5 Differences between Energy Flow and Nutrient Cycling


Ecosystem is the structural and functional unit of nature. It is a stable life supporting system that involves extensive interactions between biotic and abiotic components. The two most fundamental processes in any ecosystem are the flow of energy and the cycling of nutrients.
Definition of Energy flow: The transfer of energy from one trophic level to another in a non-cyclic and linear manner through food chain and food web is called energy flow. Each step in the food chain is called trophic level.

Nutrient cycling is the cyclic back and forth movement of chemical elements between organisms and their physical environment of an ecosystem. It generally starts from nutrient pool (air, soil) to producers, producers to consumers, consumers to decomposers and then back to nutrient pool.
Differences between Energy Flow vs Nutrient Cycling
Energy Flow
Nutrient Cycling
The transfer of energy from one trophic level to another in a non-cyclic and linear manner through food chain and food web is called energy flow
It is the cyclic  movement of nutrients between living organisms and their physical environment in an ecosystem
The flow of energy is non-cyclic, linear and unidirectional as the energy lost is not available to the previous trophic level
Nutrients moves in a cyclic manner between living organisms  and their physical environment
In energy flow, the ultimate energy source is the sunlight
Nutrient source always belongs to earth often atmosphere or lithosphere (reservoir pool)
During energy flow, energy is lost at each trophic level primarily as heat and used by organisms for respiration
Nutrients are recycled in an ecosystem without any loss
Energy from sun enters as light and exits an ecosystem mainly as heat
Nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, sulphur etc present on earth are used, recycled and reused in an ecosystem
In energy flow, the energy is not  recycled during decomposition by decomposers, but is released mostly as heat
Microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi etc (Decomposers) plays a prominent role in cycling of nutrients without any loss
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