The topic of ecosystems is a large topic area in GCSE Biology, which requires careful planning so that  delivery can include a variety of practical activities. In this topic, students are expected to cover:

  • levels of organisation
  • principle of material cycling
  • pyramids of biomass and transfer through tropic levels
  • biodiversity
  • biological challenges of increasing food yields using fewer resources

There are a number of misconceptions demonstrated by students within this topic area, and one that is often seen is the that there is a build up of biomass along a food chain.  Presumably this is because students incorrectly assume that biomass refers to individuals rather than populations. Similarly trophic levels seem to cause confusion, so it is worth spending some time of this, using a range of different pyramids.

Students also struggle to distinguish between abiotic and biotic factors that affect ecosystems. Simple practical activities with light meters and pH probes can help to with students understanding of this topic area.