We consume milk and other products from animals like cows, buffaloes, etc. and these animals come under the umbrella of herbivores. These animals also act as a primary source of food for the carnivores and the apex consumers. But have you ever thought about what will happen if the number of herbivores increases or decreases or whether the quantity of milk will be impacted? Let’s discuss what will happen if the number of animals increases suddenly and what would happen to the size of the carnivore population if the herbivore population increased. Such curiosities will be explored today! Let’s begin!
1. Why are Herbivores Important to the Ecosystem?
They are animals that only feed on grasses and plants and range from tiny aphids to large elephants. Herbivores are an important part of the food chain or web. They play a major role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem as they prevent the overgrowth of vegetation. As a part of the food chain, all the animals and plants are interdependent and without even a single entity, the food chain will collapse, leading to disastrous consequences. Moreover, herbivores, such as bees, help plants in reproducing. (See What would Happen in an Ecosystem without Herbivores?)
2. How does Herbivory affect the Ecosystem?
Herbivory is the act of feeding on plants by animals. The animals consume plant material for survival. It is an important process in the ecosystem and is known to reduce biomass and the density of the minerals produced by them. Herbivory can terminate shoot growth and initiate branching. It leads to adaptations between the animal that eats the plant and the plant being eaten. Herbivory, although an important process, can also result in negative consequences. It can reduce growth, survival, and reproductive output. Must read What is the Difference between Autotrophic and Heterotrophic Nutrition?
3. What will Happen if the Number of Animals increases Suddenly?
Now that we are aware of how herbivory affects the ecosystem, let us also look at what will happen if the number of animals increases suddenly. An increase in population isn’t always good as it may enlarge higher than what the environment can support. The sudden increase in the number of animals in any ecosystem will lead to an imbalance. It will affect the food chain and will have negative consequences. Check out Why are Food Chains Relatively Short?
4. What will Happen if the Number of Herbivores increases?By author Etienne Girardet on Unsplash
The imbalance in the ecosystem is what will happen if the number of herbivores increases. Since herbivores depend upon plants for food, an increase in the number of herbivores will lead to an imbalance between plants and animals. The animals will outgrow the plants, leading to an increase in the animal population. The food requirements of the animals will not be fulfilled because the number of plants will be less compared to the number of herbivores.
So, if you ask what will happen if the number of herbivores increases, in short, note that this will have negative consequences on the food chain and the food chain will most likely collapse. (See Why is Biosphere Important for Living Organisms?)
5. What would Happen if You had more Herbivores than Plants?
Before understanding what would happen to the size of the carnivore population if the herbivore population increased, let us first get back to its roots. There were more herbivores than plants, and the whole food chain will be greatly affected and this will have negative consequences on the ecosystem. Plants are the producers in an ecosystem that provide the basic food for all organisms.
When the number of herbivores, which entirely depend on plants for their food, increases, the food for these animals will not be sufficient which will result in a lack of food supplies in turn leading to them starving. The entire producer ie., the plant population will also die off from the earth due to the limited food supplies for herbivores. (See What are Chief Producers of Ocean?)
6. What would Happen to the Size of the Carnivore Population if the Herbivore Population increased?Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash
What will happen if the number of herbivores increases? If the population of herbivores increases in the ecosystem, it will also increase the number of carnivores. This will happen because the carnivores will have more food to feed upon which will have positive effects on their health and breeding. So, they will be able to reproduce more and produce healthy offspring. The better availability of food will lead to better chances of their survival. This can also lead to an alternate effect due to the overconsumption of herbivores by carnivores. (See Is a Deer a Producer?)
7. What will Happen if Number of Carnivores decreases in an Ecosystem?
If the number of carnivores in an ecosystem decreases, there will be a rise in the number of herbivores as well. And then what will happen if the number of herbivores increases? These herbivores will consume all the vegetation available and the population of plants will die. This will lead to a lack of food among herbivores because they feed only on plants. The starvation will eventually kill the herbivore population. This will disturb the whole ecosystem and will have many negative consequences. Check out What are Few Examples of Producers Consumers and Decomposers?
8. What would Happen if there were no Herbivores and Carnivores on the Earth?
If this situation ever occurs, the ecosystem will surprisingly not die completely, however, will become limited. The biodiversity of the producers will change but they will survive the changes. The food chain of the ecosystem will become limited to the producers and decomposers as there is no other organism in the ecosystem. The producers will produce the food and the decomposers will help in breaking it down. This chain will keep repeating itself and the ecosystem will still be there.
Decomposers are mainly fungi and bacteria which break down organic matter and recycle them into the soil for new growth. So, exactly what would happen if there were no herbivores and carnivores on the earth? The producers are not dependent on anyone for their food, so they can still survive without herbivores or carnivores in the ecosystem. (See What is the Role of Decomposers?)
9. What would Happen if Carnivores increase in Number?By author Amar Yashlaha on Unsplash
After learning about what would happen if there were no herbivores or carnivores, let us look at the consequences of an increase in carnivores. If carnivores increase in number, they will reduce the population of herbivores significantly. Since there would be more carnivores, they will feed upon the herbivores and the population of herbivores will deplete. The population of producers will increase as there would be no herbivores to feed upon them, leading to an imbalance in the ecosystem. Check out Is Lion Herbivore Carnivore or Omnivore?
10. What will Happen to an Ecosystem if all Organisms of Herbivore Level are Eliminated?
If there is an elimination of herbivore-level organisms from an ecosystem, it will lead to the depletion of the carnivore population because carnivores will not have any food to eat. Also, the population of producers will increase because there will be no herbivores to feed on them. It will definitely affect the food chain and the ecosystem.
Now you know what will happen if the number of herbivores increases. It will be nothing but imbalance. Every organism is important in an ecosystem, no matter how small it is. It plays its role in the maintenance and survival of the ecosystem. I hope you found this article interesting and that there was something new that you learned from here. (Also read What are the Six Components of Ecosystem?)