All biological organisms play a part in the earth's ecosystem, but consumers get energy from eating other organisms and producers make energy on their own. Grass is a producer, a self-sustaining organism that obtains its energy from the sun. In the process, it introduces new organic substances into the food chain and plays a key role for consumers. Grass forms the basis of the food chain because of this ability.
Producers are also known as autotrophs because they get their energy without help from other organisms. Grass obtains energy through the use of photosynthesis. Chlorophyll absorbs sunlight and uses its energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates. It then produces complex organic compounds from the carbohydrates, such as starches, lipids and proteins, which help it to function. Most green plants conduct this process through the use of their chlorophyll.
Producers are vital in a food chain because they support consumers, who rely on them to obtain their own food and energy. The primary consumers are those that feed on producers, while secondary consumers eat primary consumers. In grasslands, for example, grass acts as the producer, while mice that eat grass are the primary consumers. Predators of mice, such as snakes, are next up on the food chain as secondary consumers. Although snakes do not eat grass, they rely on its existence for their own survival.
Consumers of Grass
A great number of herbivores and omnivores, both big and small, obtain energy and nutrients from grass and make it a vital part of their diet. These include:
- many more
Grasshoppers and a number of other insects consume grass as well. Grass is clearly a vital player in the earth's ecosystem, providing nutrients and energy to many of the animals that humans eat. In fact, humans are consumers of grass as well, in the form of corn, wheat and other grains.
While grass is essential in the food chain, much of its energy is lost along the way. Mice only obtain 10 percent of the energy produced by grass, while the remainder is mostly lost as heat. New energy is always regained on the planet thanks to the constant sun. Nutrients, on the other hand, are constantly recycled through the ecosystem. After cycling through all the layers of the food chain, nutrients are always returned back into the earth for grass and other plants to use and grow. Decomposers are an essential player in this process, bringing nutrients from dead animals and plants back into soil, air or water for reabsorption.
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