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Characterized by entrance into ecosystems that is followed by noncyclic movement within ecosystems and then loss from ecosystems as waste heat.
Energy flows through ecosystems because its use as well as transfer results in its irreversible loss of its usable form from the ecosystem, that is, its conversion into waste heat. Alternatively, energy can be stored within ecosystems for long periods as biomass.
While energy often can enter ecosystems in a non-chemical form, that is, as photons, once within ecosystems energy typically is both utilized and moves about (i.e., flows) in a chemical form. This chemical form typically is organic. Exceptional is when energy moves into ecosystems as reduced inorganic substances, that is, minerals of various sorts, including hydrogen gas (H2), as utilized by organisms known as chemolithotrophs.
Energy also can enter into ecosystems as organic molecules, that is, such as in terms of movement of organisms or their parts from terrestrial ecosystems in aquatic ecosystems.
Video (Very basic introduction to nutrient cycling and energy flow)
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