A grasshopper eats grass, a rat can eat the grasshopper, a snake may eat the rat, and a hawk will eat the snake. When these food chains interweave, they create a food web. Plants and animals (including humans) live, eat, reproduce, and die within these food webs, helping to create balance or instability the habitats that they live in.

This push and pull for balance, in any biome, is made of positive and negative feedback loops.

What is feedback? It is a process that is the result of mutual causal interaction: X affects Y and Y affects X. The mutual causal interaction creates a circuit of effects, so that any change in X, causing a change in Y, in turn causes another change in X, and so on – a feedback loop.

Learn more in this essential TED Ed lesson by Anje-Margriet Neutel, with animation by Brad Purnell.

Related watching: food chains, life cycles, symbiosis, sustainability, and ecology.

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