Ecology Producer: Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:00 What Are Producers?
  • 0:35 Photosynthesis
  • 1:40 Producers on Land
  • 2:40 Producers in the Water
  • 3:50 Place in the Food Chain
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jeffrey Sack

Jeff is a Biology teacher and has a Doctorate in Educational Leadership

This lesson will define what a producer is and what its role is in an ecosystem. It will also discuss the different kinds of producers and give some specific examples of them.

What Are Producers?

Producers are organisms that can make their own energy through biochemical processes, which are just processes in living things that involve chemical reactions. Also called autotrophs, the usual way producers make energy is through photosynthesis. Here, light energy is converted into sugars, which can then be broken down to release their chemical energy. When light is not present, like at the bottom of the ocean, some producers convert chemicals into energy through a process called chemosynthesis. However they do it, producers make energy for themselves and often provide food for other organisms.


Most producers use photosynthesis to make energy. They collect light energy from the sun, combine it with carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O), and produce sugars, usually in the form of glucose (C6H12O6) and oxygen (O2). This process can be represented by the following equation: CO2 + H20 ---------------> C6H12O6 + O2

Light and chlorophyll are also part of this equation and are usually represented above and below the arrow, respectively. Without light, this process cannot progress. Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in many land producers that collects the light energy from the sun. Producers living in the water can use chlorophyll or other colored pigments.

The sugars made from photosynthesis have many high-energy bonds holding the atoms together. When these are broken apart during the process of cellular respiration (the breaking down of sugars), energy is released that can be used by the organism.

Producers on Land

The most common forms of producers on land are plants. Plants come in all shapes and sizes. They can range in size from an aquatic duckweed, measuring just 0.24 inches, to the Giant Sequoia tree, measuring 383 feet tall! There is also great diversity among plants. There are plants that make flowers and those that make cones. Other plants have woody stems, while others are green and vine-like. No matter what they look like, they all use photosynthesis to make energy for themselves.

Plants have three main parts: stems, roots, and leaves. The stems hold the leaves up towards the sky so they can collect light. They also serve as a transport mechanism for water and nutrients up and down the plant. Roots anchor the plant into the soil. They also take in the water and nutrients for the plant. And the leaves are the sites of photosynthesis. Their wide surface area gives lots of space for light to be collected and processed.

Producers in the Water

There are more producers living in the water than there are on land. This is because 3/4 of the planet is covered by water, and producers live in almost all of it. The most common type of aquatic producer is called algae. Algae range from microscopic diatoms to giant kelp. The big difference between algae and plants is that algae do not have roots to anchor them down. Instead, they have a structure called a holdfast that anchors the algae to rocks or the sea floor.

Diatoms are part of the plankton. They are free-floating organisms that can live alone or in giant colonies. Through photosynthesis, they contribute 30% of the world's oxygen. Their shells are also used in products like toothpaste and silver cleaner.

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