What is a Pyramid of Biomass, and Why is It Important?

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Animals and plants play a significant role in the ecosystem. They both serve as resources to humans, and they’re critically important to human survival. Ecosystems can be understood by studying topics like food chains, tropic cascades and a pyramid of biomass.

Any living thing requires energy for key functions, like growing, breathing, moving and reproducing. Energy transfers between organisms, as energy does not magically appear. Without energy transferring between living things, it could throw off the entire ecosystem.

Biomass and a pyramid of biomass are tools scientists can use to learn more about energy in an ecosystem. Below is more information about biomass pyramids and why it is important in modern science.

What is a Pyramid of Biomass?

Energy pyramids are scientific infographics illustrating the energy flow between trophic levels in a given ecosystem. The first trophic level consists of producers. All following trophic levels indicate an animal is higher up in the food chain. 

It’s commonly understood that energy is lost at each trophic level. The longer the food chain, the more energy is lost between the bottom and top links.

Other energy pyramids, such as biomass pyramids and pyramids of numbers, provide scientists and researchers with more detailed information about other important components of a complex ecosystem.

Biomass is an estimate of the combined dry mass of all animals and plants. A pyramid of biomass measures the total amount of biomass in each trophic level of an ecosystem instead of using the total population of every species. 

Biomass pyramids can be upright or inverted, depending on the ecosystem. For example, it’s common for marine ecosystems to have an inverted pyramid structure because the mass of phytoplankton typically has lower biomass compared to large fish and other heterotrophs.

You can compare the energy between trophic levels once a pyramid of biomass is created. It can also be understood what mass is required to support each trophic level.

Importance of Biomass Pyramids

Biomass pyramids are important infographics scientists can use to preserve the environment. Because it gives us more information about trophic levels, energy transfers and feeding patterns of animal species, scientists can leverage biomass pyramids to make more educated decisions about environmental conservation efforts.

However, biomass pyramids do have some drawbacks. They fail to consider the complexities of food chains and how climate plays a role in trophic level activities. 

While biomass pyramids provide more insight into various ecosystems and are useful metrics for scientists, they come with limitations. Scientists must consider the benefits and drawbacks of using biomass pyramids for research purposes. Leveraging other tools and methods to learn about the ecosystems on the planet is essential.

Preserving the Environment

Protecting living organisms in an ecosystem is critical, especially as global temperatures rise and there’s a climate crisis on our hands. Thankfully, the U.S. government has taken steps to address environment preservation in the next five to ten years. 

The U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit has outlined the following actions to protect and enhance the resilience of ecosystems:

  • Increase awareness to protect wildlife, fish and plants in a changing climate.
  • Manage species and habitats to protect how ecosystems function.
  • Conserve habitats to support healthy animal species, plant species and essential ecosystem functions.
  • Reduce non-climate stressors to help living things adapt to a changing climate.

Preserving ecosystems is necessary in the modern world. We rely on animals and plants as food sources. If they experience challenges, this negatively impacts the entire global food chain.

Biomass Pyramids to Analyze Ecosystems

While a biomass pyramid will not be a major component of environmental preservation, it can certainly help researchers and scientists learn more about various ecosystems. It’ll be interesting to see what other actions governments and policymakers take to ensure ecosystems are protected in a changing climate.

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About the author

Jane Marsh

Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.