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Grassland Food Chain and Food Web Overview

Rachel Ali Rodriguez, Danielle Haak
  • Author
    Rachel Ali Rodriguez

    Rachel has a doctoral degree in Interdisciplinary Neuroscience, master’s degree in experimental psychology- Neuroscience, and a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Nevada. She taught Psychopharmacology of Abused Drugs and Field Experience in the Teaching of Psychology to 4th year/senior students at the University of Nevada for over 5 years. During this time, she created educational materials (lesson outlines, video recordings and eLearning modules, live/virtual presentations, and quizzes/exams). She also attended a writing boot camp and received a mentorship certification (2020-2021).

  • Instructor
    Danielle Haak

    Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Learn about the grassland food chain and see how it compares to the grassland food web. Explore examples of grassland animals in the food web and food chain. Updated: 07/19/2022

Table of Contents


What is a Grassland?

A grassland is a large open area that is mainly covered by grass, with less than 10% covered by trees or shrubs. The reason for the lack of trees and shrubs is that these lands receive less rain each year compared to other areas that turn into forests. Grasslands have incredible biodiversity and extensive food chains.

Grasslands are mostly covered by grass

Image shows a grassland with a grass field, mountains in the background, and the sky

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  • 0:00 What Is a Grassland?
  • 0:36 What Is a Food Chain?
  • 1:20 A Grassland Food Chain
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What is a Food Chain?

Animals eat to get energy in the form of nutrients. A food chain is a feeding relationship between organisms in the form of a linear flow of energy that shows 'who eats whom' within an ecosystem. In a food chain, nutrients are passed from one organism to the next. For example, grass produces its food from sunlight, an impala eats the grass, then the impala is later eaten by a cheetah.

Grassland Food Chain

A food chain begins with the producers (autotrophs), these are the organisms that make their own food. Producers turn sunlight's energy, carbon dioxide (CO2), and water (H2O) into organic compounds (foods). The food produced is later used by the organism for energy. Different species of grasses and wildflowers are examples of grassland producers. Organisms that are incapable of producing their own food must consume producers or other organisms that eat the producers to get energy. These organisms are called consumers (heterotrophs). Organisms that strictly eat producers are called primary consumers. Primary consumers only eat plant material, thus, they are called herbivores. A grassland's primary consumers include insects, small mammals like hares, squirrels, and some larger mammals like zebras. If the organisms eat primary consumers and/or producers, then they are referred to as secondary consumers. Examples of secondary consumers of the grasslands include snakes and hyenas. The chain continues with tertiary consumers who eat secondary consumers and may also eat primary consumers and/or producers. Examples of tertiary consumers of the grasslands include wild dogs, lions, and vultures. The consumers that feed on other animals are called carnivores.

The food chain order is as follows:

  • Producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, tertiary consumers

Zebras are primary consumers because they eat grass

Image shows a black and white zebra eating grass on a grassland

The following is an example of a food chain in the grasslands:

  • Producer: Grass
  • Primary consumer: Grasshopper
  • Secondary consumer: Prairie Dog
  • Tertiary consumer: Coyote

In this example, the grass makes its own food for energy. The grasshopper eats the grass and gets its nutrients which it converts into energy. The prairie dog then eats the grasshopper and some of these nutrients are passes onto the prairie dog for energy. The coyote then eats the prairie dog, and the trend continues. If any of the prairie dog is left to decompose, it can be eaten by vultures. In this example, vultures act as quaternary consumers instead of tertiary consumers as previously mentioned because they ate the prairie dog, which was a tertiary consumer. Note that the level an animal is on the chain can change depending on 'who eats whom.' Uneaten dead animals may also be broken down into nutrients by decomposers like bacteria, fungi (mushrooms), and earthworms. These nutrients then go back into the soil where primary producers (like grass) use them to grow. The primary consumers then eat the producers, and the cycle continues.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are four producers in the grasslands?

Primary producers are organisms that can make their own food. Four examples of producers in the grasslands include grasses, wildflowers, trees (very scarce), and plants like clovers.

How does the food chain work in the grasslands?

The food chain in the grasslands represents feeding relationships between organisms in the ecosystem. A food chain is a linear flow of energy that shows 'who eats whom' within the ecosystem,

What is the food web in the grasslands?

Food webs are a more complex description of the energy or nutrient flow between organisms compared to a food chain. A realistic energy flow between living things in an ecosystem is not linear, instead, it looks like a web with many interwoven connections.

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