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Chemoautotrophs are primarily bacteria and archaea that are found in rare ecosystems where sunlight is not available, such as those associated with dark caves or hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean ( [link] ). Many chemoautotrophs in hydrothermal vents use hydrogen sulfide (H 2 S), which is released from the vents as a source of chemical energy; this allows them to synthesize complex organic molecules, such as glucose, for their own energy and, in turn, supplies energy to the rest of the ecosystem.

 Photo shows shrimp, lobster, and crabs crawling on a rocky ocean floor littered with mussels.
Swimming shrimp, a few squat lobsters, and hundreds of vent mussels are seen at a hydrothermal vent at the bottom of the ocean. As no sunlight penetrates to this depth, the ecosystem is supported by chemoautotrophic bacteria and organic material that sinks from the ocean’s surface. This picture was taken in 2006 at the submerged NW Eifuku volcano off the coast of Japan by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The summit of this highly active volcano lies 1535 m below the surface.

Consequences of food webs: biological magnification

One of the most important consequences of ecosystem dynamics in terms of human impact is biomagnification. Biomagnification is the increasing concentration of persistent, toxic substances in organisms at each successive trophic level. These are substances that are fat soluble, not water soluble, and are stored in the fat reserves of each organism. Many substances have been shown to biomagnify, including classical studies with the pesticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), which were described in the 1960s bestseller, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. DDT was a commonly used pesticide before its dangers to apex consumers, such as the bald eagle, became known. In aquatic ecosystems, organisms from each trophic level consumed many organisms in the lower level, which caused DDT to increase in birds (apex consumers) that ate fish. Thus, the birds accumulated sufficient amounts of DDT to cause fragility in their eggshells. This effect increased egg breakage during nesting and was shown to have devastating effects on these bird populations. The use of DDT was banned in the United States in the 1970s.

Other substances that biomagnify are polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), which were used as coolant liquids in the United States until their use was banned in 1979, and heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, and cadmium. These substances are best studied in aquatic ecosystems, where predatory fish species accumulate very high concentrations of toxic substances that are at quite low concentrations in the environment and in producers. As illustrated in a study performed by the NOAA in the Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron of the North American Great Lakes ( [link] ), PCB concentrations increased from the producers of the ecosystem (phytoplankton) through the different trophic levels of fish species. The apex consumer, the walleye, has more than four times the amount of PCBs compared to phytoplankton. Also, based on results from other studies, birds that eat these fish may have PCB levels at least one order of magnitude higher than those found in the lake fish.

 The illustration is a graph that plots total PCBs in micrograms per gram of dry weight versus nitrogen-15 enrichment, shows that PCBs become increasingly concentrated at higher trophic levels. The slope of the graph becomes increasingly steep as consumer levels increase, from phytoplankton to walleye.
This chart shows the PCB concentrations found at the various trophic levels in the Saginaw Bay ecosystem of Lake Huron. Notice that the fish in the higher trophic levels accumulate more PCBs than those in lower trophic levels. (credit: Patricia Van Hoof, NOAA)

Other concerns have been raised by the biomagnification of heavy metals, such as mercury and cadmium, in certain types of seafood. The United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends that pregnant women and young children should not consume any swordfish, shark, king mackerel, or tilefish because of their high mercury content. These individuals are advised to eat fish low in mercury: salmon, shrimp, pollock, and catfish. Biomagnification is a good example of how ecosystem dynamics can affect our everyday lives, even influencing the food we eat.

Section summary

Ecosystems exist underground, on land, at sea, and in the air. Organisms in an ecosystem acquire energy in a variety of ways, which is transferred between trophic levels as the energy flows from the base to the top of the food web, with energy being lost at each transfer. There is energy lost at each trophic level, so the lengths of food chains are limited because there is a point where not enough energy remains to support a population of consumers. Fat soluble compounds biomagnify up a food chain causing damage to top consumers. even when environmental concentrations of a toxin are low.

Questions & Answers

10 difference between male and female reproductive system
Ina Reply
if a phase is omitted ,what will happen to the cell
Ewemoje Reply
discribe advantages and disadvantages of asexual and sexual reproduction
basi Reply
Compared to separate sexes and assuming self-fertilizing is not possible, what might be one advantage and one disadvantage to hermaphroditism?
Gift Reply
is nature of their environment among
basi
why are the laws of thermodynamics considered laws of nature and not scientific theories
Yolonda Reply
archea were given their own separate domain because they are?
Yolonda
which of the following is a basic component of all of the others?
Yolonda
which of the following organization levels is the least inclusive
Yolonda
which cell feature is absent in bacterial cells
Yolonda
which metric movies the base unit of measurement by one thousandth (0.001)?
Yolonda
What is biology?
Blessing Reply
List the branches of biology
Blessing
List the branches of biology
Blessing
List the branches of biology
Blessing
List the branches of biology
Blessing
must all prokaryotic cells posses a cell wall?
chris Reply
what is biology?
Cathy Reply
biology is basically the study of life
Robert
that's true
Tonia
it's the study of living things
Tonia
biology is defined as the study of living and nonliving things
Ina
Biology is not only the study of life but it is the study of death too.
Koushik
What is a celiac disease
Falase Reply
distinguish between properties and characteristics
Elee Reply
what are organelles
Elee
organelles are substances that makes up a cell
chris
organelles are special features of a cell that perform a specific task
Enock
what is biology
Prevail Reply
biology is science that studies life
Elee
it's the study of living and non living things
now that we have an estimate for the diameter of the cell.what estimate can we make about the volume of the cell?
faxhood Reply
why too much insulin result in low blood sugar
Leri Reply
For example, too much exercise can cost you to lose to much weight. Too much insulin will pull to much sugar out of your systemic system into your cells.
Eric
difference between DNA and RNA
Eyitayo Reply
DNA is deoxyribonuclaic acid. Deoxy refers to a lack of oxygen. The Ribose moity is missing an OH group. I think it is missing from the second C of the ring. RNA is ribonucleic acid. DNA has our genetic code in on it. RNA is translated from DNA and carries the blue print for protein synthesis.
Eric
The OH group on RNA prevents it from being reactive. But it is very unstable though. Would you want such a power tool floating around in your body, no. And you have three types of RNA: mRNA, tRNA and rRNA. Please let me know it this helped?😄
Eric
o
Browse
Eric answered this question perfectly
what determines the aeration level in the soil
Shola Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11487/1.9
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