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KH4119_Unit 03 ES_E367-E389 3/16/05 3:03 PM Page 367

Getting Energy and Matter into

Biological Systems
There is a saying that you must have money to Photosynthesis depends on particular
make money. A similar loop exists in wavelengths of light. It also works more or less
biological processes: you need energy to get efficiently depending on the intensity of the

energy. For instance, cellular respiration light. The ideal intensity of light varies for
releases usable energy from storage molecules. different plants. Of course, many factors, such as

But a certain amount of energy is needed to the availability of water and nutrients in the soil,
start the process. Likewise, food supplies the also affect photosynthesis.
energy and matter requirements of many Three major events occur in plant cells
organisms. But the food itself is usually during photosynthesis: (1) absorption of light

derived from other organisms. How, then, do energy, (2) conversion of light energy into
energy and matter get into organisms in the chemical energy (ATP and NADPH), and

first place? The main way is through (3) storage of potential energy in carbohydrates.
photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the series These three events take place in two distinct
of reactions by which plants, algae, and some but interdependent sets of reactions (phases).
bacteria use light energy from the sun to Figure E8.20 summarizes the two phases. In

synthesize large, energy-rich molecules from the first phase of photosynthesis, chlorophyll
smaller ones. absorbs light energy. Enzymes use this energy
You might think of a plant as a solar- to produce small, energy-carrying molecules.

powered factory that converts the radiant These molecules, ATP and the hydrogen
energy of sunlight (solar energy) into potential carrier NADPH, then power the second phase
energy. The potential energy

is stored in chemical form
(molecules). Solar energy
varies in its strength, from
the warming rays of infrared short wavelength long wavelength

to the damaging rays of high energy low energy
ultraviolet. Visible light is
only a small fraction of the radiant energy
total energy coming from the

sun. Visible light consists of a gamma x-ray UV visible infrared radio, radar, TV
spectrum of colors. Each
color has a different
wavelength and energy
content, as shown in Figure
E8.19. Photosynthesis uses
only certain wavelengths, or shorter wavelength longer wavelength
colors, of visible light. The
green color of plants
emphasizes that fact. Most
Figure E8.19 Spectrum of light energy. The sun is the source of different
plants appear green because types of radiant energy. These include damaging ultraviolet (UV) light, light that
their pigments reflect green can be detected by the human eye (visible light), and warming infrared light.
light rather than absorb it. Photosynthesis uses only a small portion of this spectrum of light energy.

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Figure E8.20 Summary of the reactions of photosynthesis.

During photosynthesis, light energy is absorbed and converted into
chemical energy (ATP and hydrogen carriers). This step traps solar
energy in the structure of matter. The chemical energy in these short-
term storage molecules then powers the incorporation of carbon from
carbon dioxide into carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are long-term
energy-storage molecules. How can other organisms benefit from
these long-term storage molecules?

plant cell compartment where

photosynthesis occurs

P Y sugars


1. absorption of light energy 3. incorporation of carbon
2. conversion of light energy

into carbohydrates
into chemical energy

of photosynthesis. In the second phase, carbon Bringing Solar Energy into Living
and oxygen from atmospheric carbon dioxide Systems. The reactions of photosynthesis

combine with hydrogen that came from water take place in chloroplasts, small
to form carbohydrates. Photosynthetic compartments inside certain plant cells.
organisms use these carbohydrates for long- Figures E8.21 and E8.22 show the location of

term energy storage (much as humans use the chloroplast-containing cells in a plant leaf.
glycogen). Nonphotosynthetic organisms The enlargement in Figure E8.22 illustrates
use them indirectly when they eat the the organization of a chloroplast. Within the
photosynthetic organisms. chloroplast is a system of membranes called

generalized plant cell

D chloroplasts: small
organelles in plant
cells that are the site
of all reactions of
photosynthesis; enclosed
by double membrane;
third, inner membrane
forms layered structures
Figure E8.21 Plant cells (and
photosynthetic protists) contain
chloroplasts. Photosynthesis
takes place in chloroplasts.

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interior of



a cross section b chloroplast c thylakoid
of leaf

Figure E8.22 The conversion of light energy into chemical energy occurs in subcellular

compartments known as chloroplasts. (a) The green disks in the cells in this diagram of a
leaf cross section are chloroplasts. (b) This electron micrograph of a chloroplast shows the
layers and stacks of thylakoid membranes. (c) The thylakoid membranes contain
chlorophyll and other pigments. These form subcompartments within the chloroplast in

which the light-trapping reactions occur. What other subcellular compartments are in a
plant cell?

the thylakoids. The thylakoids are folded so protons (H) across the thylakoid membranes.

that they form smaller compartments The protons accumulate inside the thylakoids
somewhat like the infoldings in a and form a concentration gradient. Just as in
mitochondrion. Surrounding the thylakoids cellular respiration, the protons then diffuse
is a colorless fluid known as the stroma. down the concentration gradient through an

The internal structure of the chloroplast is enzyme complex in the membranes. The
important to the process of converting light enzymes synthesize ATP as the protons pass
into chemical energy. through the complex.

Embedded in the thylakoid membranes In addition to producing ATP, the
are organized arrangements of pigment flow of electrons produces NADPH. This
molecules. These molecules include the green molecule is an energy and hydrogen carrier
pigments called chlorophylls. Chlorophylls similar to the NADH formed during cellular
and additional pigments give plants their respiration. Remember that the solar energy
color. These pigments absorb light energy absorbed by chlorophyll in the first phase of
in the visible wavelengths. The absorbed photosynthesis provides the energy for the
energy sets up a flow of electrons (e) in production of energy-rich ATP and NADPH.
the chlorophyll molecules, as shown in Photosynthesis cannot take place without
Figure E8.23. The electrons from chlorophyll water. Plants absorb water through their roots.
are passed to an electron transport system. Enzymes that are associated with
This system is also embedded in the thylakoid the pigment molecules in the thylakoid
membranes. As this happens, some of the membranes remove electrons from the water.
energy that is released is used to pump These electrons replace those that were

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stroma H+ NADPH

ADP + P e-
e- e-

H+ H+
H+, O2

thylakoid H+ H H+
H H+ inside of thylakoid

Figure E8.23 ATP production in the chloroplast during photosynthesis.
Absorption of light energy sets up a flow of electrons from water through pigments and
other molecules in the thylakoid membranes. Protons accumulate on the inside of the
thylakoids. The resulting proton gradient functions much like that in a mitochondrion.

The gradient supplies potential energy. This energy enables a membrane-spanning
enzyme to synthesize ATP from ADP and phosphate.

originally lost by chlorophyll. When the

electrons are removed, water splits into oxygen
(O) and protons (H). The plant releases the
oxygen from the water as oxygen gas (see
Figure E8.24). Thus, oxygen is a by-product

of photosynthesis. However, this by-product
provides the oxygen on which animals, plants,
and all aerobic organisms depend for

The first phase of photosynthesis forms
three products. These are oxygen gas, ATP,
and NADPH. The products ATP and
NADPH are now available to provide energy
for the second phase in photosynthesis. In the
second phase, the reactions form
carbohydrates. This important process
converts the energy trapped in ATP and
NADPH into long-term energy storage
(sugars and starch).
Figure E8.24 This Anacharis plant is Bringing Carbon into Living
actively engaged in photosynthesis. What Systems. The final reactions of
gas is likely present in the bubbles? photosynthesis use ATP and NADPH

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from the first phase of photosynthesis and Figure E5.2 on page 230). The carbon dioxide
atmospheric carbon dioxide to form is added to an existing 5-carbon sugar. This
carbohydrates. Imagine, atmospheric carbon creates a 6-carbon sugar. The 6-carbon sugar
dioxide, an invisible gas in the air around you, quickly splits into two 3-carbon sugars. These
provides the matter that becomes plant leaves, 3-carbon sugars have several possible fates.
stems, and roots. The process of converting In a cycle of reactions, these 3-carbon
atmospheric carbon dioxide into carbohydrate sugars are rearranged into a variety of other

molecules is called carbon fixation. The sugars. Some become the 5-carbon sugar
reactions incorporate, or fix, carbon into that first combines with carbon dioxide.
carbohydrates. Figure E8.25 is a simplified Others are exported from the chloroplast and

diagram of those carbohydrate-producing used to form sucrose and starch. The carbon
reactions. These reacitons take place in the also can be used to form lipids, proteins,
stroma of the chloroplast. ATP and NADPH chlorophyll, and other molecules the plant

provide the energy (and hydrogen atoms) for cell needs. Sucrose can be transported to
those reactions. nonphotosynthetic tissues of the plant such as
First, carbon dioxide from the air enters the roots. Plant cells use sucrose as a source of

the plant through the stomates (look back at matter (carbon) for producing new tissues

(5-carbon CO2

ADP (5-carbon sugar
ATP C combines with CO2)



carbon fixation





Figure E8.25 Carbon fixation. Carbon C
fixation takes place in the stroma of chloroplasts. NADP+
This process uses carbon from carbon dioxide to
build carbohydrates. The carbon fixation
reactions organize matter and increase the total
amount of carbon in the plant. ATP and NADPH
provide energy for these reactions. The 3-carbon C (3-carbon
sugars that are produced can be exported from C
the chloroplast. Or, they can proceed through
many steps that regenerate the 5-carbon sugar C P
that combines with carbon dioxide.

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and for energy. In that way, plant cells that winter, for example). Those cells use the
cannot perform photosynthesis can obtain process of cellular respiration to break
energy to live. Some plant cells cannot carry down sucrose and produce ATP. For that
out photosynthesis. Some of these cells have reason, plants are said to be producers. They
no chloroplasts. Some are cells that are produce their own food as well as food for
prevented from doing photosynthesis (during other organisms.

Metabolism Includes Synthesis
and Breakdown
Have you ever thought about growth in terms

be used to make newer, larger, or more useful

of efficiency? Think about the latest highway structures.
expansion project. Lanes are closed; the old Living systems function in much the
surface is torn up and hauled away. Only after same way. Except living systems continuously

much time and inconvenience is new asphalt break down and build up molecules (see
laid to create a wider, more efficient roadway. Figure E8.26). Energy links the reactions
Similarly, to build a large office building in a responsible for both processes. For example,
densely packed city requires a lot of when you eat potatoes, your body breaks down

preparation. Older, smaller buildings first potato starch. It breaks down the starch into
must be torn down and the debris cleared the small glucose molecules that make up the
away. In both cases, the raw materials from starch. The glucose then can be broken down

the outdated structures are broken down and further to obtain energy from the chemical
often recycled. Only then can new materials bonds that hold the molecule together. For

Figure E8.26
Synthesis and nthes growth

Both plants and nthesis storage
the organisms that sy
consume plants sugars sy biosynthesis
use the sugars n thesis of biological

made during molecules
photosynthesis for re

a kd cellular
o wn
biological synthesis respiration
and breakdown. (to obtain energy)
These processes a
re necessary for life. is
nthes growth
Is photosynthesis sy
a synthesis or
breakdown process? nthesis storage
What about
matter biosynthesis
digestion? from other sy
n thesis of biological

a kd cellular
o wn
(to obtain energy)

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immediate energy, the glucose is broken down Similarly, proteins can be broken down to
during cellular respiration. This makes energy amino acids. After the nitrogen-containing
available in the form of ATP. For storing group has been removed from the amino acid,
energy, the glucose can be transported to your the remaining carbon skeleton can be broken
liver or muscles and combined with other down to intermediates. Those also can enter
glucose molecules to form glycogen. glycolysis and the Krebs cycle, as shown in
Glycogen is a large, energy-storage molecule. Figure E8.27.

Your body uses some of the energy that is
released during cellular respiration to build, or
synthesize, the glycogen.

All the chemical activities and changes
that take place in a cell or an organism are
collectively known as its metabolism.

Generally, breakdown reactions (such as cellular
respiration) release energy. Synthesis reactions
(such as photosynthesis) require energy. The

ATP that breakdown reactions produce
becomes the source of energy for many
cellular activities, including processes like carbohydrates

muscle contraction. Thus, ATP, as well as
other energy carriers, provides a critical link C
between reactions that produce energy and proteins fats
those that require it. Without such links, the C C glycerol

energy released from breakdown reactions amino acids fatty acids
would be wasted. Without ATP, no energy glycolysis
would be available for biosynthetic reactions.

Those reactions are necessary for growth,
repair, and routine life processes. Organisms C-C-C
die without ATP.
The breakdown processes in cells produce

a variety of smaller molecules that can be
converted into the intermediate compounds. C-C
Those compounds are formed in glycolysis

and the Krebs cycle. That makes metabolism
more efficient because those intermediate Krebs
molecules can be used in cellular respiration
just as glucose is used. For example, fats can
be broken down into glycerol, a 3-carbon
molecule, and fatty acids, long chains of Figure E8.27 Metabolic pathways.
carbon and hydrogen. Glycerol can be Macromolecules in food are broken down
converted into one of the 3-carbon to smaller molecules. These smaller
intermediates of glycolysis. The 3-carbon molecules can be converted into the
intermediate can enter cellular respiration, intermediates that are formed in glycolysis
and the Krebs cycle. These intermediates
the highly efficient, energy-releasing,
then can be used in cellular respiration to
breakdown process. Fatty acids can be produce ATP. The same intermediates also
converted into the same 2-carbon molecule are a source of carbon skeletons for the
that enters the Krebs cycle. synthesis of macromolecules.

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Intermediate compounds can be used in consume in your diet, which a plant or animal
synthesis reactions as well (see Figure E8.27). of a different species made, cannot be used
Organisms require many different types of directly as a prefabricated protein in your
macromolecules for their structures and body. Instead, the protein that you consume
activities. For example, each of the many is broken down into its component amino
chemical reactions that take place in an acids. Then your cells assemble the amino
organism requires a specific enzyme (protein). acids into the specific protein patterns that

The organism must synthesize these enzymes your body requires.
from amino acids. Cell membranes require Synthesizing new proteins is the bodys
specific lipids. These must be synthesized as most efficient use of amino acids. During

well. Whether a protein, carbohydrate, or fat, starvation or in the extreme stages of anorexia
each molecule must be synthesized from the nervosa, however, the bodys cells must
matter that the organism takes in. compensate for the lack of carbohydrates and

Only a few elements compose the fats in the diet by breaking down proteins for
tissues of most species. And the same types energy. The human body does that in an effort
of macromolecules are found in vastly to maintain homeostasis. Unfortunately, when

different organisms. The particular this happens, the muscles of the body are
molecular arrangements in a given consumed as fuel. Although the breakdown of
organism, however, are different from all protein is a last resort, it indicates how flexible

others. That is why the protein that you cells can be in their metabolism.

Garbage among UsFrom Then

until Now!

Matterlots of it. Wood. Paper. Glass. we must improve recycling efforts and
Metals. Plastics. Rubber. Cloth. Food. Yard reduce our total waste generation to
waste. All of these types of matter end up in cope with the increasing burden on

our landfills. In fact, did you know the landfills (223 million tons produced in
following? the year 2000, alone). More than half
In the United States, each person of the states in the United States are
having problems finding places to

throws away an average of 1,600 pounds
of garbage each year. This is more than dump trash. Sometimes trash travels
any other nation in the world. great distances before it is dumped
(Figure E9.1).
A convoy of garbage trucks long enough
to encircle the earth six times would be
required to carry all the municipal waste
generated in the United States in 1 year.
In 1960, 63 percent of waste generated
went to a landfill, 30.6 percent was
burned, and only 6.4 percent was
recycled or composted. In 2000,
53.3 percent of waste went to a landfill,
16.7 percent was burned, and 30 percent Figure E9.1 Overloaded with waste and
was recycled or composted. However, no place to go.

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Lettuce buried in a landfill may take source of energy. In turn, many

more than 7 years to decompose of these small organisms are
completely. destined to become the food
A hot dog can last more than 10 years for insects, and some of these
in a landfill. insects may become food for
the bats.
A steak buried in a landfill can retain its
The Earliest Ancestral
fat 15 years after burial.

Puebloans. The year is AD
In spite of recycling efforts, waste paper 950. As a hint of daylight
is still a major component of landfills appears in the east, a young

nationwide. It makes up 3035 percent Ancestral Puebloan woman
of the waste in landfills. awakens and checks on her two
You throw away things every day. But did young children still asleep beside

you ever wonder what people could tell about her in their cliff dwelling (Figure
you if they sorted through your trash? E9.3). They live along a basin in
Garbage and waste can tell us quite a bit the high-plateau region of the Figure E9.2 Brown

American Southwest. As the bats live in caves
about how organisms acquire and use the throughout Mammoth
matter and energy in their community. Lets woman rises and starts a fire, her Cave National Park,
consider a few different communities and mate begins to stir. She retrieves Kentucky.

reflect on the cycling of matter through them. some kernels of corn from a
How is this process similar and different in
these communities? How does matter move
from one organism to another? How much

and what type of waste does each community
produce? What happens to the waste in each

Bats in Mammoth Cave National
Park, Kentucky. Two bats flit about in the
sky at twilight, barely visible in the last light of
evening. They dart about catching insects. One

bat descends briefly, flying just above the surface
of a pond to take a drink. Another nips a moth
in midair. Soon, the bats dart into the entrance

of a cave that is partially hidden by evergreens
(see Figure E9.2).
Several fleas, ticks, and mites have latched
onto the bats coats during the evening. As the
bats sit on a cave ledge, resting and cleaning
themselves, some of the insects fall to the cave
floor. There they become food for the
organisms that dwell there. During the night,
many bats excrete their wastesa substance
called guano. Guano is not solid like human
Figure E9.3 Cliff dwellings. The
feces, but rather thick and mudlike. It covers
Ancestral Puebloans lived in cliff dwellings.
the floor of the cave like carpeting. Bacteria, These structures can be found throughout
fungi, and other one-celled organisms grow on the Four Corners region of the American
the guano and use it as their foodtheir Southwest.

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a c




Figure E9.4 Artifacts from Pueblo Bonito.
Archaeologists found these artifacts and more at the
Pueblo Bonito site in the Chaco River Valley. They are
dated at about AD 9501000. (a) black-on-white bowl,
2 3/4 in high (b) turquoise pendants, 1 in high (c) shell
ornament, 2 in long (d) bone scrapers, 61/2 and 5 in long
(e) bone awls, 41/27 3/4 in long (f) bone needle, 2 3/4 in long
(g) projectile points, 11/2 and 2 in long (h) basket, 151/2 in high

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slab-lined hole and begins to grind them into Family in Maineville, Ohio. A single
a coarse meal. It is late spring, and the couple mother looks in on her 8-year-old daughter
hopes to finish planting the corn today. They Sonya, who has the flu. She has a big box of
want to work in the morning before the day tissues beside her bed and a pile of used ones
becomes hot. To plant, they use a stick to in the wastebasket nearby. Sonya also has
make holes in the ground, drop kernels of finished one carton of juice and has begun
corn into each hole, and then cover them another. One of the familys three cats is

with soil. resting at the foot of the bed. (Someone needs
Later, the woman and her children join to clean the litter box today.)
other women and children to gather yucca This family lives in a three-bedroom, two-

from the plateau. The Ancestral Puebloan bathroom house at the end of a quiet street in
families will not only eat the fruit and seeds of a small community north of a major city.
the yucca, but they will use the roots for soap Sonya has a 15-year-old brother, Matt, who is

and shampoo, and the strong, sturdy fibers keeping his distance because he doesnt want
from the leaves for making intricate baskets, to get sick. He has a huge history report due
sandals, aprons, mats, and cradle boards. Small Monday. He works away at the computer

pieces of the yucca and other plant material most of the afternoon and prints the entire
are discarded in a pile along with cornhusks report four times before he is satisfied. He
and cobs, worn-out mats, and broken tools places the rejected copies in the recycle bin in

made out of bone. the kitchen.
Some mornings the womans mate joins The mother is an architect and has been
other men in the community to hunt for working at home all day on a balsa-wood model
rabbit and deer. In addition to preparing and of a hospital addition. (Scrap wood seems to be

eating the meat, the Ancestral Puebloans everywhere.) In the evening on the way home
make clothing for the winter months from the from the grocery store (with 10 bags of
rabbit pelts, and tools and utensils such as groceries), the mother stops at a fast-food

needles from the bones. Unused bones are restaurant and picks up some chicken dinners,
discarded in the small but growing pile of which everyone enjoyseven Sonya who is
waste. At the bottom of this pile, the organic beginning to feel better. As Matt tosses the last
material has decayed enough so that it is dinner carton into the garbage, he notices that

almost indistinguishable from the soil its full again. Whose week is it to take out the
beneath it. garbage, anyway?

Matter in Nature Is Going Around in Cycles . . .
What Next?
Imagine a riverbed similar to the one where branches and twigs and use them to build
the Ancestral Puebloans lived 1,000 years their dams. A great blue heron nabs an
ago. It might look something like the unsuspecting fish from the river. When the
illustration in Figure E9.5. In such a types and amounts of matter in such an
riverbed ecosystem, matter is on the move ecosystem remain essentially the same across
from one place to another or from one time, the ecosystem remains in balance.
organism to another. Water runs through it. When the types or amounts of matter in an
Nutrients move from the soil into plants ecosystem change, the ecosystem changes
rooted along the river. Beavers gnaw through as well.

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Figure E9.5 A beaver busy at work.
movement of matter in its ecosystem?

What effect might this beaver have on the

Lets look more closely at the riverbed resources that beavers need, the resources
ecosystem. There are two types of material might be depleted to the point that the

componentsbiotic and abiotic. Biotic matter environment would be unable to support any
is living matter. Abiotic matter is matter that beavers. They then would die off or move
is not living. Both types of matter cycle within elsewhere. Such a scenario would cause the

an ecosystem. community to change.
Beavers are part of the biotic matter along Not only does matter move through an
this riverbed. In the spring, two to four young ecosystem, but some of it makes a complete
beavers are born into each family along the cycle within it. For example, when beavers die

river. During the months while young beavers along the river, their bodies gradually decay.
grow and become more self-sufficient, the The nutrients derived from their bodies
local beaver community can withstand the eventually mix with the soil. Plants then

temporary increase in its population. acquire some of these nutrients from the soil.
Eventually, however, many of last years young In turn, various animals (including beavers)
will move out of the community to establish feed on these plants. In this way, nutrients
their homes elsewhere along the river. A few that once were part of an animal can cycle
of last years young may remain, replacing the through various types of matter and be taken
beavers that die. But the total population of up by another animal.
beavers in this area will remain relatively Water is an example of abiotic matter that
stable. If the number of beavers in this area moves through and cycles within an
increased significantly, it might place a stress ecosystem. Water is constantly moving
on the available resources. These resources through this river. The water flowing through
include the food supply and the sites and the river at a certain spot today is different
materials for building dams, for example. If a from the water that flowed through this same
situation such as that continued for several spot yesterday. Water also is part of a cycle.
seasons without a similar increase in the Some is added to the river by rain or snow and

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from tributaries and groundwater reserves in These same principles of movement and
the plateau. Some water leaves the river cycling of matter apply to the many other, less
through evaporation. (See the drawing of the obvious components that make up the
water cycle in Figure E9.6.) riverbed ecosystem. Consider, for example, a
Through time, when the net inflow is the single atom of carbon. If you could follow a
same as the net outflow, the river remains single atom of carbon in the riverbed
essentially the same. A significant increase or community through time, you would see it

decrease of the inflow changes the river. A cycle through many different molecules. At
significant increase in the water flow would one point, it may form part of a protein
cause the banks to flood, destroying many molecule in a floating leaf of duckweed. At

plants along the riverbed. A sustained increase another time, it may become one of the atoms
in the amount of water, however, may support within a DNA molecule in the genetic
a different number and variety of plants and material of a fish or a frog that ate the

animals in the community and consequently duckweed. At still another point, the carbon
change its makeup. Similarly, a decrease in the atom may remain for a long period within
water flow may cause certain plants and dead plant or animal material in the mud of

animals to disappear as competition for water the river until it is finally used by bacteria
increased. Again, if such a change were or fungi and rejoins the biotic community.
sustained, the makeup of the community Figure E9.7 illustrates some of these

would change as well. interactions and relationships in the carbon

short cycle long cycle



n & transp

ace evaporat


m la

ice &




ion f

ground surf



surface runoff



river runoff

lows to oce percolation
stream f

groundwater flow

Figure E9.6 The water cycle. The water cycle collects and redistributes the earths water supply.

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death & wastes

Figure E9.7 The carbon cycle.

N In a stable ecosystem, the total number of carbon atoms will remain

approximately the same.

cycle. Again, when the total number of carbon taken up by the roots of plants. Through
atoms in an ecosystem remains approximately experience, people have discovered that many
the same along with the proportion of carbon desert lands will produce large crops, at least
atoms to other atoms, the ecosystem remains for a time, if they are irrigated. Often,
essentially stable. When the number or essential elements are abundant in these soils,
proportion of carbon atoms changes but they are not readily available to plants due
significantly, the community changes. to the shortage of water.
Other less obvious cycles of matter in A contemporary issue that is important in
ecosystems depend on the existing the tropics involves a change that humans
environmental conditions. Essential elements, have introduced. Humans have been removing
such as calcium, potassium, and phosphorous, native communities of plants and animals and
are available to the biological community only growing crops in their place. In addition to
after they dissolve in the groundwater and are the loss of the native plants and animals, a

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change such as this disrupts the cycling of riverbed, it exhibits a type of large-scale
elements. It may also result in an additional dynamic balance that resembles the
loss of soil fertility. homeostasis of individual organisms. The
Consider another issue that is related to same is true in other communities such as
the cycling of matter. Various organisms in a those found in a desert, a temperate pond, a
community often cannot efficiently metabolize pine forest, or the arctic tundra. On a larger
foreign compounds such as pesticides. As a scale, the same also is true for the entire

result, foreign compounds may accumulate at biosphere. The biosphere includes all the
toxic levels in the tissues of some organisms. organisms as well as the soil, water, and air
They also may build up in the environment that surround and support them. As the

and persist there for long periods of time environment changes, communities may
before they are returned to the cycle. change as well. Homeostasis continues around
Taken as a whole, when a community is a balance point, but that point of balance can

stable within an ecosystem such as the change through time.

Worms, Insects, Bacteria, and
FungiWho Needs Them?

Did you know that 100 million bacteria can with the soil and creates humus. Other
live in a single gram of fertile soil? Did you organisms that perform a similar function in

also know that 250,000 earthworms can live the soil are insects, bacteria, and fungi.
in a 11/4-acre field of rich topsoil? Together these organisms help return vital
This is one reason why earthworms elements, such as phosphorous, calcium, and

are considered a farmers best friend. nitrogen, to the environment where other
Earthworms are organisms that decompose organisms can use them.
decaying organic matter. They can work The importance of recyclable elements
through 10 tons of topsoil a year, aerating it to the health of most communities

and increasing its fertility. emphasizes the role of organisms that
The quality of the topsoil is important decompose organic matter. This is
because topsoil serves as a link between the particularly apparent in the tropics. Here the

living and nonliving world. Abiotic nutrients layer of topsoil is thin, the temperature is
enter the living world when they are absorbed high throughout the year, and rains are
by plants. They are returned to the nonliving frequent. Under such conditions, nutrients
world when they are excreted by animals as break down rapidly. Those nutrients that
waste. The waste ends up in the topsoil. Here it are not returned quickly to the living part
is broken down into simple nutrients by the of the ecosystem flow away in groundwater
soils inhabitants. At this point, the cycle can and are lost to the community. Figure E9.8
begin again as plants reuse these nutrients. illustrates this situation for a tropical rain
Earthworms play a vital role in keeping forest. The community appears extremely
the nutrient levels in the soil high because lush because most of the nutrients are held
they consume partially decomposed organic in living material almost continuously. The
matter such as dead leaves and roots. They matter recycles rapidly from one organism to
then excrete nutrient-rich waste. This mixes another. The critical location for this rapid

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KH4119_Unit 03 ES_E367-E389 4/21/05 11:21 AM Page 382



fertile litter layer

litter layer
clay soil

sterile clay layer

Figure E9.8 Tropical rain forest. In a tropical rain forest, most of the nutrients are held in

living organisms because of the rapid recycling of matter, particularly in the thin layer of topsoil.
What might happen to the nutrient levels if the number of living organisms were greatly reduced?

recycling is the relatively thin layer of dead It is here that the nutrients are recycled
plant material that forms the topsoil on the into living matter through photosynthesis.
forest floor. In the constant heat and In environments with less extreme
moisture of the tropics, a group of small conditions, decomposition is much slower

organisms in this layer quickly breaks down and virtually stops in the winter. In these
much of the fallen leaves and other dead environments, dead organic material can
organic matter. The nutrients they release remain in the topsoil much longer without

into the groundwater then move downward losing its nutrients. If the community is to
toward the sterile clay beneath where the persist, however, the processes of recycling
rich network of tree roots quickly reabsorbs eventually must return the nutrients in
them. The nutrients move up through the fallen leaves and other dead organic matter
trees roots, trunk, and branches to its leaves. to the plants.

382 Unit 3 ESSAY: Worms, Insects, Bacteria, and FungiWho Needs Them?
KH4119_Unit 03 ES_E367-E389 4/21/05 11:21 AM Page 383

Lets Ask Drs. Ricardo and Rita

Drs. Ricardo and Rita, long-time Dear Juanita,
colleagues at the same university, How observant you are! Youve done
answer questions and concerns about a terrific job of describing a community. A
relationships in communities. community is a collection of organisms

that live and interact with each other in a
given area. You also described what
biologists call biomass. Biomass refers

Dear Dr. Ricardo,
I am a biology student who has just to the mass of all living organisms in a
given environment. As you probably
completed drawing a food web for class.
know, some herbivores may not eat an

As I was making it, I learned that a
entire plant. For example, a rabbit may eat
food web is the sum of all feeding
only part of a violet. A carnivore, such as
interactions. Ive included a sample a mountain lion, may not eat the bones of

(Figure E9.9). the rabbit. What these creatures eat is
I understand the concept that a food considered the consumable biomass.
web involves feeding interactions among What happens to the remaining parts

producers, consumers, and decomposers. of the violet and the bones of the rabbit?
Producers are organisms that can make These types of biomass, the leftovers,
their own food by using matter and often represent a substantial portion of
energy from the nonliving world. the total amount of energy and biological

Consumers are organisms that feed on material in a community. This resource
other organisms. Decomposers are does not go to waste, however.
Remember the decomposers in your

organisms that feed on decaying organic
food web? These organisms (for example,
fungi and bacteria) specialize in using the
However, I still need your help.
matter that other organisms do not
In our food webs, we listed our producers
consume. Though generally not as visible

on the bottom. Then we listed the as the other groups, these decomposers
herbivores. Above these we included the serve a vital function in communities.
omnivores and carnivores. We also They reduce dead biomass, such as the

included decomposers in our webs. partially consumed violet and rabbit, into
Because we have included virtually molecules that the producers can reuse.
everylevel of interaction and type of So, you see, you could have drawn
relationship, I was wondering if this is arrows from all the creatures to the
basically what a community is? decomposers.

Juanita Perez, Eco High School

ESSAY: Lets Ask Drs. Ricardo and Rita Unit 3 383

Unit 3

hawk roundworm

frog rainbow trout
human parasite

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KH4119_Unit 03 ES_E367-E389 4/21/05 11:21 AM Page 384

fox weasel owl bat spider salmon


mayfly stonefly

rabbit meadow vole squirrel fruit-eating birds
stinkbug grasshopper

plants/plant parts
rod morel
bacteria Coprinus



Figure E9.9 A food web. Food webs in a community can be very complex. Can you find any more relationships?
KH4119_Unit 03 ES_E367-E389 4/21/05 11:22 AM Page 385

Dear Dr. Rita, producers) or smaller predators. Note

I drew a food web in my class. But I that at every step in the process,
still dont understand what it means in some biological matter passes to the
terms of the real world. Can you make decomposers. This can be in the form of
this more realistic for me? inedible plant or animal parts, organic
waste products, or whole dead
Alfonso Washington organisms. The decomposers then break

down this matter to simple molecules that
the producers can use.
Dear Alfonso, The food web of the river ecosystem

Thanks for your comment. I would is based on solar energy that the
love to help. Think of a riverbed that the producers convert into food. Not all
Ancestral Puebloans might have lived ecosystems, however, support

near. Study the detailed drawing of such themselves in this manner. The seashore
a riverbed (Figure E9.10). is a good example of a rich, natural
In the open water of the river, algae ecosystem that is not self-supporting.

and microscopic water plants are the Virtually all of the organisms that inhabit
main producers. These producers are the zone between high and low tides are
consumed by insects and small aquatic consumers. They ultimately depend on
animals such as the tiger salamander and

plant material and other living or dead
various fish. Higher-level consumers, organic matter that is brought in by each
such as the great blue heron, live by high tide. Many of the seashore creatures
eating either first-level consumers feed on this matter directly. For example,

(organisms that have eaten the mussels and clams filter seawater for

violets great blue herons
tiger salamander

dogwoods sedges

Figure E9.10 Cross section through the edge of a riverbed in southwestern United States.
The interactions among organisms in an ecosystem involve the cycling of matter and the flow of energy.
What is the ultimate source of energy?

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KH4119_Unit 03 ES_E367-E389 4/21/05 11:22 AM Page 386

microscopic bits of food. Many other Dear Lydia,

species are predators, such as the sea I used to be confused about trophic
star, which preys on clams and mussels. levels, too. Let me explain. A food web
The organisms in this community also almost looks like a layered wedding cake.
depend on solar energy. But most of that Each higher level has fewer organisms.
energy is converted into food by producers The feeding level that an organism
that live in deeper ocean communities. occupies is its trophic level. (This is

depicted by the pyramid in Figure E9.11.)
Herbivores occupy the first trophic
Dear Dr. Ricardo,
level in a food web. Small predators

I keep hearing about trophic levels
occupy the second trophic level. And
when people talk about food webs. What
larger predators occupy the third.
are trophic levels? Are they some sort of Producers do not belong to any

tool used to measure food webs? Are they trophic level because they do not eat.
important? Thanks for helping me. They can use solar energy directly to fuel
Lydia Bellissimo their own metabolism and to produce new

biomass. All other organisms are

Figure E9.11 A pyramid of trophic levels. Trophic levels provide one way to
represent the interactions of the organisms in a community.

386 Unit 3 ESSAY: Lets Ask Drs. Ricardo and Rita

KH4119_Unit 03 ES_E367-E389 4/21/05 11:22 AM Page 387

10 3









100,000 1




1 10 100 1,000 10,000 100,000 1,000,000

scale of number of organisms

Figure E9.12 A pyramid of trophic levels showing numbers of organisms. This
idealized pyramid shows the number of organisms per 1,000 square meters (1,196 square
yards) of grassland habitat.

consumers. These consumers cannot make partially eaten by a herbivore. The same

all of the biological molecules they need to decomposer also might exist in the third
build tissue and support their metabolism. trophic level when it breaks down the
After all, when was the last time you raised bones of a carnivore. Omnivores also

your arms to the sun, captured solar occupy different trophic levels. When you
energy, and converted it into glycogen? eat a salad and a steak for a meal, you
We consumers can obtain chemical energy are occupying two trophic levels. You
only by consuming biomass, that is, by see, organisms of a community interact
eating other organisms. Lets use a second with each other in many ways. One way
pyramid to demonstrate the number of is through acquiring food, as Ive
consumers that occupy each trophic level described here.
(Figure E9.12).
What about omnivores? What about
Dear Dr. Rita,
decomposers? What trophic levels do
I am convinced that the food web I
they occupy? They can occupy more than
drew is all wrong. When I drew arrows
one. A decomposer can exist in the first
trophic level when it breaks down the between organisms, I pointed the arrow
remaining biomass of a plant that was toward the organism that does the eating.

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KH4119_Unit 03 ES_E367-E389 4/21/05 11:22 AM Page 388

Shouldnt the arrow be pointing toward

the thing being eaten? Did you know that . . .
Thirty-three percent of all the grain
Dwayne Robertson harvested on earth each day is fed to
livestock and poultry.

Dear Dwayne,
It takes 16 pounds of grain and
soybeans to produce just one pound of
You are not alone. Often students who

beef. It takes six pounds of grain and
draw food webs for the first time want soybeans to produce a pound of pork,
to draw the arrows pointing toward the four pounds for a pound of turkey, and

organisms being eaten. Remember, three pounds for a pound of eggs or a
though, the arrows represent energy flow pound of chicken.
and not the act of eating. For example, There are currently 1.28 billion cattle
populating the earth.

energy from grass is passed to a rabbit.
The energy from the rabbit is passed to Cattle graze on nearly 24 percent of the
a mountain lion. Think of the arrows as landmass of the planet.

meaning the energy is passed to. A Cattle consume enough grain to feed
food web helps us understand the flow of hundreds of millions of people.
energy through a community. Ultimately,
Cattle grazing contributes to the
the sun is the source of energy for nearly increasing numbers of deserts on

all earth communities. the earth.

Losing Heat

Each time that an organism uses energy, it loses convert only a small fraction (0.8 percent) of it
part of the energy in the form of released heat. into plant biomass (see Figure E9.13). This
This means that only a portion of the solar biomass represents 8,000 kcals of stored
energy that producers take up is stored in chemical energy. The herbivores, such as the

biomass that herbivores can eat. In turn, only a grasshoppers, incorporate only 800 kcals into
portion of the plant material that herbivores eat their biomass. This is only 10 percent of the
is converted into body parts that could become 8,000 kcals of plant energy available to them.

food for predators. Each transfer of energy from Similarly, the predators, such as the mice that
organisms at one trophic level to those at the
next level results in a decrease in the amount of
What happens Percent
energy that is available.
Ecologists can estimate the amount of Converted to heat 46.0
energy that is stored in the biomass at each Reflected 30.0
Evaporation/precipitation 23.0
trophic level. They do this by taking a sample Photosynthesis 0.8
from a community and harvesting the total Wind, waves, currents 0.2
biomass represented by the producers, Total 100.0
herbivores, and higher-level consumers. They
Figure E9.13 What happens to the
then determine the caloric value of this
solar energy that reaches earth? Only
organic matter. 0.8 percent of the solar energy reaching
Say we begin with 1 million kcals of solar the earth is used directly in the production
energy entering the ecosystem. Producers of food.

388 Unit 3 ESSAY: Losing Heat

KH4119_Unit 03 ES_E367-E389 4/21/05 12:19 PM Page 389

feed on the
incorporate only
80 kcals into their
biomass. This is
10 percent of the 1,000,000 kcals
800 kcals available to of solar energy

them. Finally, the secondary
predators, such as the hawk, that
feed on the first level of predators, 8 kcals

incorporate only 8 kcals into their
biomass. Again, this is 10 percent of the
80 kcals available to them. Think about

this pattern of reduced energy amounts
80 kcals
at successive trophic levels. The
secondary predators acquire only

8 kcals of the 8,000 kcals of
energy that became part of
the food web at the

producer level. We can
800 kcals
use the pyramid in
Figure E9.14 to
illustrate the

reduction in the
8,000 kcals
amount of

Figure E9.14 Energy pyramid. This idealized energy pyramid illustrates
available. that only a portion of the energy available at one trophic level is available at
the next higher trophic level.

The flow and accompanying loss of

energy from one trophic level to the next is
10 kg of 100 kg of the basis for the suggestion that people should
plants plants eat lower on the food web. For example, a

person eating as an herbivore can create
1 kilogram of human biomass by eating
10 kilograms of plants. It takes about
1 kg of 10 kg of cow 100 kilograms of plants, however, to create
human biomass 1 kilogram of human biomass if the person
eats as a primary carnivore. You are eating as
a primary carnivore if you eat the cow that ate
1 kg of the plants, instead of eating the plants directly
human biomass (see Figure E9.15).

a person eating as b person eating as

herbivore primary carnivore Figure E9.15 Human as herbivore and human as
primary carnivore. The energy relationships between
trophic levels are the basis for the suggestion that people
should eat low on the food chain.

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