trophic level

trophic level
/trɒfɪk ˈlɛvəl/ (say trofik 'levuhl)

a level in a food chain, represented as one of a succession of steps in the transfer of matter and energy in an ecosystem.
The natural flow of energy in an ecosystem is from the sun to the plants (the primary producers), then to the primary consumers (herbivores), to the secondary consumers (carnivores), from there to the decomposers (bacteria and fungi) and finally to abiotic chemicals (carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen and minerals). In analysis of ecosystems, primary producers, herbivores, primary, secondary and tertiary carnivores, and decomposers are defined as trophic levels. Each level is defined by their method of obtaining food and the number of steps (energy transfers) from the original source of energy. At each energy transfer between one trophic level and another, there is a significant energy loss due to the fundamental laws of thermodynamics. Thus the lowest trophic level sustained directly by the sun is much larger than the topmost trophic level with the greatest number of energy transfers.

Australian English dictionary. 2014.

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