• The African savanna ecosystem is a tropical grassland with warm temperatures year-round and with its highest seasonal rainfall in the summer. The savanna is characterized by grasses and small or dispersed trees that do not form a closed canopy, allowing sunlight to reach the ground. The African savanna contains a diverse community of organisms that interact to form a complex food web.

    A community is a group of organisms interacting in a specific region under similar environmental conditions. A food chain is a group of organisms linked in order of the food they eat, from producers to consumers, prey to predators, and scavengers to decomposers. The arrows in a food chain represent the flow of energy and matter between feeding (trophic) levels. Food chains show only one path of food and energy through an ecosystem. In most ecosystems, organisms can get food and energy from more than one source, and may have more than one predator.

    Healthy, well-balanced ecosystems are made up of multiple, interacting food chains, called food webs. Carnivores (lions, hyenas, leopards) feed on herbivores (impalas, warthogs, cattle) that consume producers (grasses, plant matter). Scavengers (hyenas, vultures) and decomposers/detritivores (bacteria, fungi, termites) break down organic matter, making it available to producers and completing the food cycle (web). Humans are part of the savanna community and often compete with other organisms for food and space.

    The following list defines and provides examples of the feeding (trophic) levels that comprise food webs:

    • Producer: organism on the food chain that can produce its own energy and nutrients. Examples: grasses, Jackalberry tree, Acacia tree
    • Primary consumer/herbivore: organism that eats mainly plants. Examples: cows, impalas, warthogs, zebras
    • Secondary consumer/carnivore: organism that eats meat. Examples: leopard, lion
    • Omnivore: organism that eats a variety of organisms, including plants, animals, and fungi. Examples: humans, aardvarks
    • Decomposer/detritivores: organisms that break down dead plant and animal material and waste and release it as energy and nutrients in the ecosystem. Examples: bacteria, fungi, termites
    • Scavenger: animal that eats dead or rotting animal flesh. Examples: vultures, hyenas
    • Insectivore: organism that mostly eats insects. Example: Red-billed oxpecker
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    Big Cats Initiative Noun

    National Geographic Society program that supports on-the-ground conservation projects, education, economic incentive efforts, and a global public-awareness campaign to protect big cats and their habitats.

    carnivore Noun

    organism that eats meat.

    Encyclopedic Entry: carnivore
    community Noun

    group of organisms or a social group interacting in a specific region under similar environmental conditions.

    consumer Noun

    organism on the food chain that depends on autotrophs (producers) or other consumers for food, nutrition, and energy.

    decomposer Noun

    organism that breaks down dead plant material.

    detritivore Noun

    organism that consumes dead plant material.

    ecosystem Noun

    community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ecosystem
    environment Noun

    conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

    food chain Noun

    group of organisms linked in order of the food they eat, from producers to consumers, and from prey, predators, scavengers, and decomposers.

    Encyclopedic Entry: food chain
    food web Noun

    all related food chains in an ecosystem. Also called a food cycle.

    Encyclopedic Entry: food web
    herbivore Noun

    organism that eats mainly plants.

    Encyclopedic Entry: herbivore
    insectivore Noun

    organism that mostly eats insects.

    omnivore Noun

    organism that eats a variety of organisms, including plants, animals, and fungi.

    Encyclopedic Entry: omnivore
    organism Noun

    living or once-living thing.

    predator Noun

    animal that hunts other animals for food.

    producer Noun

    organism on the food chain that can produce its own energy and nutrients. Also called an autotroph.

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