Exploring Biomass Pyramids
This interactive module allows students to collect and analyze data from a virtual river to construct biomass and energy pyramids.
In this Click & Learn, students explore trophic relationships in an aquatic ecosystem. First, they measure the biomass of algae and estimate the number of fish it could support. After collecting data to compare with their estimates, they analyze graphs based on productivity rates to better understand the ecosystem’s trophic pyramids. Finally, they use authentic field data to determine the relationship between sunlight and biomass in river pools.
This Click & Learn incorporates multiple pathways with different data, depending on the river pools selected by the students. After completing the Click & Learn, students can generate a PDF report that contains all their responses to the embedded questions.
Student Learning Targets
- Measure the biomass of primary producers in a defined area and extrapolate to calculate the amount of algal biomass in a river pool.
- Use the “10% rule” to predict the amount of consumer biomass that can be supported by the primary producers.
- Make hypotheses about the relationship between biomass pyramids and pyramids of productivity, and test those hypotheses with data.
- Explain the role of abiotic factors, such as sunlight, on trophic biomass pyramids.
algae, catfish, energy, field ecology, inverse pyramid, Panama, productivity, simulation, trophic pyramid
Power, M. E. “Grazing responses of tropical freshwater fishes to different scales of variation in their food.” Environmental Biology of Fishes 9, 2 (1983): 103–115. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf00690856.
Power, M. E. “Habitat quality and the distribution of algae-grazing catfish in a Panamanian stream.” The Journal of Animal Ecology 53, 2 (1984): 357–374. https://doi.org/10.2307/4521.
Power, M. E. “The importance of sediment in the grazing ecology and size class interactions of an armored catfish, Ancistrus spinosus.” Environmental Biology of Fishes 10, 3 (1984): 173–181. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf00001124.
HS-LS2-2, HS-LS2-4, HS-LS2-6; SEP2, SEP6
AP Biology (2019)
ENE-1.H, ENE-1.M, ENE-1.N, ENE-1.O, ENE-4.B, ENE-4.C, SYI-1.G; SP1, SP2, SP4, SP5, SP6
IB Biology (2016)
4.1, 4.2, C.1
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Learning Objectives & Practices: ENG-1.D
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
Common Core (2010)
Vision and Change (2009)
CC5; DP1, DP3