Difference between Food Chain and Food Web

Introduction to The Food Chain and Food Web

The food chain is a sequential pathway that shows that the flow of energy moves or transfers from one organism to the other. In this pathway, energy is not created nor can it be destroyed but it flows from one level to the other level through different organisms. Similarly, there are producers, consumers, and decomposers who are interconnected through many food chains that create a food web. This shows the interactions between different organisms in an ecosystem. Both the food chain and food web represents the flow of energy and matter in trophic levels and efficiency of energy transfer. In these pathways, organisms are dependent on each other for food.

Difference Between Food Chain and Food Web

Food chain

Food web

It is a pathway in which organisms in an ecosystem are grouped into trophic levels and are shown in a succession to represent a linear flow of food energy and the feeding relationships between them.

It is a graphical model showing the interconnecting food chains in an ecological community.

It is a single linear pathway of energy flow.

It has a number of interconnected pathways through which the energy flows within an ecosystem.

It is a single unit.

It is a connection of several interconnected food chains.

It may consist of 4 - 6 trophic levels.

It consists of many numbers of trophic levels

It increases the instability of an ecosystem.

It increases the stability of an ecosystem

It does not improve the adaptability and competition amongst the organisms.

It improves the adaptability and competitiveness of organisms 

The whole food chain can be disturbed if a disturbance occurs in a single trophic level.

The whole food web won't be disturbed if a disturbance occurs in a single trophic level.

Higher trophic level member can only feed upon a single type of organism in its lower trophic level

Higher trophic level members can feed upon several types of organisms in their lower trophic levels.

It can be a grazing food chain and detritus food chain

No such type is considered for the food web.

It is a simple and easy process.

It is a much more complex process in the ecosystem

Example - Food chain in the grassland ecosystem 

Example - Food web of a grassland ecosystem


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Food Chain and its Levels

A Food chain is basically a linear network of connections in a food web starting from producer organisms or an order of events in an ecosystem where one living organism eats another organism.

This consists of trophic levels which have four major parts are as follows:

  • Sun - It is considered as the major source of food for making food, growth, and development.

  • Producers - These include green plants and it is the first stage in a food chain.

  • Consumers - These are those organisms that eat different organisms. This is considered to be the largest part of the food web in the ecosystem.

  • Decomposers - These are those organisms that get energy from dead or waste organic material.

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Types of the Food Chain

There are two types of the food chain which are as follows :

  • Detritus Food Chain - This food chain includes different kinds of species of organisms and plants like algae, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, mites, insects, worms, and so on. This food chain begins with dead organic material. The consumed energy passes into composers and detritivores which are eaten by smaller organisms like carnivores.

  • Grazing Food Chain - This food chain starts with green plants and passes through herbivores and then to carnivores. In this food chain, the lowest trophic level acquires energy from photosynthesis.

Food web

This comprises a number of several interconnected food chains form a food web. This is usually similar to a food chain but it is comparatively larger than a food chain. In this, a single organism is consumed by several organisms.


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Applications of the Food Web

  • The species interaction can be described very clearly.

  • A major set of illustrations regarding the interactions can be made between all the types of species.

  • This can be used to study the top to bottom and bottom to top control of community structure.

  • This reveals the flow of energy transfer from one level to the other or in terrestrial and an aquatic ecosystem.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Explain what are the primary organisms in a Food Chain?

The primary organisms in a food chain are producers known as autotrophs which make their own food. These are the first level of organisms in every food chain. These are usually plants or one-celled organisms. All autotrophs use the process called photosynthesis to make their food which receives a nutrient called glucose from sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. In autotrophs, plants are the most familiar type of organisms but there are many other kinds of organisms too. Algae, phytoplankton, and some types of bacteria are autotrophs that serve as a source of primary organisms in a food chain.


2. What is the role of humans in a Food Chain?

Humans play a variety of different roles in a food chain depending on which organisms they eat. Humans who eat only plants are primary consumers and those who eat an organism that eats the plants are secondary consumers and so on. Humans are placed at the top of the food chain because they eat plants and animals of all kinds but are not eaten consistently by any animals. Every human usually starts their food chain with plants and the plants eaten by humans are vegetables and fruits so humans are also involved in the food chain constantly.