Food chains are components of all ecosystems. Producers and consumers form trophic levels in a chain through which energy flow is carried out by the process of eating and being eaten. Usage, storage and transformation of food and biomolecules by metabolism are a normal process. Degradation or breakdown is an essential part of any food chain and hence all naturally occurring substances are degradable.
When non-degradable substances enter the food chain, they do not get metabolized or broken down or expelled and instead get transferred up the tropic levels of the food chain. During this process, they show an increase in concentration which is referred to as biomagnification. This results in increased toxicity and may even be lethal. This phenomenon is well established for mercury and DDT. Figure 13.4 schematically shows biomagnification of DDT in an aquatic food chain where the concentration of DDT is enhanced at successive trophic levels.
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