Measurement of Primary Productivity in Relation to Food Chain

  • Anju Agrawal
  • Krishna Gopal


Primary production is the production of organic compounds from atmospheric or aquatic carbon dioxide, mainly through the process of photosynthesis. The organisms which are responsible for primary production are known as primary producers or autotrophs and form the base of the food chain. In terrestrial ecoregions, these are mainly plants, while in aquatic ecoregions algae are primarily responsible. Primary production is the production of chemical energy in organic compounds by living organisms. The main source of this energy is sunlight, but a minute fraction of primary production is driven by lithotrophic organisms using the chemical energy of inorganic molecules. The energy is used to synthesise complex organic molecules from simpler inorganic compounds regardless of source such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). Gross primary production (GPP) is the rate at which an ecosystem’s producers capture and store a given amount of chemical energy as biomass in a given length of time. On the land, almost all primary production is now performed by vascular plants, with a small fraction coming from algae and nonvascular plants such as mosses and liverworts. It is known that some organisms are capable of synthesising organic molecules from inorganic precursors and of storing biochemical energy in the process. These are called autotrophs, meaning ‘self-feeding’. Autotrophs also are referred to as primary producers. Organisms able to manufacture complex organic molecules from simple inorganic compounds (water, CO2, nutrients) include plants, some protists and some bacteria. The process by which they do this usually is photosynthesis, and as its name implies, photosynthesis requires light. There are two general approaches by which primary production can be measured: one can measure either (a) the rate of photosynthesis or (b) the rate of increase in plant biomass. Without autotrophs, there would be no energy available to all other organisms that lack the capability of fixing light energy. However, the continual loss of energy due to metabolic activity puts limits on how much energy is available to higher trophic levels. All of the animal species on Earth are consumers, and they depend upon producer organisms for their food. For all practical purposes, it is the products of terrestrial plant productivity that sustain humans. A pyramid of biomass is a representation of the amount of energy contained in biomass, at different trophic levels for a given point in time. Pyramid of numbers represents the number of organisms in each trophic level.


Trophic Level Mixed Layer Gross Primary Production High Trophic Level Basal Area Increment 
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Copyright information

© Springer India 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anju Agrawal
    • 1
  • Krishna Gopal
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyS N Sen B V P G College CSJM UniversityKanpurIndia
  2. 2.Aquatic Toxicology DivisionCSIR-Indian Institute of Toxicology ResearchLucknowIndia

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