Trophic Levels


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•  Most species occupy different trophic levels in multiple food chains

The position an organism occupies within a feeding sequence is known as a trophic level

  • Producers always occupy the first trophic level in a feeding sequence
  • Primary consumers feed on producers and hence occupy the second trophic level
  • Further consumers (e.g. secondary, tertiary, etc.) may occupy subsequent trophic levels

The trophic levels in a community are:

trophic levels

Food Chains

A food chain shows the linear feeding relationships between species in a community

  • Arrows represent the transfer of energy and matter as one organism is eaten by another (arrows point in direction of energy flow)
  • The first organism in a food chain is always a producer, followed by consumers (primary, secondary, etc.)
  • Most species feeding requirements will consist of multiple food chains, with organisms occupying different trophic levels

food chains

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•  A food web shows all the possible food chains in a community

A food web is a diagram that shows how food chains are linked together into more complex interrrelated feeding relationships 

A food web is more representative of actual feeding pathways within an ecosystem because:

  • Organisms can have more than one food source
  • Organisms can have more than one predator

This means that, unlike a food chain, organisms in a food web can occupy more than one trophic level

  • Hint:  When constructing food webs, position organisms at their highest trophic level (keeps all arrows pointing in same direction)

Example of a Food Web (Pond Ecosystem)

food web