Ecological Pyramids: Definition, Types, Importance, Limitations, Bioenergy and Frequently Asked Questions

Ecological Pyramids: Definition, Types, Importance, Limitations, Bioenergy and Frequently Asked Questions

Ecological Pyramids: Definition

An ecological pyramid shows the relationships between various living things at various trophic levels graphically. It was delivered by Raymond Lindeman and G.Evylen Hutchinson. The lowest trophic level, or producers, are found at the base of these pyramids, which are visible to be in the shape of actual pyramids with the base being the broadest. The subsequent trophic level, i.e., the principal consumers and so on, resides on the following level. A sample space of a few numbers or a few species will end up generating a huge degree of errors, therefore all calculations for the development of these kinds of ecological pyramids must account for all the animals at a certain trophic level.

Types of ecological pyramids:

a) Pyramid of numbers b) Pyramid of biomass c) Pyramid of energy

Pyramid of numbers

 It graphically displays the population, or abundance, of the many organisms engaged at each stage of a food chain. This displays the total number of organisms in each trophic level without taking into account the size or biomass of individual organisms. The pyramid is not always vertical. For instance, it will be inverted if parasites are feeding on huge hosts like animals or if the Beatles are consuming forest tree sap.

The number of species at each trophic level is regarded in this sort of ecological pyramid as a level in the pyramid. The number pyramid is typically upright, except in some circumstances like the detritus food chain, in which numerous species consume a single dead plant or animal.

Pyramid of biomass

This shows how many species there are overall at each trophic level. There are certain exceptions to the rule that this kind of pyramid is greatest at the base and gets smaller as it rises. By dividing the total number of members of a trophic level by the average mass of a member in a given area, one can determine the biomass of that level. This kind of ecological pyramid addresses some issues with the pyramid of numbers by providing a more accurate depiction of the energy present at each trophic level, but it also has drawbacks. For instance, because various species have varied breeding seasons, the time of year when the data are collected is crucial. Additionally, only a sample is typically taken, which could result in errors since it is typically impossible to determine the mass of every single organism. either g m-2 or Kg m-2.

Pyramid of productivity

The energy totals at each trophic level and the energy loss between trophic levels are examined via the pyramid of production. This sort of representation is more accurate than the other two pyramids because it takes into consideration the fact that the bulk of the energy present at one trophic level won’t be available for the following one. Lindeman’s Ten Percent Law, which asserts that only around 10% of the energy in a trophic level will go toward generating biomass, provides the foundation for this theory. In other words, only roughly 10% of the energy will be used to create tissue at the next trophic level, such as stems, leaves, muscles, etc. The remaining energy is expended during respiration, hunting, and other activities, or it is lost as heat to the environment. However, what’s remarkable is that toxins are transferred up the pyramid quite well, meaning that as we move up the ecological pyramid, the concentration of dangerous substances in creatures’ bodies increases. We refer to this as biomagnification.

The most common sort of ecological pyramid is the one that measures productivity, and unlike the other two, it can never be greatest at the top and smallest at the base. This form of ecological pyramid is significant because it looks at how an ecosystem’s energy flows over time. Unit: J m-2 yr-1, where J is for Joule, a unit of energy that can be replaced by the terms calorie, kilojoule, and kilocalorie.

Number pyramids can occasionally be inverted or take no shape at all, unlike productivity pyramids, which always take the appearance of an upright pyramid. Take an oak tree, which may provide food for millions of oak worms, as an example. The producers’ level (one tree) will end up being considerably smaller than the primary consumers’ level if we keep this ecology in mind (millions of insects). In biomass pyramids, this is less likely to happen, but it is still feasible. Below are some pyramids that illustrate the various sorts of pyramids and the shapes they can take in various environments.

Pyramid of energy

The pyramid of energy depicts how quickly energy moves from one trophic level to the next. Typically, only 10% of energy is transmitted to the following trophic level, with the remaining 90% going to metabolic activities.

The only ecological pyramid that is always upright is the pyramid of energy since the energy flow through a food chain is always unidirectional. Additionally, some energy is lost to the environment with every trophic level that is raised.

Importance of Ecological Pyramid

The following points can be used to explain the significance of the ecological pyramid:

1. They demonstrate how various creatures in various environments are fed.

2. It demonstrates how effectively energy is transferred.

3. The ecosystem’s health can be tracked, and any additional harm may be avoided.

Function of Ecological

An ecological pyramid can show us not just the eating habits of animals in various habitats, but also how inefficient energy transfer is, as well as the effects that changes in the population of one trophic level can have on the trophic levels above and below it. Additionally, by comparing the data acquired over time, it is possible to study how changes in the environment affect the organisms. Action can be taken to stop more damage and perhaps even undo some of the current damage if it is discovered that an ecosystem’s conditions have gotten worse over time due to pollution or overhunting by people.

Limitations of the Ecological Pyramid

1. As in the case of the food chain, various species may occupy different trophic levels. As a result, food webs are not taken into account by this system.

2. Despite playing a significant role in the various ecosystems, saprophytes are not taken into account in any of the pyramids.

3. These pyramids only apply to straightforward food chains, which don’t typically exist in nature.

4. These pyramids don’t convey any ideas about how the seasons and climate change.

5. They do not take into account the potential of the same species existing at several levels.


The term “biomass,” refers to the quantity of living matter that a specific area or volume of the earth’s surface—whether terrestrial or aquatic—provides. Biomass is crucial for planning national development, commercial uses (such as fuel and fibre), scientific investigations of ecosystem productivity, energy and nutrient flows, and determining how changes in forestlands (especially tropical ones) affect the global carbon cycle.

Ecology and the Environment

The weight or mass of living tissue, which is typically separated into five basic trophic levels to form the basic food chain, is known as biomass in an ecosystem.

1. Producers, which are green plants that photosynthesise;

2. Animals that consume plants, or herbivores

3. Predation on herbivores by predators

4. Top predators that consume other predators

5. Decomposers, which disintegrate all five kinds of dead tissue.

The biomass distribution in terrestrial ecosystems resembles a pyramid, with mass gradually decreasing from producer to apex predator. The biomass pyramid is present in aquatic systems that are green or blue-green, while some clear waterways have a dipyramid-shaped biomass distribution, meaning that it is narrow at the bottom and top and wide in the middle. The distribution of resources and energy in the community is reflected in biomass.

Plant biomass recycles atmospheric carbon by absorbing carbon dioxide during growth and releasing it after combustion. Replanting harvested biomass returns carbon dioxide to the cycle of new growth, preventing a net increase in atmospheric carbon that would heighten the greenhouse effect. Fossil fuel combustion transforms “old” biomass into “new” carbon dioxide, which increases the greenhouse effect and depletes a nonrenewable resource. Biomass can be blended with coal in existing power plants to comply with regulations like the US Clean Air Act Amendments due to its low sulphur level. Massive “biomass burning,” or intentionally starting fires to clear land, is a substantial producer of carbon dioxide and other airborne particulates.


Fuel that comes either directly or indirectly from biological sources is known as bioenergy. Trees, corn, rice hulls, peanut shells, sugar cane, grass clippings, leaves, manure, and municipal solid waste are examples of organic material that is used as a source of biomass energy. In underdeveloped nations, biomass energy from sources like wood, agricultural waste (also known as bagasse), and manure is still the predominant energy source. For instance, countless woodstoves are utilised in these areas to generate heat for cooking or heating buildings. The anticipated yearly global production of plant biomass is 2740 Quads (1 Quad = lOI6 BTUs), which is eight times the estimated annual global energy consumption of 340 Quads [I]. As a result, biomass is a sizable source of renewable energy. Biomass may provide a significant amount of the world’s energy through short-rotation forestry, improvements in harvesting and processing methods, and more efficient stoves and boilers. Economic gains are anticipated as biomass power technology [Z] and energy crops become more widely used and generate new employment, especially for rural communities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What three types of ecological pyramids are there?

Ans: The pyramid of Numbers, the Pyramid of Biomass, and the Pyramid of Energy are the three different ecological pyramids.

Question: What does an ecological pyramid mean to you?

Ans: A graphic depiction of the relationships between various creatures in an ecosystem is called an ecological pyramid. It displays the movement of energy via an ecosystem’s various trophic levels.

Question: Who created the 10% law?

Ans: Raymond Lindeman proposed the 10% rule. According to this equation, only 10% of the energy from organic matter is passed on when energy is transmitted from one trophic level to the next.

Question: Why is the energy pyramid always upright?

Ans: Ecological pyramids fall within the category of pyramids of energy, which are always upright. This is because some energy always escapes as heat at each phase of the energy flow from one trophic level to the next.

Question: Why is the ecological pyramid’s top layer of species smaller in number?

Ans: Since there is far less food available to secondary consumers than to main consumers, there are fewer organisms at the top of the pyramid. The number of consumers is lower than that of producers.

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