Soil Science

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EcoBeaker®: Nutrient Pollution
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SimBio Virtual Labs®: EcoBeaker®

Nutrient Pollution

Energy, Nutrients, and Trophic Relationships
The dynamics of all ecosystems revolve around two key processes: energy flow and nutrient cycling. Most energy flow starts with the sun. Autotrophs (autos = self + trophe = food), such as plants, use solar energy to generate organic tissue from inorganic chemicals. Autotrophic organisms are considered to be primary producers, because they produce the organic molecules that fuel other organisms. Heterotrophs (heteros = another + trophe = food) obtain energy for growth and maintenance from the organisms they consume. Organisms that eat primary producers (e.g., herbivores) are known as primary consumers. Predators of herbivores are considered secondary consumers, and predators of predators are tertiary consumers. At each of these trophic levels, some of the solar energy initially converted into chemical energy by autotrophs is passed along, but some is dissipated as heat. Organic molecules not only store the energy that powers living organisms but are the building blocks with which organisms are constructed. Cells and tissues are made from a diversity of organic molecules like amino acids to make proteins and nucleic acids to form DNA. These specialized molecules require a variety of chemical elements including carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen,…...

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