An Ecological System

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Every organism in an ecological system requires a persistent flow of energy to survive. This energy mostly originates from the sun, although, chemoautotrophic bacteria or archaea obtain their energy from the oxidation of inorganic compounds (Heritage et al. 1996). Photoautotrophic organisms provide the basis for energy flow. These organisms use photosynthesis to provide sugar and carbohydrates to primary consumers who cannot produce their own. When an organism is consumed by a predator, energy transfers through a trophic level from one organism to another. Unfortunately, 90% of this energy is lost to metabolism and maintaining homeostasis, so organisms tend to only retain a small amount of the energy originally stored by the organism. Globally, livestock contribute 18% of greenhouse gasses that lead to global warming, which makes livestock a larger contributor than all forms of transport (United Nations, 2006). Robbins (2011) states that cattle consume 16 time more calories of grain than the calories they produce as meat. This provides a good basis for the argument that it is more sustainable to be a vegetarian. Using the cattle above as an example, energy was used to grow the crops to maturation, but then they were just fed to a primary consumer who will only retain roughly 10% of the energy. So the cattle would need to consume 10 times more plant mass to transfer the same amount of energy than an individual would receive from eating the plant matter directly. So less
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