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Flow of Matter in Ecosystems

Matter circulates through ecosystems in many directions.

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Savanna Ecology

Savanna Ecology

Credit: John Storr
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Giraffe_Family.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

All organisms need energy and nutrients. Energy moves in one direction through an ecosystem. Nutrients cycle through an ecosystem. The African savanna is one of the many ecosystems where we can trace the energy and nutrient flow.

Why It Matters

  • Energy is not limiting to life on Earth, but nutrients are.
  • For life on Earth to continue, nutrients must be recycled.
  • The savanna is marked by distinct wet and dry seasons.
  • Humans have an impact on the savanna ecosystem.

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With the links below, learn more about ecosystems. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What is the source of energy in the savanna biome? What type of energy comes in and what does it convert to?
  2. Where does the energy go from one end of the ecosystem to the other? What is it used for?
  3. Why is energy not limiting to life on Earth, but nutrients are?
  4. Why doesn’t the savanna become dense thorn forest?
  5. What would happen to carbon if it was not returned to the atmosphere by cellular respiration?
  6. What is the effect of the rising human population on the savanna ecosystem?

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    Image Attributions

    1. [1]^ Credit: John Storr; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Giraffe_Family.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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