ENERGY FLOW AND NUTRIENT CYLCING IN ECOSYSTEM
The two major functions within an ecosystem are the transfer of energy
, and therecycling of nutrients
ENERGY FLOWS IN ECOSYSTEMS PHOTOSYNTHESIS
Photosynthesis (or phototrophism) is the process by which light energy from the sun(insolation), is absorbed by plants, blue-green algae and certain bacteria. It is then usedto produce new plant cell material, which forms the food source for plant eating animals(herbivores).Plants which are able, through the process of photosynthesis, to convert lightenergy and inorganic substances (carbon dioxide, water and various mineral nutrients)into organic (carbon based) molecules, are called phototrophs or autotrophs (‘self-feeders’).In a plant, most photosynthesis is carried out by the leaves, and in order for the process to occur they must contain chlorphyll, which is able to absorb enerfy fromsunlight. The plant also requires carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere, and water fromthe soil. As a result of the process, and carbohydrates are produced.6CO
Ocarbon dioxidewaterglucose oxygen water The carbohydrates produced by photosynthesis are:1Combined with elements such as nitrogen, phosphorous and sulphur to produce proteins and nucleic acids.2Converted into starch and stored in the plant.3Converted into cellulose (the main plant structural material).4Used by the plant for respiration i.e. biochemical processes, cell maintenance andgrowth.Levels of photosynthesis vary considerably. As photosynthesis is a multi-stage process,involving the interaction of several factors, it can be limited by the one factor, which isnearest to its minimum value, this is known as ‘The Law of the Minimum’. The limitingfactors which affect the rate of photosynthesis are temperature, light intensity, carbondioxide concentration and the availability of water.
ENERGY FLOW THROUGH AN ECOSYSTEM
The energy produced by photosynthesis will pass through the food chains and food websof an ecosystem, with some of it being stored as chemical energy in plant and animaltissue. Some of it will be lost from the system, as respiration (heat energy) and excreta