Energy Pyramids Ecology, Definition, Levels, Examples, Importance & Limitations

Energy Pyramid also titled as ecological pyramid or trophic pyramid are a graphical illustration of relationships among various organisms in an ecosystem. The pyramid is divided into a number of bars, each with a different trophic level.

It is a graphical representation of energy circulation in an ecosystem is known as a power pyramids.

The nature of the bar sequence is based on who feeds, on who feeds. It is the mainstream of the energy transfer in the ecosystem. Energy rises from the pyramid’s base, where we have producers, upward. The altitude of the bars is typically the same. Nevertheless, each bar has its own length depending on the nature of the corresponding element.

The energy in each trophic level is inversely proportional to the depth size, and the height of each bar is always the same. The energy flow shifts through layers of the energy pyramids, moving from bottom to top, and is further dissipated as energy is used by the organisms at each trophic level.

An energy pyramid is a useful tool in energy imbalance evaluation between organisms in a food chain. Energy is greater near the bottom of the pyramid, but it decreases as you move upward through the trophic levels.

The shape is important in energy flow understanding because it shows how the energy is utilized & squandered throughout ecosystem.

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Energy Pyramid Trophic Levels

Energy pyramid primary level contains producers and energy available within them. These are mostly autotrophs that make their own food by harnessing energy from sun. These are typically photosynthesizing plants.

These organisms convert photons into carbohydrate molecules. Some plants get their energy from direct sunlight exposure and convert to simple sugars. These organisms include earthworms, which biosynthesize their food through fungi.

However, energy that mushrooms and earthworms obtain from soil is, in the majority of circumstances, less than the energy that green plants obtain from sun. That is, the energy that embedded in the dirt undergoes an additional filtering process when providing the energy to plants, and as a result, a robin that would eat a worm, for instance, would get less energy than it would if it consumed a berry instead.

At lower energy levels or the pyramid basis, we only have heterotrophs organisms that get their food from organic carbon, normally from other organisms.

the second energy pyramid stage is occupied by primary consumers, usually herbivores. Herbivores consist only of animals that feed on vegetation. The plants themselves are dependent on the sun for energy and inspiration.

This helps facilitate the transfer of solar energy between trophic levels. Human beings depend to a lesser extent on primary sources, but this level is crucial for the health of the ecosystem. Otherwise, the system will not work.

The third level of the pyramid is known as secondary consumers, and they’re the carnivores. Secondary consumers are organisms that rely on primary consumers for their nutrition.

Without consumers, the omnivores would not exist. In this level, distributed energy originally given to primary consumers is now transferred to this level. This facilitates the suitable circulation of the energy for usage.

The amount of solar energy that varies depending on the quantity of energy delivered to plants.

The last pyramid level comprised of tertiary consumers. This is secondary level carnivores that feed on both the primary and secondary consumers. The circuitry has a total sum of power at this exit level.

Plants do not always utilize most energy in atmosphere, such as groundwater, other water bodies. It is essential that all energy pyramid level get the level of energy demanded to ensure the stability of planet earth.

At each level pyramid, decomposers perform a crucial function. These include bacteria, worms, and fungi, which break down the bodies of other organisms and their products. These decomposers also use the small amount of residual energy in the bodies of deceased organisms.

Examples of Energy Pyramids


Grasshoppers consume grass for energy. it in return provides energy to frogs in next level pyramid. Snakes then obtain their vitality from frogs and so on.


An earthworm breaks down dead organic material that’s in soil, which provides nutrients the building blocks for plants, which live in sunlight on two different pyramid levels.

Herbivores in subsequent layer of hierarchy, in turn, make use of stored power in plants by feeding off these plants. The energy found in excrement coming from herbivores goes into system again and is broken down from there by earthworms.

Importance and Limitation of Energy Pyramids


Feeding various organisms in several environments is displayed.

Energy value flow/transfer is shown.

Ecosystem condition may be assessed, and any resulting damage can be prevented.


Several species may occupy various food chain levels, such as food web. The system does not take food webs into account.

Pyramids are not counted among the parts of the ecosystem that includes the saprophytes, even though they are important parts of that ecosystem.

The logic of a simple food chain is limited to necessities that are more valuable than those eaten, such as grits and leafy greens. These pyramids only provide clarity to simple food chains, which rarely unfurl naturally, during which time weather changes and seasons don’t affect insects.

They do not focus on dynamic existence status of species at various elevations.


Some decomposers and detritavores in process of breaking down organic matter in accordance with sequence of energy pyramid disperse nutrients to soil and return nutrients to base of hierarchy, thus playing a major role in framework of carbon and nitrogen cycles.

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