You are on page 1of 7

Ecology Definitions

ECOSYSTEM

all the communities/living organisms/ biotic factors and environmental / abiotic


factors in a particular area; these factors are interacting and interdependent; they
make up a self-contained system which is self supporting in terms of energy flow.

ENVIRONMENT

all the factors in a habitat which affect an organism; these may be either living
(= biotic) or non living (= abiotic).

POPULATION

all the members of one species in a habitat at one time.

COMMUNITY

all the organisms (= the biotic factors) in a particular habitat at one time.

HABITAT

the geographical area occupied by an ecosystem.

NICHE

the role of a species within an ecosystem; its location/spatial habitat and


functions - relationships/interactions with other organisms - and its effect on the
environment. Two different species do not normally occupy exactly the same niche
in the same habitat at the same time (= competitive exclusion principle).

SPECIES

a group of potentially interbreeding individuals; which do not normally interbreed


with other groups/species to produce viable, fertile offspring.

FOOD CHAIN

a sequence of organisms in an ecosystem in which each is the food of the next


organism in the sequence. Arrows represent energy flow through the chain.

FOOD WEB

all the interconnected food chains in an ecosystem (usually complex to calculate).

TROPHIC LEVEL

a feeding level in a food web - defined by the method of obtaining food; all the
organisms in a particular trophic level are the same number of energy transfers
away from the producers.

PRODUCER

the first organism in a food chain; an autotroph (i.e capable of manufacturing


organic molecules/food, normally by photosynthesis (thus, normally a plant).

PRIMARY
CONSUMER

the second organism in a food chain (in the second trophic level); consumes/
obtains energy from the producer; (thus a herbivore).

SECONDARY
CONSUMER

consumes/obtains energy from the primary consumer; (thus a carnivore).

PYRAMID OF
NUMBERS

a representation of the number of organisms in each trophic level in an


ecosystem; the width of each block is proportional to the number of organisms in
each trophic level.

PYRAMID OF
BIOMASS

(better) a representation of the biomass in each trophic level in an ecosystem; the


width of each block is proportional to the biomass in each trophic level.

PYRAMID OF
ENERGY

(better still) a representation of the energy in each trophic level in an ecosystem;


the width of each block in proportional to the energy in each trophic level; usually
measured in KJ m.-2 year-1.

CARRYING
CAPACITY

the maximum population that a particular environment can support.

ENVIRONMENTAL the environmental factors which reduce population growth rate: e.g. disease
RESISTANCE
predation, competition.

Atmosphere - a thin gaseous layer surrounding the planet:


Troposphere: 95% of the total mass - extends to 17 km (11 mi) above sea level
Stratosphere: 17-48 km (11-30 mi)
Hydrosphere - liquid water (rivers, lakes, oceans), frozen water (ice caps, permafrost), water
vapor in the atmosphere
Geosphere - interior core, mantle, and crust (soil and rock) - the outer mantle and crust are
usually referred to as the lithosphere
Biosphere - the entire realm where life is found, consisting of parts of the atmosphere,
hydrosphere, and lithosphere
Ecosphere - Earth's collection of living organisms interacting with one another and the
environment
organism - any form of life
species - groups of interbreeding organisms that resemble one another in appearance, behavior,
chemistry, and genetic structure
population - a group of individuals of the same species occupying a given area at the same time.
habitat - the place where a population normally lives
community - populations of all the species occupying a particular place
ecosystem - the biotic community and the abiotic conditions in which the biotic community
members live
biome - similar or related ecosystems grouped together to form major kinds
biosphere - all of the species on earth, along with all of their environments as a single entity
Producers (autotrophs) - manufacture the organic compounds they need from nutrients and simple
compounds in their environment.
Consumers (heterotrophs) - feed on producers or other consumers
Detritovores: feed on detritus
Food chain: the general sequence of who eats or decomposes whom.
Food web: a complex network of many interlinking feeding relationships.
Biomass - the organic matter produced by plants and other photosynthetic producers.

AbioticNonlivingcomponentsofanecosystem;basicelementsandcompoundsofthe
environment.
AbsorptionTheprocessbywhichasolutionpassesfromonesystemtoanother.
AgeclassAdescriptivetermtoindicatetherelativeageofplants.
AlienspeciesAspeciesintroducedandoccurringinlocationsbeyonditsknownhistorical
range.Thisincludesintroductionsfromothercontinents,bioregions,andalsothosenotnativeto
thelocalgeographicregion.ExecutiveOrder(E.O.),InvasiveSpecies,February3,1999,more
narrowlydefinesanalienspeciesandtiesthedefinitiontoanoccurrenceoutsideanative.
AutecologyAsubdivisionofecologythatdealswiththerelationshipofindividualsofa
speciestotheirenvironment.
Bioengineeringseesoilbioengineering
BiodiversityThetotalvariabilitywithinandamongspeciesoflivingorganismsandthe
ecologicalcomplexesthattheyinhabit.Biodiversityhasthreelevelsecosystem,species,and
geneticdiversityreflectedinthenumberofdifferentspecies,thedifferentcombinationof
species,andthedifferentcombinationsofgeneswithineachspecies.
BiologicalcontrolTheuseoforganismsorvirusestocontrolparasites,weeds,orotherpests.
BiomassThetotalamountoflivingplantsandanimalsabove/orbelowgroundinanareaata
giventime.
BiotypeAgroupofindividualswithinapopulationoccurringinnature,allwithessentiallythe
samegeneticconstitution.Aspeciesusuallyconsistsofmanybiotypes.Seealsoecotype.
DiversityThedistributionandabundanceofdifferentplantsandanimalcommunitieswithinan
area.Alsoameasureofthenumberofspeciesandtheirrelativeabundancewithinagiven
associationoforganisms.Areasofhighdiversityarecharacterizedbyagreatvarietyofspecies;
usuallyrelativelyfewindividualsrepresentanyonespecies.Areaswithlowdiversityare
characterizedbyafewspecies;oftenrelativelylargenumbersofindividualsrepresenteach
species.
DominantvegetationPlantspeciesorspeciesgroupsthat,bymeansoftheirnumber,
coverage,orsize,haveconsiderableinfluenceorcontrolupontheconditionsofexistenceof
associatedspecies.
Dormancy(1)Aninternalconditionofthechemistryorstageofdevelopmentofaviableseed
thatpreventsitsgermination,althoughtemperatureandmoistureareadequateforgrowth.(2)A
livingplantthatisnotactivelygrowingaerialshoots.
DrymatterTheamountofbiomass(i.e.feedorclippings)remainingafterallfreemoistureis
evaporatedout.Thebiomassmaybeartificiallydriedinanovenat100105
0

C.
EcoclineSeriesofbiotypeswithinaspeciesthatshowsageneticgradientcorrelatedwitha
gradualenvironmentalgradient.
EcologicalnicheRoleofanorganisminanecologicalsystem.Includesthephysicalspaceina
habitatoccupiedbyanorganism;itsfunctionalroleinthecommunity(e.g.,itstrophicposition);
anditspositioninenvironmentalgradientsoftemperature,moisture,pH,soil,andother
conditionsofexistence.
EcologicaloptimumThemostfavorableconditionsintheenvironmentforthegrowthand
reproductionofanorganism.
EcologicalraceGroupoflocalpopulationswithinaspeciesinwhichindividualshavesimilar
environmentaltolerances.Widerangingspeciesmayconsistofmanyecologicalraces.
EcologicalsiteAkindoflandwithaspecificpotentialnaturalcommunityandspecific
physicalsitecharacteristics,differingfromotherkindsoflandinabilitytoproducevegetation
andtorespondtomanagement.Syn.Ecologicaltype,ecologicalresponseunit.
Ecologicalstatus(1)Thepresentstateofvegetationandsoilprotectionofanecologicalsitein

relationtothepotentialnaturalcommunityforthesite.Vegetationstatusistheexpressionofthe
relativedegreeofwhichthekinds,proportions,andamountsofplantsinacommunityresemble
thatofthepotentialnaturalcommunity.Ifclassesorratingsareused,theyshouldbedescribed
inecologicalratherthanutilizationterms.Forexample,someagenciesareutilizingfourclasses
ofecologicalstatusratings(earlyseral,midseral,lateseral,potentialnaturalcommunity)of
vegetationcorrespondingto025%,2650%,5175%,and76100%ofthepotentialnatural
communitystandard.Soilstatusisameasureofpresentvegetationandlittercoverrelativetothe
amountofcoverneededonthesitetopreventacceleratederosion.Thistermisnotusedbyall
agencies.(2)Thepresentstateofvegetationandsoilprotectionofanecologicalsiteinrelation
tothehistoricclimaxplantcommunityforthesite.Vegetationstatusistheexpressionofthe
relativedegreeofwhichthekinds,proportions,andamountsofplantsinacommunityresemble
thatofthehistoricclimaxplantcommunity.Ifclassesorratingsareused,theyshouldbe
describedinecologicalratherthanutilizationterms.
EcologicalsystemSeeecosystem.
EcologicaltypeAlandclassificationcategorythatismorespecificthanaphaseofahabitat
type.Ecologicaltypesarecommonlyusedtodifferentiatehabitatphasesintocategoriesofland,
whichdifferintheirabilitytoproducevegetationortheirresponsetomanagement.Syn.
ecologicalresponseunit,ecologicalsite.
EcophenePlantsdifferinginappearance,especiallyinthesizeofvegetativeparts,numbersof
stems,erectness,andreproductivevigorbutbelongingtoessentiallyhomogeneousgeneticstock.
Theirdistinctnessisdueentirelytoenvironmentalinfluences,forwhendifferentecophenesare
transplantedintothesamehabitatthesedifferencesdisappear.
EcosystemEnergydrivencomplexofoneormoreorganismsandtheirenvironment.
Organismstogetherwiththeirabioticenvironment,forminganinteractingsystem,inhabitingan
identifiablespace.Thewholesystem,inthesenseofphysics,includingnotonlytheorganism
complex,butalsothewholecomplexofphysicalfactorsformingwhatwecalltheenvironment.
Thecomplexoflivingandnonlivingcomponentsinaspecifiedlocationthatcompriseastable
systeminwhichtheexchangeofmaterialfollowsacircularpathsuchasabiome.Acommunity
oforganismsandtheenvironmentinwhichtheylive.Asystemofecologicalrelationshipsina
localenvironment,includingrelationshipsbetweenorganisms,andbetweentheorganismsand
theenvironmentitself.Syn.:ecologicalsystem.
EcotoneTransitionalzonebetweentwovegetationaltypesorvegetationalregions.Atransition
areaofvegetationbetweentwocommunities,havingcharacteristicsofbothkindsofneighboring
vegetationaswellascharacteristicsofitsown.Varieswidthdependingonsiteandclimatic
factors.Atransitionlineorstripofvegetationbetweentwocommunities,havingcharacteristics
ofbothkindsofneighboringvegetationaswellascharacteristicsofown.
Ecotype(1)Apopulationofplantsthathasbecomegeneticallydifferentiatedinresponsetothe
conditionsofaparticularhabitat.Theplantsmayvaryingrowthhabit,maturity,andother
characteristicssuchaspubescenceandflowercolor.Sometimesreferredtoasageographical
race.(2)Atransitionareaofvegetationbetweentwocommunities,havingcharacteristicsof
bothkindsofneighboringvegetationaswellascharacteristicsofitsown.Widthvaries
dependingonsiteandclimaticfactors.Transitionzonebetweentwovegetationtypesor
vegetationtyperegions.(3)Atransitionlineorstripofvegetationbetweentwocommunities,
havingcharacteristicsofbothkindsofneighboringvegetationaswellascharacteristicsofown.
(4)Alocallyadaptedpopulationwithinaspecieswhichhascertaingeneticallydetermined
characteristics;interbreedingbetweenecotypesinnotrestricted.(5)Avarietyorstrainwithina
givenspeciesthatmaintainsitsdistinctidentitybyadaptationtoaspecificenvironment.(6)A
locallyadaptedpopulationofaspecieswhichhasadistinctivelimitoftoleranceto
environmentalfactors.(7)Avarianttypewithinanecospecies.
EcovarTheoffspringofnativespeciesthathavebeendevelopedfromoriginalplantmaterial
collectedformaspecificecologicalregion.Selectionisdonewithminoremphasisonimproving
agronomiccharacteristics,andmajoremphasisonmaintaininggeneticdiversity.Seealso
ecotype.

EndemicNativetoorrestrictedtoaparticulararea,region,orcountry.
EnvironmentThesumofallexternalconditionsthataffectanorganismorcommunityto
influenceitsdevelopmentorexistence.
EnvironmentalrangeRangeofenvironmentalconditionsinwhich,atagiventime,the
membersofaspecieslive.
EvapotranspirationTheactuallossofwaterbyevaporationfromsoil,waterbodies,and
transpirationfromvegetationoveragivenareawithtime.
FloodtoleranceAplantsabilitytowithstandwaterinundationforperiodsrangingfromdays
tomonths.
Flora(1)Theplantspeciesofanarea.(2)Asimplelistofplantspeciesorataxonomic
manual.
FoliageThegreenorliveleavesofplants.
FoodreservesTheexcesscarbohydratesinplantsproducedduringphotosynthesisandstored
inareadilyavailableforminthevariousplantparts.Dependingonforagespecies,theymaybe
storedintheroots,stembases,stolons,orrhizomes.Oftenerroneouslycalledrootreserves.
GenepoolThetotalstockofgenesinabreedingpopulation,witheachgenerepresentinga
numberofalleles.Seealsogeneticpool.
GeneticdiversityThetotalamountofgeneticvariationpresentinapopulationorspecies.
Havingaheterogeneousconstitution,reactingdifferentlytodiverseexternalcondition.(Applied
toabreedingpopulation,variety,orspecies.).Thegeneticconstitutionofanindividualorgroup.
GeneticengineeringTheuseofinvitrotechniquestoproduceDNAmoleculescontaining
novelcombinationsofgenesorothersequencesinlivingcellsthatmakethemcapableof
producingnewsubstancesorperformingnewfunctions.Usage:Apopulartermforsuch
technologiesasawhole.
GeneticerosionThelossofgeneticdiversitybetweenandwithinpopulationsofthesame
speciesovertime;orareductionofthegeneticbaseofaspeciesduetohumanintervention,
environmentalchanges,etc.
GeneticflowTheexchangeofgenesbetweendifferentpopulations.Alsotermedmigration,it
isconsideredtobeasourceofgeneticvariation.Asingleintroductionofgenesintoanew
populationisknownasgeneexchange.Ifgenemigrationisconstantandrecurrentitisknownas
geneflow.Thecloserpopulationsarerelatedspatiallyandgenetically,themorelikelythe
chancesofgeneflow.
GeneticpoolThetotalityofgenesandgenecomplexesofagivenpopulationatagiventime.
Thesumofallgeneticinformationcarriedbyallindividualsofaninterbreedingpopulation.All
oftheallelesofallthegenesinapopulation.
GeneticshiftAchangeinthegermplasmbalanceofacrosspollinatedvariety,usuallycaused
byenvironmentalselectionpressures.
GenotypeThegeneticconstitutionofanindividualorgroupofplants.Individualplantsmay
varyinappearance(phenotypically),buttheymusthavethegeneticcharacteristicsofthe
genotype.Thegeneticconstitution,latentorexpressed,ofanorganism,ascontrastedwiththe
phenotype.Thesumtotalofallgenespresentinanindividual.
GeographicrangeGeographiclimitsoftheecologicalrange;geographicextentofactual
occurrencesofaspecies.
GrasslandLandonwhichthevegetationisdominatedbygrasses,grasslikeplants,and/or
forbs.
GreenchopMechanicallyharvestedforagefedtoanimalswhilestillfresh.
GroundCoverThepercentageofmaterial,otherthanbareground,coveringthelandsurface.
Itmayincludeliveanddeadstandingvegetation,litter,cobble,gravel,stones,bedrock,and
crytogams.Groundcoverplusbaregroundwouldtotal100percent.
GrowthrateThevolume,value,orothertypesofincreaseinplants,e.g.,treesandshrubs
expressedintermsofnumberofringsperinch.
HabitattypeThecollectiveareawhichoneplantassociationoccupiesorwillcometooccupy

assuccessionadvances.Thehabitattypeisdefinedanddescribedonthebasisofthevegetation
anditsassociatedenvironment.
HardwoodAtermusedtodescribebroadleaf,usuallydeciduous,treessuchasoaks,maples,
ashes,elms,etc.Itdoesnotnecessarilyrefertothehardnessofthewood.
HardseedSeeSeed,hard.
HeartwoodTheinnercoreofawoodystem,whollycomposedofnonlivingcellsandusually
differentiatedfromtheouterenvelopinglayer(sapwood)byitsdarkercolor.
HerbAnyfloweringplantexceptthosedevelopingpersistentwoodystemsaboveground.
HerbageTotalabovegroundbiomassofplantsincludingshrubsregardlessofgrazing
preferenceoravailability.
HerbicideAchemicalwhichkillsherbaceous(nonwoody)plants.
HumuslayerThetopportionofthesoilthatowesitscharacteristicfeaturestoitscontentof
organicmatter.
Hybridoffspringofacrossbetweengeneticallydissimilarindividuals.Firstgeneration
progenyresultingfromthecontrolledcrossfertilizationbetweenindividualsthatdifferinoneor
moregenes.
Indicatorspecies(1)Speciesthatindicatethepresenceofcertainenvironmentalconditions,
rangecondition,previoustreatment,orsoiltype.(2)Oneormoreplantspeciesselectedto
indicateacertainlevelofgrazinguse.
InitialEvaluation(IE)Theevaluationofthecharacteristicsandcomparativeperformanceof
anassemblyofplantsundercontrolledconditionssothatpromisingplantscanbeselectedfor
furtherevaluation.
MarshAflat,wet,treelessareausuallycoveredbystandingwateratleastpartoftheyearand
supporting,grasses,grasslike,waterlovingforbs.
NativespeciesAnativeplantspeciesisonethatoccursnaturallyinaparticularregion,state,
ecosystem,andhabitatwithoutdirectorindirecthumanactions.Climate,soil,andbioticfactors
determineitspresenceandevolutioninanarea.Synonymsofnativeincludeindigenous,
endemic,aboriginal.
pHThemeasureoftheacidityoralkalinityofsoil.Descriptivetermscommonlyassociated
withcertainrangesinpHare:extremelyacid<4.5;verystronglyacid4.55.0;stronglyacid5.1
5.5;moderatelyacid5.66.0;slightlyacid6.16.5;neutral6.67.3;slightlyalkaline7.47.8;
moderatelyalkaline7.98.4;stronglyalkaline8.59.0;andverystronglyalkaline>9.1.
PhotosynthesisThemetabolicpathwaybywhichplantsproducefood.SeealsoC3plants,
C4plants,andCAMplants.
PhytomassTotalamountofplants,includingdeadattachedparts,aboveandbelowgroundin
anareaatagiventime.SeeBiomass.
PioneerspeciesThefirstspeciesorcommunitytocolonizeorrecolonizeabarrenordisturbed
areainprimaryorsecondarysuccession.
PlantationAnartificiallyreforestedareaestablishedbyplantingordirectseeding.
PlantcommunitytypeEachoftheexistingplantcommunitiesthatcanoccupyanecological
site.Severalplantcommunitytypeswilltypicallybefoundonanecologicalsite,includingthe
historicclimaxplantcommunityforthatsite.
Population(1)Theaggregateoforganismswhichinhabitaparticularareaorregion;(2)a
(specified)portionofsuchanaggregate,usuallyagroupoforganismsofthesamekind
occupyinganareasmallenoughtoallowinterbreeding.
PristineAstateofecologicalstabilityorconditionexistingintheabsenceofdirect
disturbancesbymodernman.Seealsorelict.
RaceAtermsometimesusedtodenoteecotypes.
RehabilitationReturnoflandtoaformandproductivitythatconformswithapriorlanduse
plan,includingastableecologicalstatethatdoesnotcontributesubstantiallytoenvironmental
deteriorationandisconsistentwithsurroundingaestheticvalues.Improvingaprojectsitetoa
moredesiredconditionthanpreviouslyexisted,usuallyasresultofamajordisturbance.

Synonymouswithreclamation.
RejuvenationRestoretohealthyvigorousgrowth,oftenthroughweedcontrol,pruning,
fertilization,irrigation,ortreatmentforinsectsanddiseases.
RestorationTheprocessofrestoringsiteconditionsastheywerebeforelanddisturbance.
Note:restorationinvolvesrestoringasitetoaspecificpointintime.
RevegetationEstablishingorreestablishingdesirableplantsinareaswheredesirableplants
areabsentorofinadequatedensity,bymanagementalone(naturalrevegetation)orbyseedingor
transplanting(artificialrevegetation).Ageneraltermforrenewingthevegetationonaproject
site.Referstothevegetationconstructionphaseofreclamation.
RootsTheportionofaplantwhichisgenerallyundergroundandwhichfunctionsinnutrient
absorption,anchorage,andstorageoffoodandwasteproducts.
SalinesoilAsoilconditioninwhichsolublesaltsarepresentinthesoilinsufficientquantities
toaffecttheabilityofplantstoabsorbwaterfromthesoil.MeasuredindeciSiemenspermeter
(dS/M)ormillimhospercentimeter(mmhos/cm)thefollowingquantifiestherangesofsalinity:
<2notsaline;24veryslightlysaline;48slightlysaline;816moderatelysaline;and>16
stronglysaline.
ScaleBudcoveringortiny,bluntleaf.
SeedAfertilizedripenedovuleofafloweringplant.
SeedbankSeedstoredinthesoil,generallyashardordormantseed,whichareviableandwill
germinategivenproperconditions.
ShrubAplantthathaspersistent,woodystems,arelativelylowgrowthhabit,andgenerally
producesseveralbasalshootsinsteadofasinglebole.Itdiffersfromatreebyitslowstatureand
nonarborescentform.
SoftwoodGenerally,oneofthebotanicalgroupsoftressthatinmostcaseshaveneedleor
scalelikeleaves;theconifers;also,thewoodproducedbysuchtrees.
Soilbioengineeringintegratinglivingwoodyandherbaceousmaterialswithorganicand
inorganicmaterialstoincreasethestrengthandstructureofthesoil.
SoiltextureTherelativeportionofsand,silt,andclayinthesoil.
SpeciescompositionTheproportionsofvariousplantspeciesinrelationtothetotalonagiven
area.Itmaybeexpressedintermsofcover,density,weight,etc.
Succession(1)Theprogressivereplacementofplantcommunitiesonasitewhichleadstothe
potentialnaturalplantcommunity,i.e.,attainingstability.Primarysuccessionentails
simultaneoussuccessionsofsoilfromparentmaterialandvegetation.Secondarysuccession
occursfollowingdisturbancesonsitesthatpreviouslysupportedvegetation,andentailsplant
successiononamorematuresoil.(2)Theprogressivedevelopmentofvegetationtowardits
highestecologicalexpression,theclimaxreplacementofoneplantcommunitybyanother.
Taxona taxonomic group of any rank, such as a species, family, or class.
TotalannualproductionTheannualproductionofasinglespeciesorallplantspeciesofa
plantcommunity.
TransplantAplant,whichhasbeenremovedfromitsoriginalseedbedandreplantedoneor
moretimes(commoninnurseries).
TreeAwoodyperennial,usuallysinglestemmedplantthathasadefinitecrownshapeand
reachesamatureheightofatleast4meters.Thedistinctionbetweenwoodyplantsknownas
treesandthosecalledshrubsisgradual.Someplantsgrowaseithertreesorshrubs.
WatertableThehighestpointinasoilprofilewherewatercontinuallysaturatesthesoilona
seasonalorpermanentbasis.
WatertoleranceRelativeabilityofaplanttoreproduceandgrowundersaturatedorflooded
conditions.
WetlandsAreascharacterizedbysoilsthatareusuallysaturatedorponded;i.e.,hydricsoils,
andthatsupportmostlywaterlovingplants;i.e.,hydrophyticplants.
WildlifehabitatTheenvironmentofananimal,ideallyprovidingallelementsrequiredforlife
andgrowth;food,water,coverandspace.