By Venita Bright
Energy in the form of food must be available for an environment to sustain
most communities, plants supply the
primary food energy to the system. Plants are called producers; animals that
eat plants are
called consumers. While consumers are typically found in places where producers
Dr. Polis' exploration shows that this is not always
the case. Sometimes food energy is carried out
of one ecosystem and into another. Often this food energy is in the form of
dead plants or
Look carefully at the ground, and you will likely find dead leaves,
and other organic matter generally called detritus. In some ecosystems,
detritus is a major source of energy.
Transport of food and energy does not only occur from ocean to islands.
about leaves that blow into a schoolyard from a nearby wood? Or raccoons that
eat from a
stream and defecate on land?
Materials Needed: Meter sticks, metric rulers, poster board, markers,
photographs of ecosystems.
Think about what you know about food webs
in your area. Use free association to come up with a list of at least 20
components within their food webs. Do some areas
of the schoolyard support more life than others?
Select two 1-square-meter areas in your backyard, schoolyard, or
neighborhood to study. The
study areas should be near each other, but in two different habitats (e.g. on a
in the grass; or just inside a forest and in a clearing).
Observe and record all organisms in the air space above and within this
study area. Which
organisms are producers? Which are consumers? Which eat detritus (these are
called "detritovores")? How
do the number of producers (number of individuals and number of species),
and detritovores compare? Devise a system for estimating the number of
great to count, like the number of grass individuals in your study area.
Make predictions about which study area might depend more on food
energy from adjacent habitats. Which study area will produce more energy for
Devise methods to test your predictions. This might include categorizing
different species as "visitors" and "residents." Are the "visitors" bringing
food energy into
a study area? Taking it away? How will you measure the flow of detritus?
After the data are collected, graph your findings and write about what you
learned. Send us your results at:
Oxford, OH 45056
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June 4, 1997.
This document was last modified on
Tuesday, April 29, 2008 at 18:57:26