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Introduction to Food Webs and Food Chains

ENV 18

Tyler Zupsic
October 12, 2017
Prof. Richards

The objective of these exercises was to introduce food webs and food chains. If the student
completes these exercises, then the student should understand the concepts of what a trophic
level is, how much energy is transferred between each trophic level, and the impact of each
species role. The first exercise is used as a fun way to show the students the different trophic
levels and animals associated with each. The second exercise should help physically demonstrate
the amount of energy passed between each trophic level. The last exercise should help a student
fully understand food webs.

Exercise I: Food Chain Card Game in Fall 2017 Ecology Class

1. Pick a set of biome cards.
2. Work in groups taking turns to create a food chain using the information on
the back of the biome cards (each player must create a food chain).
3. Deal 5 cards to each player, and place the remaining cards face down in the
center of the table.
4. Draw a card from the top of the pile and place the card in your hand.
5. The object is to complete a food chain with four energy links.
6. If you do not have a complete food chain, you must discard one card from
your hand, facedown, next to the draw pile (the discard pile).
7. Play continues until each player has constructed a food chain.
8. If you run out of cards, reshuffle the discard pile and use this as the new draw
9. Repeat the steps in order to create a real-life food chain.

Exercise II: Creating a Food Chain in Fall 2017 Ecology Class

1. Take 100 energy units.
2. Create a food chain with four trophic levels, and show how energy is passed
to each trophic level. (See below)
Figure 1. Food Chain in 2017 Fall Ecology Class

Swallowtail Raccoon (1% Bobcat (0.1%

Trout Lily (100%
(10% energy) energy) energy)


Exercise III: Creating a Food Web using Table Information in Fall 2017 Ecology Class

1. Create a food web using the information provided in Table 1.

1. Fox (Secondary consumer), Swallowtail (Primary consumer), Raccoon
(Secondary consumer), Bacteria (Decomposer), Mushroom (Decomposer)
2. Trout Lily (Producer), Swallowtail (Primary consumer), Raccoon (Secondary
consumer), Bobcat (Tertiary consumer), Mushroom (Decomposer)
3. 10% is lost through each trophic level (100% -> 10% -> 1%, etc)
4. Food webs list all trophic levels and show how plants/animals are connected to
survive, while food chains follow single paths of energy.
5. Food web, because there might be multiple animals of the same trophic level
6. The prey of the carnivore reproduce without check, while trophic cascade will
occur. If the producers all died, there would be no energy to be passed up to the
primary consumers, and they would die out due to no food, and then the
secondary consumers would, etc.
7. There would be no decomposition of waste materials and dead animals would
pile up.
8. Producers produce and consumers consume. Consumers need to eat other
organisms to obtain energy, while producers make their own energy.
9. A class of organisms in the same position in a food chain
10. Limited amount of energy available as there is more competition between
resources. In general, the number of individuals progressively gets smaller as the
trophic level increases.
11. Producer level because there is no energy being recycled between multiple
trophic levels.
12. The energy not passed on is lost largely through metabolic processes, such as
heat, and is dispersed into the environment.
13. With the reintroduction of the wolf, came the re-introduction in roles of
scavengers. This reintroduction also helped the coyotes, as they could target the
fresh kill from the wolves, and also help the fox kill more prey. This also made it
easier for grizzlies, as there was a trail of satisfied scavengers.
14. I see the predators role as an important role to keep the ecosystem in check,
as they help to create a more natural environment. You could see when the wolf
wasnt in Yellowstone, the Elk population kept on rising, and they had to send
people in to kill the Elk, instead of letting nature do its job.
15. See drawing.

In these exercises, I discovered how food webs and food chains differ. The exercises
really opened my eyes as to how critical predators are to an ecosystem, even if we do feel
bad for the prey. It was shocking to see how little energy was transferred between the
trophic levels (see figure 1). Before the exercises, I had little knowledge of the trophic
levels, or how much energy was transferred, and now I feel I have a good understanding.