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Crash Course


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, AP® / College


Science, Chemistry, Biology, Health

Regional Focus


Ecosystem Ecology: Links in the Chain

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  • This video details ecosystem ecology, food webs, and how energy is transferred from one trophic level to another. 
  • Students will learn how energy, nutrients, and materials are moved around within an ecosystem, in addition to learning about types of producers, consumers, detrivores, and the bioaccumulation of toxins in ecosystems. 
Teaching Tips


  • This video uses engaging charts, graphs, and photographs to aid comprehension. 
  • This resource provides a table of contents for quickly finding information within the video and also provides links to references. 

Additional Prerequisites

  • It may be helpful to periodically pause the video to ensure comprehension, since a lot of information is presented at a fast pace. 
  • There are some cultural references and jokes that might require explanation for some students. 


  • This resource could be used to supplement lessons about energy flow, trophic structures, carrying capacity, interconnected cycles in nature, photosynthesis, cellular respiration, or biodiversity in environmental science, biology, or ecology courses.
  • Math classes could use this video to explore the mathematical formula for biomagnification and then draw graphs to represent the increasing concentrations of various pollutants.
  • Health classes could use this video to supplement lessons about pollution and our exposure to toxins such as PCBs, PFOAs, DDT, and other hormone-disrupting pollutants.
  • Prior to using this resource, show this video that could serve as an introduction to ecology and have students complete a timeline of Earth's ecological history including the Eons. 
  • Science classes could have students watch this Khan Academy video to learn more about ocean ecosystems, food webs, and the effects that ocean acidification has on them. 
  • Consider giving students time to explore these other Crash Course resources on community ecology, population ecology, or conservation and restoration ecology.
Scientist Notes
Students can learn through the resource how energy (nutrients, sunshine, and materials) is transferred from one trophic level to another in an ecosystem, which is a fundamental concept in ecosystem ecology. The resource offers a well-known illustration of the distinction between a food chain and a food web, making it appropriate for classroom instruction.
  • Science and Engineering
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • HS-LS2-5 Develop a model to illustrate the role of photosynthesis and cellular respiration in the cycling of carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere.
      • HS-LS2-6 Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.
      • HS-LS2-8 Evaluate the evidence for the role of group behavior on individual and species’ chances to survive and reproduce.
    • LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
      • HS-LS4-5 Evaluate the evidence supporting claims that changes in environmental conditions may result in: (1) increases in the number of individuals of some species, (2) the emergence of new species over time, and (3) the extinction of other species.
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