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Biomass Pyramid (Biomass Energy Diagram)

    Biomass Pyramid - A world reeling from an energy crisis and climate change is slowing ditching fossil fuels in favor of cleaner, renewable fuels like biomass, solar and wind.
Biomass, because it is cheap, easily available, and far cleaner than fossil fuels, has the potential to become one of our most important sources of energy in the near future. To understand how biomass energy works, we has to go all the way back and first grasp the concept of biomass pyramid and its impact on our planet's health.

The biomass energy pyramid is not the ninth wonder of the world or one of the Great Pyramids of Giza, nor was it commissioned by some ancient pharaoh. Rather, it is a way of classifying all living beings (biomass) and their inter-relationships.

A Graphic Representation of Energy & Biomass Distribution

Imagine a pyramid: broad at the base, slowing narrowing as you move vertically upwards. The pyramid of biomass is based on this simple geometrical shape. At the bottom-most level are the primary producers: plants. At the second level, we have the primary consumers. The next level (slowly narrowing now) consists of the secondary consumers. And at the top rung, we have the tertiary consumers.

An illustration would help explain things further: plants take up nutrients & water from the soil, and sunlight from the atmosphere and turn it into food (energy) through the process of photosynthesis. These plants are the most basic of producers and are the source of all nutrition on the planet. Consequently, they sit at the bottommost rung of the pyramid of biomass and are called 'primary producers'.

Primary Consumers

Unlike plants, animals can't produce their own food. They can only consume other plants or other animals to get their nutrition. Animals like cows, goats, deer, etc. that consume only plants are called 'herbivores' and sit at the second rung of the biomass pyramid. They are thus called 'primary consumers' since they directly eat up the food produced by the plants.

Secondary Consumers

Not every animal eats plants. There are plenty of carnivores that eat other animals for their nutrition. Think of animals like foxes, raccoons, etc. that eat herbivores. In a way, these animals are indirectly eating plants themselves. Therefore, they are called 'secondary consumers' and occupy the third rung of the pyramid of biomass.

Tertiary Consumers

Tertiary consumers form the top rung of a biomass pyramid. These are the alpha predators that eat all smaller animals - herbivores as well as carnivores. Nothing else eats these tertiary consumers and they sit pretty at the top of the pyramid of biomass. Lions, tigers, bears, crocodiles, etc. have no natural predator and no animal preys on them. (Except man!)

Think of a lion relaxing in the cool shade of a tree in the African savannah after a hearty meal of water buffalo. The water buffalo may have been chewing on some delicious savannah grass a few minutes before it became a lion's dinner.

This is a perfect example of the transfer of energy that a pyramid of biomass represents: plants (grass) produce energy through photosynthesis, water buffalo eats this grass, and is in turn, eaten by the lion. Therefore, the energy produced by the grass is transferred from one animal to another.

The biomass pyramid helps us to understand the intricate relationship between various animal and plant forms on the planet. A closer look at some biomass energy diagrams would make things a bit more clear.

Pyramid of Biomass and Energy Availability

The amount of energy available at each rung of the pyramid follows an inverse relationship: as we move up the pyramid, the amount of energy available at each rung decreases. The energy is the most at the primary producer stage (i.e. the lowest rung) and gradually decreases as we move up the pyramid.

This is important because if we are to make use of biomass as a source of energy, we should utilize it at the stage where it is most abundantly available - that is, at the primary producer (plant) stage. For instance, the amount of energy available per square meter at the primary producer is 9000k calories. It reduces to just 9k calories per square meter by the time it reaches the topmost rung of the tertiary consumer.

This goes to show that the amount of energy available in, say, the beef from a cow raised on extensive farmland is far lower than the energy from the farmland itself.

The biomass pyramid of energy illustrates the inter-dependence between plants and animals and the transfer of energy from one form to another. It helps us to understand biomass energy and how to best utilize it for human purposes.

Other Biomass Articles:-
 | Biomass Fuels  | Definition of Biomass  | History-of-Biomass  | Biomass Boiler  | Biomass Stoves  | Biomass Furnace  | Advantages of Biomass Energy  | Disadvantages of Biomass Energy  | Biomass Pyramid  | Biomass Production  | Biomass Cost |
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