Trophic structure


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Trophic structure


Trophic Structure refers to the way in which organisms utilise food resources and hence where energy transfer occurs within an ecosystem. There are a number of different feeding habits and feeding interactions between the various organisms as well as organisms and their environment, resulting in specific trophic groups. Organisms may also take the form of specific Guilds. Trophic Structures are represented graphically as Food pyramids, Food chains, and Food webs.

Guild | Food chain | Food pyramid | Food web | Nutritional group | Productivity | Trophic group | Trophic level

Historical background

The following information is from Biology 301 - Wethey:

Alfred Russell Wallace 1858, (Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London Vol 3: 53-62) noted that large animals cannot be as abundant as small ones, and that carnivores must be less abundant than herbivores.

Charles Elton in his 1927 book "Animal Ecology" described the idea of "food chains" and the "pyramid of numbers".

Raymond Lindeman 1942 (Ecology Vol 23: 399-418) provided a mechanistic explanation of food web patterns based on energy flow. He defined "trophic levels", and a pyramid of energy (rather than numbers or biomass). The energy pyramid is related to the efficiency of energy transfer among trophic levels. Lindeman defined energy content of trophic levels from field data.


Introduction MAK061102

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