are more in comparison to the consumers.
In relevance to this, the biomass of autotrophs is the most. As we climb up the ecological pyramid strata, it decreases. It means that the number of primary consumers is less than the producers. As a result, the peak of the trophic levels has very minimal biomass per unit area.
Inverted Pyramid Of Biomass
Generally, a reverse ecological pyramid diagram is a part of the aquatic ecosystem.
A pyramid of biomass can also have an inverse pyramidal structure. But, the pyramid of numbers for an aquatic ecosystem is an upright ecological pyramid. In an aquatic ecosystem, phytoplankton is the producer. They usually reproduce and proliferate. However, the pyramid of biomass has a small base, and the consumers have a massive weight. Due to this, it has an inverted pyramid.
2. Pyramid Of Numbers
The pyramid of numbers is the graphical illustration of the number of individuals inhabiting a trophic level per unit area. The shape varies with changes in ecosystems. The base occupies the producers, whereas the lesser count at the top belongs to the consumers. This ecological pyramid has two subdivisions. They are:
Upright Pyramid Of Numbers
In this ecological pyramid, the number of individuals in the graph is in ascending order. Also, this pyramid is native to grassland and pond ecosystems. The abundance of species gradually decreases while we climb up the ecological pyramid.
Inverted Pyramid Of Numbers
However, this ecological pyramid type starts with the lower trophic levels to higher trophic levels.
3. Pyramid Of Energy
Pyramid of energy is the graphical illustration of the transfer of power through the trophic levels. An energy pyramid represents the gain and loss of energy at each trophic level. The ecological pyramid diagram shows the decrease of energy as one climbs up the trophic levels. Hence, the pyramid is always upright.
Energy is the door to life. Although we do not extract one hundred percent of the energy. We only absorb 10% or less, this cycle of energy governs our ecosystem. Also, we do not absorb directly from the sun. Instead, we absorb this energy indirectly through consumers of lower trophic levels.
Energy Flow Among The Trophic Levels
At the initial levels, the producers or autotrophs absorb sunlight to produce organic materials. They generate these materials by photosynthesis.
Also, at the second level, herbivores feed on plants. They use up a large part of the energy for their metabolic activities.
Apart from this, as we climb higher, we observe predation. Carnivores feed on animal species and derive energy. Although they do not obtain maximum energy from them.
Apart from this, decomposers that feed on decaying matter are also great contributors. They feed on the decaying matter and return the nutrients and energy to the soil. During decomposition, we do not recycle energy: instead, we release it.
It proves the fact that plant and animal species interlink via their food chains.
4. Pyramid Of Productivity
Based on Lindeman’s ten percent law, this ecological pyramid tells us about energy usage. This period shows the amount of energy lost between trophic levels.
However, only 10% of the total energy contributes to creating biomass. This energy plays a role in activities like biomagnification. This pyramid is very famous. Also, it has a special significance as it checks up the energy flow between levels. Apart from this, the pyramid is often upright.
DEMERITS OF THE ECOLOGICAL PYRAMID
However, there are certain limitations to these ecological pyramids. They are as follows:
These graphs do not count food webs. But, a single trophic level has a multifarious number of species.
Obscurity Of Saprophytes
Saprophytes are an essential part of our ecosystem. However, they earn no recognition of this pyramid.
Simple Food Chains
Food chains are not generally simple. Some even consist of complex chains and webs. But, these pyramids apply to simple food chains, which is problematic for collecting accurate data.
Climatic Or Weather Changes
Food chains and food webs change with the change in the environment. They greatly vary in climate and seasons. But, these pyramids do not act according to it. However, this only results in lots of erroneous and inaccurate data.
Adaptation And Evolution
We are familiar with the terms adaptation and evolution. They are parallel processes. However, some species evolve and adapt to new trophic levels. But, these pyramids do not consider so. They do not take evolution and adaptation into account. The existence of similar species in the same trophic level seems invalid.
Due to these limitations, some ecologists do not consider them valid. These pyramids often produce incorrect results and data. It is misleading and helps us in no way.
Pyramids teach us the composition and structure of all the communities in the trophic level changes as a result of a change in the environment. However, these changes are usually sequential and parallel with other presiding changes. As a consequence, these changes form an environment that is in balance with the environment and the community. This new balanced community is the climax community. This sequential and parallel change is ecological succession.
And the sequence in which this change happens is “sere.”
RELEVANCE TO ECOLOGICAL PYRAMIDS
It is relevant to the ecological pyramid diagrams. They represent the various aspects of the trophic level in parallel succession. They portray a change that occurs parallelly with a change in the environment. When a specific trophic level changes, it also has an impact on the surrounding trophic levels. Similarly, in this cycle of transfer, we cannot recycle energy. Apart from this, as we move up the strata. It is evident that there is a significant loss of energy consumption.
Also, other examples include the flow of energy among the trophic levels. The producers take up 100% percent of solar energy. They pass it forward to the herbivores. However, here the flow of energy is significantly less. It is because of the energy we use in the metabolic functions. As we go higher, energy flow gradually decreases.
Ecological pyramids graphically represent the condition of the food chain. It is very important to understand the changes. It will only help us to understand the worsening situation of our ecosystem. Due to human-made pollution and deforestation, we are now facing global issues. From climate change to resource depletion, ecological pyramids hold the key to our problems.
These pyramids teach us about the flow of energy from different trophic levels. It might also help us in adapting to a more sustainable life.