In natural ecosystems, the efficiency of energy transfer from resources to consumers determines the biomass structure of food webs. As a general rule about 10% of the energy produced in one trophic level makes it up to the next. Whether environmental warming affects the efficiency of energy transfer is unclear. Here, Gabriel Yvon-Durocher and colleagues test this in freshwater plankton communities in artificial ponds exposed to seven years of experimental warming, using nitrogen transfer as a proxy for energy transfer. Energy transfer decreased by up to 56% in the warmed ponds. Biomass was lower in the warmed ponds for both phytoplankton and zooplankton, consistent with reduced energy-transfer efficiency altering the biomass pyramid.
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