Storages and flows of environmental systems

storages and flows

Storages and flows of environmental systems

A system is made of storages and flows. All living things use energy to do everything. Ecologists trace the flow of energy through ecosystems to identify nutritional relationships. The ultimate source of energy for nearly all living things is the sun.

Ecologists who trace energy and matter flow in ecosystems have identified several interesting things. Energy flows from one organism to another as each organism is eaten by the next. These relationships are called food chains. For example, a plant may capture the sun’s energy then become food for a deer which may then be eaten by a bear. Each organism forms a link in the chain.

The flows are processes that may be either transfers (a change in location) or transformation (a change in the chemical nature, a change in state or a change in energy).

  • Transfers normally flow through a system and involve a change in location.
  • Transformations lead to an interaction within a system in the formation of a new product or involve a change of state.

Using water as an example, run-off is a transfer process and evaporation is a transformation process. Dead organic matter entering a lake is an example of a transfer process; decomposition of this material is a transformation process.

Do you know what is included in an environmental system? Read here.

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