Great Salt Lake Food Web

Two linked food chains

Compared to most ecosystems, the Great Salt Lake food web is relatively simple. It is based around two major food chains. The first food chain (on the left side of the diagram) consists of microscopic bottom-dwelling cyanobacteria, brine flies and shorebirds such as gulls. The second food chain (on the right) is made up of the free-floating algae Dunaliella, brine shrimp and waterbirds such as Eared grebes.

Learn more about the creatures that make up the food web:
Brine Flies
Bottom-Dwelling Microbes
Brine Shrimp
Free-Floating Microbes

Energy is transferred up the food pyramid

Energy from the sun fuels all life on earth. Green plants, the producers, harness the sun's energy. Primary consumers eat the plants, secondary consumers eat the primary consumers, and so on. At each step, energy from the sun gets passed up the food chain. But energy is lost along the way.

Consumers use most of the energy they get from their food for life's daily activities, including locomotion, foraging, hunting, or outrunning predators. Even sleeping uses energy. Only about 5-20% of the energy a consumer gets from its food is stored in its body and made available to the next level consumer.

Because energy is lost at each level of the food chain, the biomass at each level decreases as you go up. That is, the total mass of all the producers is greater than the mass of the primary consumers, which is greater than the mass of the secondary consumers, and so on. The difference in biomass reflects the amount of energy lost at each level.



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