Food Web Diagram

Posted: October 17th, 2013

Food Web Diagram






Food Web Diagram

Selected ecosystem – The Everglades

The Florida Everglades is swampy and used to be called “River of Grass” because it runs through prairies of saw grass. This special area is home to a varied plant and animal population. Over the last century, human activities have destroyed the ecosystem for their selfish gains. They have constructed canals that transport water from the system to their homes and farms. This has changed the flow of water into the everglades, which has resulted to loss of habitat and animals due to insufficient and lack of food and water. For example, alligators lose their nests when canals and gates are opened to release water into the everglades. This is due to the massive flooding that is caused by this water.

The water in the everglades has been constantly polluted by the industries and pesticides used by human being on their farms. The everglades experiences dramatic weather and climate changes throughout the year making it difficult for the animals and plants to survive. Nevertheless, the plants and animals have adapted to the harsh weather conditions in this ecosystem. The varying soils and salinity of water in this ecosystem has provided it with the millions of plant and animal species. Some plants and animals are considered endangered but are preserved in this ecosystem like the American crocodile, wood stock, snail kite, loggerhead turtle and the southern bald eagle.






  • Herbivores (marsh rabbit, deer, apple snail)
  • Omnivorous(mosquito fish, opossum, raccoon)


  • Manatee grass
  • Saw grass
  • Red mahogany

                             P                                                                   C



–         Earthworms

–         Bacteria



  • Carnivores (alligator, snake, panther, crocodile)






P – Producers

C – Consumers

D – Decomposers


Organisms that can be found in the everglades include saw grass, manatee grass, earthworms, snails, dragonfly, wood stock, American eagle, mosquito fish, snakes, alligators, frogs, panthers, deer, raccoon, opossum, bacteria, snail kite, brown pelican, little blue and tricolor heron, black bear and cotton mouse. There is also the oyster, loggerhead sea turtle, pigeon wings, short-leaved rosemary, four-petal pawpaw, woodpecker, strangler fig, stock island tree snail, turtle grass, orchid, black mouth shiner, sand skink, etc.

The benefit of this biodiversity is that it strengthens the everglades in terms of environmental stress. Adaptation to changes in the environment is heightened by the presence of biodiversity. This means that the ecosystem gains more stability and is more productive. This means that when an organism or species dies, the ecosystem is able to recover and maintain itself. High biodiversity in an ecosystem increases its chances of adaptation to callous environmental changes. Biodiversity is also important in that it offers a source of food and medication to human beings. Some of the local food in Florida, like fish and vegetable, is harvested from the everglades.

The millions of wild plant species have been used for medicinal purposes by scientists since time immemorial. For example, quinine is used to treat malaria, digitalis is used for persistent heart problems and morphine is used as a pain reliever. Industries depend on biodiversity, as it is a source of energy for example use of biomass, wood is used to create shelter and fibers are used in the clothing industry. Industrial products like perfumes, paper, rubber, etc are manufactured from raw materials made available through biodiversity in the ecosystem. Biodiversity plays an important role in creation of economical prosperity in many regions, as in this case America thanks to the everglades. People from different parts of the world visit the everglades to admire the beauty of the wild plant and animals as part of their recreational activity. The everglades national park provides sanctuary to many endangered species and this enhances biodiversity in the ecosystem. Biodiversity helps scientists discover and learn more about life in the past, present and the future.


The major categories of organisms that live in the everglades are producers, consumers and decomposers. Among the producers are different plants species like the manatee grass, red white and black mangrove, saw grass, mahogany, and cocoplum. The consumers include herbivores, carnivores and omnivores. The major herbivores are the marsh rabbit, the deer and apple snail. Carnivores are the American alligator, banded water snake, mangrove snake, Florida panther and the America crocodile. The omnivores include the mosquito fish, opossum and the raccoon. The decomposers are the different types of bacteria and earthworms.

The interrelations between the organisms in the everglades are the reason behind its continued strife, health and stability. In a given ecosystem, plants require sunlight for photosynthesis, animals need air to breathe and living things need water to keep them alive. Such interrelations provide for ecosystems that sustain life for long periods. In everglades for example, all the consumers rely on air to breathe, the producers use sunlight to manufacture their food and the decomposers feed on dead matter. After the plants have manufactured their food with the use of sunlight and decomposers, they are eaten by herbivores and omnivores. Herbivores eat plants only while omnivores eat both plants and meat. The herbivores and omnivores are eaten by the carnivores who only feed on meat. After the death of any organism, decomposers, bacteria and earthworms, feed on the dead bodies and the cycle continues. This interaction between the organisms ensures continuous production and provision of energy to all the organisms.

Interrelations between organisms also take place through symbiosis. In the everglades, there are different cases of symbiosis. For example, during the dry season alligators dig and make large holes that use the available underground water. These holes provide homes for smaller animals because they are safe and contain water. However, their safety is not guaranteed as the alligators feed on them. This is referred to as mutualism. The strangler fig drains the host’s nutrients and consequentially kills the host. This symbiotic relationship is called parasitism where one organism benefits at the expense of another. Other organisms in the everglades also experience commensalism. Commensalism is a relationship where an organism benefits and the other does not. The non-benefiting organism is not harmed in this relationship. For example, the oyster, found in the everglades, relies on the red mangrove branches for protection but the red mangrove does not benefit from this dependency.


There are potential hazards caused by humans that have affected the everglades. Drainage projects have been allowed by the government to pass through the everglades. These drainage systems are used for housing developments, road constructions and agriculture. Local government has also continued to permit developers to construct water diversions within and upstream the everglades. This has interfered with the serenity of the ecosystem in everglades and the lives of the organisms continue to be in danger. It has also decreased the quality of water in the ecosystem. Another hazard is global warming, which is because of excessive pollution by human beings. The more industries humans build the more earth becomes prone to the destruction that global warming brings with it.

Human activity like the drainage and water diversions at the everglades has destroyed numerous habitats for the organisms in the everglades. This has also increased the chances of flooding caused by storms in that area. These floods destroy the habitats of the animals, cause death as some animals drown and some plants species are swept away by the flooding. The human activities have enhanced the effects of droughts in the everglades. Due to global warming, polar ice is melting and this could have grave ramifications on the everglades because it means that with continued melting, the sea level rises and everglades might end up submerged under seawater, which would be irreversible.

The effects of these hazards to the biodiversity of the ecosystem are severe. The hazards deteriorate the conditions of the healthy ecosystem and this interferes with the natural balance. For example, human activity increases the vulnerability of the animals in the ecosystem during the drought season. Here, the plants living in water and insects die, which denies fish and frogs their food therefore decreasing their numbers. With less fish and frogs, predators that feed on them will also starve and possibly die. This will affect even the larger consumers like the American alligator, the panther and the American crocodile.

The local government allows people to drain the wetlands pf everglades and convert them to agricultural lands where they grow vegetables, rice and sugar cane. Water that flowed into everglades from Lake Okeechobee was redirected east and the eastern side of the everglades was cleared for human settlement and farming of tomatoes and pineapples. All this required clearing of the rain forest in everglades, which denied most of the organisms their habitats and interfered with the biodiversity of the ecosystem. The food web could also experience possible negative changes.

Recreational fishing is one of the main tourist attractions in Florida. However, it is another potential hazard to the everglades ecosystem. Tourists fishing along the coral reefs have radically changed the composition of the fish species that thrive along the reefs. The change in fish composition affects the entire ecosystem in one way or another. Measures to save the populations of these fish have been put in place but the implementation of these measures has been met by resistance from the local community. The community claims that the tourism has helped to improve their lives by providing employment opportunities.

Abiotic Factors

Abiotic factors are non-living parts of a given ecosystem. Some Abiotic factors found in the everglade are

–         Rivers

–         Rocks

–         The ocean

–         Sunlight

–         Temperature

–         Rain

During winter, the temperatures can get to between 53 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. In summer, it can be as hot as 90 degrees Fahrenheit with more than 90 percent humidity. The general climate of the everglades is a dry winter and a wet summer. Rainfall in the everglades is between 50 and 60 milliliters. Limestone is considered an Abiotic factor in the everglades and it affects the length of time floods take. Flooded conditions are also favorable to wood stocks for hunting purposes.

Food Chain

There are several food chains associated with this ecosystem. For instance bacteria – saw grass – marsh rabbit – snake. The saw grass uses bacteria as manure and it is eaten by marsh rabbit, which is food for the snakes. Marsh rabbits have adapted to the harsh climate of the everglades and most of them move at night to avoid being eaten by snakes. Snakes also like to look for the marsh rabbits in areas with a lot of saw grass. Snakes kill their prey by wrapping themselves tightly around the prey. This adaptation of the different organisms contributes to the rich biodiversity of the everglades.

Manatee grass – opossums and raccoons – panther. In this food chain, opossums and raccoons are second from the manatee grass and are eaten by panthers. Opossums have very sharp teeth that they use for defense and they are known for playing dead when attacked by their predators. Raccoons are considered the most adaptable mammals because they can adapt in any habitat and give by the extreme habitat of the everglades they are highly adaptable. The panthers are nocturnal and have near-perfect vision at night making it easier for them to catch their prey. They are known for covering their leftover killing with leaves and dirt to protect from its enemies.

Another food chain in the ecosystem is red mahogany – deer – alligator. Here, the red mahogany is food to the deer and the deer is food to the alligator. The deer is light in weight therefore allowing it to run fast when being pursued by predators. One of its predators is the alligator, which sometimes hunts near the shore of the rivers. As sluggish as it may appear, an alligator can move as quickly on short distance on land as it does in water. This makes it as dangerous on land as it is in water. In addition, its sharp teeth can easily grasp and tear into the flesh of its prey.

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