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 + O2Light 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.Kelp is the largest of the algae.
It grows in vast underwater forests and can grow upwards of six feet per day. In addition to making oxygen, it provides shelter to many sea animals. Sea urchins feast on it, and sea otters and sea lions are often found playing and resting in it. It is most commonly harvested for use in sushi and also produces a substance that is used in ice cream and chocolate milk.
Place in the Food Chain
Producers provide the basis of all food chains.
This shows how energy from the sun gets transferred to all other organisms. They provide food for primary consumers, also called herbivores (animals that eat plants). Zooplankton, snails, deer, many fish, giraffes, and elephants all eat plants or algae. They get their energy by breaking down the producers. Even the great whales consume producers.
A typical marine food chain would look like this: diatoms –> zooplankton –> small fish –> big fishThe diatoms make their energy through photosynthesis. When the zooplankton eats the diatoms, they get some of the sun’s energy. Small fish get their energy from the zooplankton, and the big fish get theirs from the small fish. The diatoms (the producers) in this example provide the basis for how all other organisms get their energy.
Let’s review. Producers, also called autotrophs, are organisms that can make their own energy through biochemical processes. The most common of these processes is photosynthesis, in which 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.Plants are very common producers on land, but there are more producers living in water than on land because so much of the Earth’s surface is covered with water. In the water, the most common type of producer is algae, which can include everything from tiny diatoms to enormous kelp.
Producers provide the basis for all food chains, which is how energy from the sun gets transferred to all other organisms. Producers are an essential part of the living world. Without them, all ecosystems would stop working. Since producers are the basis of all food chains and webs, they are the first step in the transfer of the sun’s energy. They are also very important for making the world’s oxygen supply. All aerobic organisms depend upon them to continuously add to the atmosphere that supports all life.
This lesson focuses on ecology producers in order to prepare you to:
- Name the process by which producers create their own food
- Describe photosynthesis
- Identify common producers found on land and in water
- Recognize the role of producers in ecosystem food chains