This lesson is on the food web of the Pacific Ocean. In this lesson, we’ll learn what a food web is and what types of food webs are in the Pacific Ocean.
The Vast Pacific
As we stand on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, a vast body of water spans in front of us. The crystal blue water spans on as far as the eye can see. There are waves, but as we look farther the ocean is just a smooth layer of blue.
Despite the evenness of the sea’s surface, a rich world lives beneath. Aquatic jungles of plants, fish, and mammals live in the ocean. Many of these species live in lush environments, like coral reefs or underwater forests, and exist nowhere else in the world. This is the Pacific Ocean.
Today we’re going to dive into the Pacific Ocean using a food web to understand the biodiversity teeming under the surface.
Definition of a Food Web
A food web is a diagram showing the transfer of energy between species. Since the energy is transferred as food, the food web basically shows what eats what in an ecosystem. Food webs are complex and are made of many food chains, which focus on individual species.The food web is organized into layers called trophic levels. The base level for both food webs and food chains are producers.
Producers make their own food and are usually green plants, but algae, bacteria, and microscopic organisms are also producers. Primary consumers are organisms that only eat producers. These organisms are vegetarians, or herbivores. Secondary consumers are carnivores and eat primary consumers or the producers. Lastly, tertiary consumers are top predators that eat both primary and secondary consumers, keeping the ecosystem in balance.
Pacific Ocean Ecosystems
The Pacific Ocean is the world’s largest ocean. It spans from the Western coast of the United States to Asia and ranges from the Arctic Ocean all the way to the Southern Ocean of Antarctica.
Because of its size, the Pacific Ocean has a range of climates.Some of the areas are the most productive in the world and home to thousands of species found nowhere else. Today we will look at the food web of two of those ecosystems: the Great Barrier Reef and the kelp forests of California.
Great Barrier Reef Food Web
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world near the Australian coast. Phytoplankton are microscopic producers that form the base of all ocean food webs. In addition, sea grass and seaweed cover the floor of the Great Barrier Reef.
Thousands of primary consumers eat the producers. Small tropical fish, sea urchins, sea stars, crabs, shrimp, and clams consume the plants and phytoplankton. Larger fish as well as octopi, squid, rays, and dolphins feast on the primary consumers. Over 100 species of sharks live in the Great Barrier Reef and act as the top predator. Hammerhead sharks are beautifully unique creatures eating small fish, squid, and rays as a tertiary consumer.
California Coast Food Web
The Pacific Coast of the United States has a unique scene below the ocean surface – an entire floor. Large algae, called kelp, cover the sea floor.
These kelp forests are home to many species of fish, sea urchins, and sea stars, which eat the kelp as primary consumers.A secondary consumer is the sea otter. This animal keeps the population of sea urchins in check.
Without the sea otter, the population of sea urchins would boom out of control. They would eat all of the kelp, and the food web would collapse. Because of their important role in keeping this ecosystem in balance, sea otters are called a keystone species; but the sea otter is not without predators. Tertiary consumers, like orca whales and sharks, feed on sea otters.
In summary, a food web is a diagram showing the transfer of energy between species in an ecosystem. Producers are organisms that make their own food. Primary consumers eat the producers, and secondary consumers eat the primary consumers. Tertiary consumers are top predators and eat both primary and secondary consumers.
The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean and has a diverse climate. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef on Earth and part of the Pacific Ocean near Australia. It is filled with producers like seaweed and seagrass that feed primary consumers like sea urchins, clams, and small fish.
Stingrays and larger fish eat the primary consumers. Tertiary predators like sharks eat the secondary consumers.The Pacific coast is also home to the kelp forest, which is made of large algae called kelp that cover the sea floor.
This massive kelp acts as a producer for this part of the ocean. Sea urchins, shrimp, other crustaceans and fish eat the kelp. Sea otters are a keystone species – called such because of their important role in keeping their ecosystem in balance – that eats the sea urchins. Orca whales and sharks are the tertiary consumers.