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97 Cards in this Set

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Nonliving. Refers to factors in an ecosystem such as temperature, light intensity, soil conditions, moisture, etc.
The many different species of photosynthetic, mostly plant-like organisms that generally populate aquatic environments and produce the majority of the oxygen in our atmosphere.
Altered ecosystem
An ecosystem that has been relatively stable for a period of time that is suddenly changed and becomes unbalanced, either through natural events or human activities.
The layer of gases ("air") that surrounds the earth. Contains molecules that are essential for most life on earth today. In turn, living things produce and consume chemicals that affect its composition.
"Self-feeding." Refers to organisms that can "feed themselves," that is, make their own food. Synonymous with "producer." Includes plants, algae, and a number of bacteria and other microscopic organisms. Sometimes used to describe a basic type of NUTRITION.
A positive consequence of human decisions regarding technology, the environment, medicine, etc. All such human decisions involve some good things as well as the costs associated with achieving those good things.
The variation in life forms that exist in a particular location. We can look at this variation on many different levels but the term is mostly used to refer to the number of varieties of living things at the ecosystem and biosphere levels.
The sum of all the ecosystems on earth, or the "sphere" around earth in which life naturally exists. Includes parts of the land, the waters, and even the atmosphere .
"Living." Refers to those "living" factors in an ecosystem that affect an individual, including competition, cooperation, predation, disease, etc.
An animal that eats mostly or exclusively other animals for food. Includes insect eaters, worm eaters, etc.
Carrying capacity
The maximum number of individuals of a particular species that an ecosystem can support over the long term. When a population goes over this limit, a population decline usually follows. When a population is below this limit, its size will generally increase.
Climatic change
The earth's major atmospheric conditions change periodically. The various ice ages are examples, as are numerous unusually warm periods of history. Today scientists are concerned that human activities are increasing average global temperature at an unhealthy rate.
Complex organism
Generally, living things that are made up of numerous organ systems that require a high degree of regulation and control in the form of a nervous system.
A living thing that gets its food by eating other living things or the remains of once living things. Heterotrophs. Includes all species of animals, decomposers, many microorganisms, etc.
Ecologically, it refers to human use of natural resources. At today's high levels, it has a significant and negative impact on the environment.
The negative consequences of our decisions to exploit natural resources or apply technologies, etc. These negative consequences must be weighed against potential benefits in making public policy decisions. Compare with "benefits."
Cyclic changes
Changes that occur in an ecosystem as it goes above and below certain "balance points." Predator/prey populations are a prime example (see image card).
Cycling of materials
The stuff that living things are made of - carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, etc. - are available in limited quantities on earth and must be constantly re-used as organisms die, decompose, and their basic materials are again taken up and used in living organisms.
One of the many organisms that ultimately break down the remains of once living organisms into inorganic forms such as carbon dioxide, water, oxygen, & nitrogen, thereby recycling the materials of which they were originally composed. Includes mainly bacteria and fungi.
The destruction of large wooded areas, by fire, cutting, sometimes disease, etc. Typically carried out intentionally by humans to grow crops, provide space for cattle, build housing, provide lumber, etc.
Direct harvesting
When humans go into a natural habitat, such as a forest, a lake, an ocean, etc., and remove living resources from that habitat. Trees, fishes, wildlife, etc.
Variety. The multitude of different forms of living and nonliving things found on earth and in any given ecosystem.
Ecological community
All the combined and interdependent populations of different species that live in a particular area.
Ecological succession
The process by which an ecosystem naturally changes over time. Involves the gradual replacement of one dominant community by another dominant community until stability or "maturity" is reached. The dominant community at each stage of development alters the environment in such a way as to make it more suitable for the next stage.
The study of how living things interact with other living things and the physical conditions of their environment.
A community of living things plus the physical conditions in which that community lives.
Ecosystem stability
The resistance of an ecosystem to dramatic change over long periods of time.
Energy pyramid
A model or diagram of how energy is transferred through the various energy levels in an ecosystem, where producers contain the greatest amount of energy and high-level consumers the least amount of energy.
Literally "surroundings." The living and nonliving things that surround an organism, affect the organism, and are in turn affected by the organism.
Environmental change
The conditions in which an organism finds itself today may be different in the future and are different today than they were in the past. Populations that cannot adapt to differing conditions become extinct. Humans are responsible for a great deal of these differences today.
Environmental factors
The conditions and materials present in an ecosystem that influence an individual and its chances of surviving. Includes biotic conditions (competition, food, etc.) and abiotic conditions (air, water, soil, etc.).
Environmental impact
The consequences for the environment of human actions (deforestation, oil spills, etc.) and natural occurrences (floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc.)
Environmentally literate
Having a sufficient understanding of ecological principles to make informed decisions regarding public policy and personal decisions on environmental issues.
A dynamic state in which the net change in a system over a period of time is zero. In an ecosystem, an example would be the population of a particular species. A population may go above or below the carrying capacity from year to year, but in a stable ecosystem the carrying capacity does not change over time. In the human body, blood glucose level is an example. Although it fluctuates throughout the day, the average is maintained over time.
Established ecosystem
A mature or stable ecosystem that is in a state of equilibrium over long periods of time. This occurs at the end of the process of ecological succession (see card).
Finite resources
Natural materials that exist in limited quantities and will be gone forever once they are used, unless they can be recycled. See "renew."
Flow of energy
The transfer of energy through an ecosystem from the sun (usually) to producers, to herbivores, to carnivores, and ultimately to decomposers. In the end, all of the energy that originally reached earth from the sun dissipates into the atmosphere and outer space as heat. Energy cannot be recycled, and life on earth depends on constant influx of energy from the sun to replace what is lost.
Food chain
A model or diagram of how energy flows through one line in a food web. (see image card).
Food web
A model or diagram of the interactions of many different food chains in an ecosystem. It shows the intricate balance that exists in an ecosystem and how each member of the ecosystem affects other members, directly or indirectly. (see image card).
Fossil fuel
High energy organic materials derived from the remains of mostly plants that lived and died millions of years ago, whose remains underwent chemical changes that converted them into materials such as coal, oil, natural gas, and so on. A finite resource. Through human burning it also contributes greatly to global warming and other pollution problems.
A kingdom of organisms that function as decomposers, among other things. Includes single-celled yeasts, mushrooms, molds, mildew, etc.
Global awareness
Being conscious of the fact that actions taken locally (in one particular part of the world) may have an impact on the entire earth (biosphere).
Global stability
The balance of environmental factors that are important for the whole biosphere. When this balance is upset, all the ecosystems of the world can be affected. Global warming is an example of a condition that will affect the entire earth.
Global warming
The increase in earth's average temperature. It is undisputed that earth's average temperature is increasing. There is little debate about the cause (human activity). There is much debate about how we should respond to it.
Green plant
A term that lumps together the true plants and green algae. True plants evolved from green algae, but all algae are traditionally considered a part of the Protista kingdom, and not the Plant kingdom. They all contain chlorophyll and produce glucose via photosynthesis.
Guard cells
Specialized cells in the leaves of plants that form an opening, which opens and closes to allow gas exchange (CO2 in, O2 out), and to regulate water level in the plant. When the plant allows CO2 to enter, it automatically allows water to exit, therefore the plant must balance the need for CO2 for photosynthesis with the need to conserve water during hot/dry conditions.
Sometimes described as the physical "address" in which an organism or population lives. Typically the word describes a more specific place than an "ecosystem."
Animals that only eat plants and their various parts (leaves, stems, fruits, seeds, roots, etc) or plant-like organisms (algae).
"Other eating." Refers to organisms that cannot make their own food and therefore must eat other organisms. Consumers. Also used to refer to a basic type of NUTRITION or way of getting nutrients.
In ecology, a single organism capable of carrying out most or all life functions. Compare with population.
Individual choice
In ecology, the decisions one person can make that affect the world around them. These decisions may be helpful or harmful to the environment. "Paper or plastic?" is a classic example.
The change from a mainly rural, agricultural society to one in which factories, technology, and cities predominate. Associated with many environmental problems including pollution, global warming, etc.
The largest group of species in the animal kingdom, they have segmented bodies, an exoskeleton, and 6 legs.
The ways that the various members of an ecosystem affect one another. Includes predator/prey relationships, mutualism and commensalism, parasitism, competition/cooperation, mating, etc.
The organisms that live in an ecosystem depend on each other. Any action or event that negatively affects one member of the community will negatively affect all members in the long run. For example, removing predators might at first seem good for the prey, but it actually leads to overpopulation of the prey species and all the problems associated with overpopulation (disease, food shortages, etc.).
The relationships that exist between the various members of an ecosystem. Includes predator/prey relationships, mutualism and commensalism, parasitism, competition, cooperation, mating, etc.
The major groups into which living thing are classified. Animal, Plant, Fungi, Protists, Bacteria, Archaea. There is currently much debate about the validity of the traditional classification groups in light of new evidence of evolutionary relationships.
Level of organization
In ecology, one of the hierarchical groups into which the parts are ordered: individual, population, community, ecosystem, and finally the biosphere.
Light intensity
Used to describe the amount of light reaching an object, particularly green plants. It is affected by latitude, seasons, shading, cloud cover, etc. It is often a limiting factor in ecosystems.
Long-term stability
The tendency of the conditions in an ecosystem to remain relatively unchanged for long periods of time.
Mineral availability
A limiting factor in many ecosystems, it refers to the amount of inorganic nutrients in the soil, which can limit the amount of plant growth that is possible
An organism that consists of more than one cell. In order to be considered "multicellular," the cells that make up the organism must be differentiated - that is, they must have 2 or more different types of cells with different functions.
Natural disaster
A catastrophic event not caused by human activity that can upset the balance in an ecosystem. Includes weather events such as hurricanes, floods, etc., earthquakes, volcanoes, etc.
The role that a population or species plays in an ecosystem including its interactions with other species, its eating habits (when, where, what it eats), nesting and mating habits, the physical location it occupies (under a rock, in a tree) and so on.
Nuclear fuel
Most commonly, radioactive materials used in nuclear power plants to provide energy in the form of electricity. The most common of these materials are uranium and plutonium. The mining, processing, use, and disposal of these materials present a number of health and environmental challenges.
Ozone shield
A layer of the atmosphere in which there is a relatively high concentration of O3 that absorbs ultraviolet radiation from the sun. When this layer is reduced by pollutants such as CFC's, UV radiation increases at ground level, skin cancer among humans increases, and photosynthetic activity among plants, algae, etc. decreases (which means more CO2 in the atmosphere, so it indirectly affects global warming.).
Personal behavior
What you as an individual do, and how it affects the world around you.
Any chemical that is designed to kill unwanted organisms. Most commonly refers to chemicals that kill insects and weed plants, but also some that kill other unwanted animals such as rats/mice, etc.
Physical conditions
The nonliving aspects of an ecosystem that largely determine the types and numbers of living things that can be supported. Includes most importantly temperature and moisture, but also light intensity, rock/mineral type, elevation, etc. (see abiotic).
The waste or excess products of human activity that have a negative impact on the environment. Includes exhaust from cars and industrial processes, heavy metals (mercury, lead) released into the air and water, run-off of feces and fertilizers from farms, litter, and so on.
Population growth
The increase in the number of humans living on earth. This increase has been happening at an alarming rate for the past 150 or so years. It also tends to make all other environmental problems even worse.
The total number of individuals of a particular species living in a particular place.
An animal that gets food by hunting or otherwise capturing, killing, and eating other animals.
An animal that is hunted or otherwise captured, killed, and eaten by another animal.
A type of organism that is capable of producing its own food from inorganic raw materials. The majority of them are photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae.
To use a material over and over again, usually after it has been broken down into simpler components. Example: Carbon is an essential ingredient in the (organic) materials that make up living things and relatively rare, therefore carbon must constantly be broken down and reused to make new organic materials. The term also applies to the breakdown and re-use of human made products such as paper, glass, plastic, metals, etc.
Renew (resources)
To replace natural resources (trees, for example) that have been taken from the environment and used for human needs. Many resources can only be replaced over very long periods of time or not at all.
Any material that exists in the environment that can be mined, harvested, or otherwise collected and used for individual or societal needs. Examples: food, water, lumber, rocks/minerals, etc.
The potential negative consequences of a proposed action. The chance that negative consequences will result.
A nonliving factor in the environment, it determines many of the characteristics of soil, which influences the growth of producers, which in turn influences the number and variety of consumers in an ecosystem.
The sum of the activities performed by an organism in an ecosystem (see niche).
To look for already dead organisms and eat them. Generally the term only applies to animals that eat other, already dead animals, typically the parts that are left over after a predator has taken its fill, but also animals that have died as a result of accidents, disease, or intra-species combat.
Societal actions
In ecology, it refers to the choices made by a whole community of people, sometimes at the governmental level, sometimes just large numbers of people making similar individual choices, that have some impact, positive or negative, on the environment.
The thin layer of broken down rocks and minerals plus decaying organic matter, that covers most of the land areas of earth to varying degrees. Serves to anchor plants and provide them with minerals and water, also serves as a habitat for a host of organisms including bacteria, protists, fungi, worms, insects, small vertebrates, and so on.
Solar energy
The light of the sun harnessed to produce heat or electricity for human needs.
The resistance of an organism or ecosystem to dramatic change over a period of time.
Stable ecosystems
A mature ecosystem that is resistant to dramatic changes over long periods of time.
Groups of interdependent parts working together to perform particular functions.
Technological development
The creation of new products of human invention. Includes everything from simple hand tools to complex modern machinery. In today's world they frequently require the use of complex manufacturing processes and produce much waste material and pollution.
Technological fix
One of the possible ways to solve an environmental problem that involves using new machines, chemicals, processes, treatments, etc. An alternative to behavioral changes to solve such problems that some people promote.
The products of human invention. Includes everything from simple hand tools to complex modern machinery. In today's world they frequently require the use of complex manufacturing processes and produce much waste material and pollution.
Temperature range
In ecology, the temperatures, from highest to lowest and in between, in which a particular species can exist over a long period of time.
Total ecosystem
The sum of all the components, living and nonliving, in a particular area.
Poisonous or causing damage to cells, tissues, organs, when taken in by an organism.
A substance that is toxic or poisonous.
The price we pay, either in terms of money or negative consequences, for the decisions we make to gain some benefit. In any decision concerning environmental issues, there are positive and negative consequences, and sometimes we accept the negatives because they are outweighed by the positives. Sometimes not.
Water cycle
The recycling of water on earth.
Evaporation - condensation - precipitation - runoff and collection - evaporation and so on.