What Is a Biomass Pyramid? | TheEarthProject.com (2023)

February 16, 2016 3:42 pm

Green Living, Sustainable living

biomass pyramid, food chain, pyramid of numbers

What Is a Biomass Pyramid?

A biomass pyramid shows the flow of energy between various levels. Producers and consumers make up the biomass pyramid, which displays all their comparative masses at the same time. To create the biomass pyramid, the approximate masses are stacked up according to a well-established hierarchy.

  1. The primary producers will lie at the bottom of the biomass pyramid. In this case, grasses, trees, flowers, and shrubs make up the needed fuel for the primary consumers that are up on the food chain.
  2. The primary consumers are herbivores: squirrels, deer, insects, and birds that feed on trees and grasses.
  3. In their turn, the primary consumers are food for the secondary consumers predators: frogs, carnivorous birds, and foxes.
  4. Finally, the tertiary consumers predators sit at the top of the biomass pyramid. In this case, a bear closes the food chain.

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Biomass Pyramid Definition

The amount of organic matter that can be found in any living organism is called biomass. To convey the biomass present in organisms at various trophic levels, biomass pyramids will indicate the connection between the trophic level and biomass by quantifying the latter.

The quantification uses grams per meter²to represent the volume of organic matter that can be found in an ecosystem at a given time.

Food chain vs. biomass pyramid

While food chains convey the feeding relations within a certain habitat, biomass pyramids are in charge of showing the mass organisms for different levels within the food chain. However, pyramids of biomass are not a perfect representation of the energy that can be found in an ecosystem.

Their one flaw is that they can point to higher amounts of energy than there actually are. To better illustrate this, we can think of the beaks and skeletons of birds. Despite the fact that they are not eaten by consumers, they still count as mass and heavily influence the numbers.

Biomass represents the food for the higher trophic level up the food chain. At the same time, biomass has the ability to work as a renewable energy resource, decreasing the ever growing dependence on fossil fuels and helping fight off air pollution.

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Energy is lost as it moves up on the food chain, which restricts the chain’s length. This is why, in the long run, plants are a more efficient way to feed people than meat. Since living organisms are in direct competition with each other over resources, predator populations are closely interrelated.

How does a food chain work?

Food chains simply keep tabs on who is eaten by whom within a given habitat. Whether we are talking about the desert or the marine environment, the same rules apply for all examples. Grass seeds feed a field mouse, which, in its turn, feeds an owl. The direction of the food chain also dictates the direction of the energy flow within the chain.

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All food chains have two common denominators:

  • The producers –are almost invariably green plants.
  • The consumers – receive their biomass and energy from the consumption of other organisms.

The vast majority of food chains comprise up to four steps. The explanation behind this is that each step implies a loss of energy. As a result, a food chain made out of three steps will have little to no energy left for a fourth step. This also sheds some light on why the top of food chains is dominated only by a few organisms, in comparison to the lower levels that comprise more organisms.

How does a biomass pyramid work?

An organism’s biomass is made out of its total dry mass. The biomass in a given step within a food chain will always be smaller than the one from the previous step. To easily illustrate how this happens, the same food chain used above works perfectly: grass seeds are eaten by the mouse field, which is eaten by the owl.

In this case, the biomass of the grass stands at the bottom of the biomass pyramid since it has the greatest biomass in the chain. In the same vein, the owl sits on top of the pyramid, having the lowest biomass in the chain.

More complex food chains better define the underlying principles of a biomass pyramid: an oak tree feeds a caterpillar, which feeds a blue tit, which feeds a sparrow hawk.

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The biomass pyramid of this four step food chain starts off with the oak tree at the bottom. The large oak tree is capable of feeding not one, but dozens of caterpillars. In a similar manner, a single caterpillar is not enough to feed a blue tit, just like a single blue tit will not be sufficient to feed the sparrow hawk.

This perfectly explains the way a biomass pyramid works, almost resembling a worksheet. The oak tree has a large biomass hence it is capable of feeding several caterpillars. The upright biomass pyramid indicates that the biomass of the organisms decreases towards the peak, ending with the significantly smaller mass of the sparrow hawk that can be found at the top of the food chain.

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Types of ecological pyramids

The common factor in every single ecosystem is the interaction of the food chain. Better known as the “trophic structure,” this characteristic implies that most ecosystems abide by the following hierarchy: producers – herbivores – carnivores. This relation can graphically be displayed through the means of ecological pyramids.

Ecological pyramids categorize essential factors in an ecosystem: population, biomass and energy all vary and play essential roles in an ecosystem.

The way in which energy flows through any given food chain is predictable. This enters the bottom of the food chain through photosynthesis and proceeds to move up on the food chain to reach the highest trophic levels. With each transfer, there is less energy entering higher levels.

At the same time, the biomass and number of living organisms in any given ecosystem varies across trophic levels. The energy that enters specific levels directly influences the biomass and number of the organisms found in each level. A direct connection between biomass, numbers, and energy gives rise to number pyramids and biomass pyramids.

Pyramid of numbers

This type of pyramid shows the amount of individual organisms that can be found on every level. It displays the connection that links producers, herbivores, and carnivores with regard to their numbers within the successive trophic levels. For example, the base of a pyramid of numbers for grassland will be occupied by grasses, which hold the maximum number.

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The number will decrease moving upward towards the apex, where the primary consumers are displayed: mice and rabbits are fewer than grasses. Moving up in the pyramid of numbers, the secondary consumers (lizards and snakes) are even lesser in number than the primary consumers.

The peak of the pyramid holds the tertiary or top consumers. They are least in number, which makes the pyramid be upright. Likewise, the ecosystem of a pond will also yield an upright pyramid. The phytoplankton makes up the base of the pyramid as the main producers in maximum numbers. These are followed by the herbivores such as small fish rotifers that serve as food for the secondary consumers. At the top of the pyramid of numbers, there are the bigger fish that are least in number.

However, not all pyramids of numbers need to be upright. A graphic representation of a parasitic food chain, on the other hand, will always be an inverted pyramid of numbers. The explanation for this is that one plant is capable of supporting the growth of several herbivores. In their turn, a few herbivores are able to offer nutrition to dozens of parasites that also provide for hundreds of hyperparasites.

Inverted biomass pyramid

Unlike pyramids of numbers, biomass pyramids are more fundamental. They emphasize the quantitative relationships and establish hierarchies based on the mass of the organisms. Upright biomass pyramids are mainly characteristic of forests and grasslands. However, ponds are usually characterized by inverted pyramids.

The reason behind this is that the producers at the base of the pyramid are small, which results in a low biomass. As the values of the biomass become larger approaching the apex, the pyramid gains an inverted shape, with tertiary consumers being the heaviest in biomass.

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Pyramid of energy

Both the pyramid of numbers and the biomass pyramid fail to accurately display the exchange of energy in the given ecosystem. Energy pyramids aim to present an accurate picture of the speed at which food is produced.

The pyramid of energy encompasses the rate in which the food mass goes through the food chain. This type of pyramid is always upright owed to the gradual energy decrease that takes place at successive trophic levels. Despite the fact that some organisms have small biomasses, their assimilated total energy that they pass on can be significantly larger than the energy of organisms boasting larger biomasses.

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The distinct characteristic of the pyramid of energy is that, unlike the biomass pyramid, it pinpoints the role of individual organisms that play a part in the energy transfer. The graphs show the amount of energy required to support the following trophic level.

Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

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What is a biomass pyramid? ›

A biomass pyramid is the representation of total living biomass or organic matter present at different trophic levels in an ecosystem. Biomass is calculated as the mass of living organisms present at each trophic level in a given sample size.

What is a biomass pyramid quizlet? ›

Pyramid of Biomass. Shows the total amount of living material available at each trophic level/ The area at the bottom corresponds to the producer level. It represents the greatest amount of living material.

What does a biomass pyramid show responses? ›

The biomass pyramid is a visual representation of the trophic levels of an ecosystem. It shows how energy moves up from one trophic level to the next.

What is a pyramid of biomass for a food chain? ›

A pyramid of biomass shows how much energy there is at each level of a food chain. It shows you how much prey a predator needs in order to survive.

Why use a pyramid of biomass? ›

Importance of Biomass Pyramids

Because it gives us more information about trophic levels, energy transfers and feeding patterns of animal species, scientists can leverage biomass pyramids to make more educated decisions about environmental conservation efforts.

Why do biomass pyramids form? ›

Biomass is simply the mass of living things in a particular trophic level. Terrestrial ecosystems usually have much more biomass in plants, such as trees and grass, and less biomass as you move up in trophic levels. This creates a classic pyramid shape in the terrestrial biomass pyramid.

What is a pyramid of biomass A level biology? ›

We can measure the amount of biomass at different trophic levels in a food chain. The total biomass of each trophic level is often represented as a modified bar chart called a pyramid of biomass. In a food chain from a healthy ecosystem the biomass at each trophic level must reduce.

Is biomass a pyramid energy? ›

A biomass pyramid shows the flow of energy between various levels. Producers and consumers make up the biomass pyramid, which displays all their comparative masses at the same time. To create the biomass pyramid, the approximate masses are stacked up according to a well-established hierarchy.

What is a pyramid of biomass pyramid of numbers? ›

Key points. Pyramids of number show the number of organisms at each stage in a food chain. Pyramids of biomass show the mass of organisms at each stage in a food chain.

What is biomass in biology? ›

Biomass in an ecosystem is the mass or weight of living tissue, which is commonly subdivided into five fundamental trophic levels forming the basic food chain: 1.

How is pyramid of biomass measured? ›

The dry weight of all species in each trophic level is routinely collected and measured to determine the biomass pyramid. Because all trophic levels of organisms are weighed, the size difference problem is solved. Biomass is measured in grams per square meter.

Which of the following statement is true for pyramid of biomass? ›

So the correct option is 'pyramids built upon biomass of organisms at each level eliminate size as a factor in the organisms'.

How is the biomass pyramid different? ›

The key difference between pyramid of biomass and pyramid of energy is that a pyramid of biomass shows how much biomass is present in the organisms of each trophic level while a pyramid of energy shows how much energy is retained in the form of new biomass at each trophic level.

How is biomass measured? ›

We can measure the biomass of each trophic level by multiplying the dry mass of a sample (from that level) by the total population in that level.

How is biomass data collected? ›

Biomass data may be collected on an individual species basis, as species groups, or as a total weight for the vegetation. Species composition may also be calculated as the contribution (percent by weight) that each species makes to the total biomass.

What are biomass materials? ›

Biomass is renewable organic material that comes from plants and animals. Biomass was the largest source of total annual U.S. energy consumption until the mid-1800s. Biomass continues to be an important fuel in many countries, especially for cooking and heating in developing countries.

What is an example of a biomass pyramid? ›

Examples of the normal biomass pyramid include: Mice eat grass seeds. The mice are in turn eaten by the owl. The grass has the greatest biomass in this chain.

What is a three level biomass pyramid? ›

A biomass pyramid is a diagram that shows the population at each level of a food chain. The bottom level of the pyramid shows the producers, the next level shows the primary consumers, the third level shows secondary consumers, and so on.

What is the pyramid of number and energy? ›

The pyramid of energy shows the rate of energy flow and/or productivity at successive trophic levels. The pyramid of numbers shows the relationship between producers and consumers at successive trophic levels in terms of their number. In this pyramid energy in each trophic level is considered as a level in the pyramid.

What is biomass one word answer? ›

Biomass is defined as the fuel made from organic matter or wastes of living organisms that can be used as renewable sources of energy.

What is biomass in one word? ›

Biomass is the organic plant based material that is converted into fuel and can be used as an energy source. Biomass is also known as biogas or biofuel.

What is biomass examples? ›

Examples include corn stover (stalks, leaves, husks, and cobs), wheat straw, oat straw, barley straw, sorghum stubble, and rice straw. The sale of these residues to a local biorefinery also represents an opportunity for farmers to generate additional income.

What is the unit of the pyramid of biomass? ›

A pyramid of biomass is a graphical portrayal of biomass present in a unit of the territory of different trophic levels. In addition, it displays the linking among biomass and trophic level estimating the biomass available in each trophic degree of an energy network at a given time.

What is in the pyramid? ›

The pharaoh's final resting place was usually within a burial chamber underneath the pyramid. Although the Great Pyramid has subterranean chambers, they were never completed, and Khufu's sarcophagus rests in the King's Chamber, where Napoleon is said to have sojourned, deep inside the Great Pyramid.

What is pyramid energy? ›

An energy pyramid, also known as a trophic or ecological pyramid, is a graphical representation of the energy found within the trophic levels of an ecosystem. The bottom and largest level of the pyramid is the producers and contains the largest amount of energy.

What contains the most biomass in the pyramid? ›

Answer and Explanation: The trophic level that contains the greatest biomass in most ecosystems is the producers.

What is the definition of biomass in biology? ›

Biomass, the contraction for biological IIIXS, is the amount of living material provided by a given area or volume of the earth's surface, whether terrestrial or aquatic.

What is the biomass of the ecosystem? ›

Biomass, in ecological terms, is the sum total mass of living organisms such as plants, animals, in a specific unit of area or volume of habitat. In ecological terms, biomass refers to the various types of living organisms in a particular environment or ecosystem.

What is an example of biomass in ecology? ›

Example of Biomass - Terrestrial Biomass

The terrestrial biomass comprises of the ecosystem that is found on land. The base of the ecological pyramid consists of the largest contributor to the total biomass, the plants as the producers. Some of the examples of these producers are grass, shrubs, and trees.

What's the difference between pyramid and biomass pyramid? ›

Key points. Pyramids of number show the number of organisms at each stage in a food chain. Pyramids of biomass show the mass of organisms at each stage in a food chain.

What is a biomass short answer? ›

Biomass is renewable organic material that comes from plants and animals. Biomass was the largest source of total annual U.S. energy consumption until the mid-1800s. Biomass continues to be an important fuel in many countries, especially for cooking and heating in developing countries.

What is biomass quizlet? ›

Biomass is basically the cell walls of plant material. What could Biomass be? It could be things like wood or grass or leaves. All of which are produced biologically by plants, and are composed of various sugars and other types of materials that are produced in a biologically derived way.

What is biomass and examples? ›

(1) The total mass of all living material in a specific area, habitat, or region. (2) Biological material used as a fuel, or source of energy. Supplement. Biomass used as fuel may include plant or animal matter, as well as biodegradable wastes. Related phrases: biomass pyramid, biomass fuel, biomass energy.

How does biomass work? ›

Biomass is burned in a boiler to produce high-pressure steam. This steam flows over a series of turbine blades, causing them to rotate. The rotation of the turbine drives a generator, producing electricity.

What is biomass energy called? ›

Biomass energy, or "bioenergy," is the energy from plants and plant-derived materials. National Renewable Energy Laboratory - NREL. 9.77K subscribers.

Where is biomass found? ›

Biomass comes from both human and natural activities. By-products from most industries, including timber, agriculture, naturally occurring forest residues, household wastes and landfills, are all viable sources of biomass energy materials.

How is biomass collected? ›

Many biomass feedstocks, such as switchgrass, can be harvested on marginal lands or pastures, where they do not compete with food crops. Unlike other renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar, biomass energy is stored within the organism, and can be harvested when it is needed.

What organisms are biomass? ›

The biomass is the mass of living biological organisms in a given area or ecosystem at a given time. Biomass can refer to species biomass, which is the mass of one or more species, or to community biomass, which is the mass of all species in the community. It can include microorganisms, plants or animals.


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