Idea for Use in the Classroom

Review the ecological levels of organization with students to help them gain a perspective on what an ecosystem represents. The ecological levels of organization include: ecosystem, community, population, and organism.

Divide students into small groups and ask them to use the infographic and this information on floodplains to make a chart comparing the biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) factors of a flood plains ecosystem. Then, as a class, compare charts to come up with a common list of biotic and abiotic factors. After completing this activity, ask students: What distinguishes an ecosystem from the other ecological levels of organization? Ensure that they understand that ecosystems include both biotic and abiotic factors, as well as how they interact with each other in an environment.  

Then ask students to focus on the biotic factors. Have students split into new groups and give each group a set of cut-out shapes of all the biotic factors from the infographic, along with some paper arrows. Have each group use these shapes to map out a food web of the biotic factors, connecting them with arrows to indicate relationships between consumers and producers, etc. Once they’ve all made their food webs, go group by group and have each group choose one primary or secondary consumer to remove from their food web, and ask the class:

  • What would happen if this factor (primary or secondary consumer) were removed from the web?
  • What would happen to the other animals and plants in this food web once this consumer was gone? 

Finish the activity by assigning students to write a report on what would happen to a floodplains ecosystem if the primary or secondary consumer that their group chose disappeared from their habitat.


characterized by the absence of life or living organisms


part of the Earth where life exists.


having to do with living or once-living organisms.


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


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


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


flat, low-lying land near or adjacent to a river that is prone to flooding; usually formed by built-up sediments deposited by the river.


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


living or once-living thing.


total number of people or organisms in a particular area.


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