All animals, whether birds that fly, beetles that scurry, or worms living in the ocean depths, interact with the earth’s environment. We all live on the same planet with the same soil, water and air. We all require oxygen and water, and we all must eat to obtain organic molecules to build our bodies and stay alive. All animals move at least a part of their bodies through the environment or move the environment through their bodies to obtain oxygen and food; that movement may not be the same for all animals, but we do share commonalities.
Food webs are key to understanding how an ecosystem functions. The webs are just that: networks of complex feeding relationships, not just the linear food chain we may have learned about in a biology class. More, food webs illustrate the energy flow and predator/prey interactions within an ecosystem.
Pelagic predators from deep sea food web
Worldwide coral reefs are suffering from the impacts of climate change. Around the world researchers are pioneering ways to protect and restore coral reefs that have already bleached. Between these efforts and the amazing capacity for corals to adapt to healthier environments, there seems to be some hope.
Corals can be attached to reefs piece by piece with cement, zip ties, and nails. (Photo: Reef Resilience Network)
Think about the biggest, most powerful predators in any system. These are called apex predators. Some that come to mind are obvious— wolves in Yellowstone, lions on the Serengeti and orcas in the Pacific Northwest. There are others in many different ecosystems, like the sunflower star in nearshore waters off Alaska. Often the large predators at the top of the food web in a particular ecosystem. But, humans are the ultimate apex predator.