Producers, Consumers & Decomposers in Ecosystems

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  • 0:00 The Circle of Life
  • 0:50 Producers
  • 1:19 Consumers
  • 2:10 Decomposers
  • 2:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

In this lesson we will learn about producers, consumers, and decomposers. Find out what they are and how they interact with one another in the ecosystem.

The Circle of Life

Imagine the circle of life that takes place on an African savanna. The grass grows and is eaten by an antelope. The antelope is caught and eaten by a cheetah. The cheetah dies, is eaten by bacteria, and nutrients are returned to the soil. These nutrients are used by the grass as it continues to grow on the savannah. Each organism has a purpose. Like this example, there is a simple pattern of energy flow through organisms in any ecosystem. What are other examples you can think of?

There are three main groups to consider when looking at the circle of life in an ecosystem. The groups are producers, consumers, and decomposers. These groups are based on how the organism obtains food. Producers, consumers, and decomposers all interrelate in food chains and food webs and are dependent on one another for survival.

Producers

Producers make their own food. They do not have to obtain energy from other organisms. They obtain their energy from the sun and make food with that energy through the process of photosynthesis. Producers may also be called autotrophs. Most producers are plants, but there are some small organisms that produce food through photosynthesis as well. Producers are at the beginning of any simple food chain. On the African savanna, examples of producers would be any of the plants that grow there.

Consumers

Consumers cannot make food. They must find food and eat it to obtain energy. Consumers may also be called heterotrophs. There are primary and secondary consumers. Primary consumers are the next link in a simple food chain. These are the plant eaters, or herbivores. They do not eat other animals. In addition to the antelope mentioned earlier, examples of primary consumers on the African savanna would be a wild boar or a giraffe.

Secondary consumers follow primary consumers in a simple food chain. Secondary consumers eat the primary consumers. Secondary consumers can be carnivores or omnivores. Carnivores eat only meat, while omnivores eat both meat and plants. In addition to the cheetah, secondary consumers on the African savanna can include a lion who kills and eats the giraffe, or a human who kills and eats the wild boar.

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