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Difference between the Food Chain and the Food Web

Difference between the Food Chain and the Food Web

The difference between the food chain and the food web is an important distinction to understand. The food chain is a linear sequence of events, where one organism eats another and then that organism is eaten by a third. The food web, on the other hand, shows how all the organisms in an ecosystem interact with each other. Food webs are more complex than chains because they involve multiple feeding relationships. Understanding these concepts is critical for anyone studying ecology or environmental science.

What is Food Chain?

The food chain is a linear network of links in a food web starting from producer organisms (such as photosynthetic plants) to primary consumers, such as herbivores, and ultimately to tertiary consumers, such as apex predators and decomposers. A food chain also differs from a food web because of the direct connection of trophic levels. In reality, however, most food chains have more links than just one straight line of transfer from plant to animal to carnivore. Each level in a food chain contains 10% less energy than the level before it. The loss of energy at each level limits the length of food chains. Producers, such as green plants, are able to utilize light energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into simple sugars during photosynthesis. These simple sugars provide the basic building blocks needed by all consumers in the food chain and are a source of chemical energy for animals. Green plants are eaten by herbivores, which are then eaten by carnivores and so on up the food chain. In this way, grazing animals often serve as an important link between primary producers and higher trophic levels.

What is Food Web?

A food web is a network of interconnected food chains. A food chain is a linear sequence of organisms through which nutrients and energy are transferred from one trophic level to another. A food web consists of many interconnected food chains. The term “food web” was first coined by the ecological pioneer G.E. Hutchinson in 1935 (Hutchinson, G.E. 1935. American Naturalist. 69: 671-680). Food webs are an integral part of ecosystem functioning and provide a means by which energy and matter are recycled within an ecosystem. All living things require energy to live and grow, which they obtain from the food they eat. Plants produce their own food (organic matter) through photosynthesis, using energy from the sun. Animals consume plants (or other animals) to obtain the energy and organic matter they need to survive. The loss of any species in a food web can have far-reaching effects on the entire ecosystem.

Difference between the Food Chain and the Food Web

The food chain is a linear sequence of organisms in which each organism eats the one below it and is eaten by the one above it. Food webs are more complex and show the many different paths that energy and nutrients can take as they move through an ecosystem. For example, consider a simple grassland ecosystem. A food chain might start with grass, which is eaten by rabbits. The rabbits are then eaten by snakes, which are then eaten by hawks. However, a food web would also show that the rabbits are also eaten by foxes, while the snakes might be eaten by rodents or lizards. In addition, the hawks might also eat mice or voles. As this example shows, food webs provide a more accurate representation of how energy and nutrients flow through an ecosystem.


The food chain is a linear sequence of events where one species eats another in order to survive. In contrast, the food web contains many interconnected and overlapping food chains. This makes it more resilient to disruptions since there are multiple paths for energy and nutrients to flow. The difference between the food chain and the food web is an important distinction to make when talking about ecology and sustainability. It is also helpful for understanding how we can create a more sustainable world by promoting biodiversity.

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