UCMP Glossary: Ecology
absorption -- The taking in of water and dissolved minerals and nutrients across cell membranes. Contrast with ingestion.
anaerobic -- Pertaining to the absence of free oxygen. Anaerobic organisms do not require oxygen for their life processes, in fact oxygen is toxic to many of them. Most anaerobic organisms are bacteria or archaeans.
autotroph -- Any organism that is able to manufacture its own food. Most plants are autotrophs, as are many protists and bacteria. Contrast with consumer. Autotrophs may be photoautotrophic, using light energy to manufacture food, or chemoautotrophic, using chemical energy.
biomes -- The world's major communities, classified according to the predominant vegetation and characterized by adaptations of organisms to that particular environment. MORE?
carnivore -- Literally, an organism that eats meat. Most carnivores are animals, but a few fungi, plants, and protists are as well.
consumer -- Any organism which must consume other organisms (living or dead) to satisfy its energy needs. Contrast with autotroph.
disease -- Organisms suffer from disease when their normal function is impaired by some genetic disorder, or more often from the activity of a parasite or other organism living within them. Many diseases are caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi.
ecosystem -- All the organisms in a particular region and the environment in which they live. The elements of an ecosystem interact with each other in some way, and so depend on each other either directly or indirectly.
environment -- The place in which an organism lives, and the circumstances under which it lives. Environment includes measures like moisture and temperature, as much as it refers to the actual physical place where an organism is found.
food chain/food web -- All the interactions of predator and prey, included along with the exchange of nutrients into and out of the soil. These interactions connect the various members of an ecosystem, and describe how energy passes from one organism to another.
grassland -- Region in which the climate is dry for long periods of the summer, and freezes in the winter. Grasslands are characterized by grasses and other erect herbs, usually without trees or shrubs. Grasslands occur in the dry temperate interiors of continents, and first appeared in the Miocene.
Groundwater -- Water found underground as a result of rainfall, ice and snow melt, submerged rivers, lakes, and springs. This water often carries minerals. These minerals can accumulate in the remains of buried organisms and eventually cause fossilization.
herbivore -- Literally, an organism that eats plants or other autotrophic organisms. The term is used primarily to describe animals.
ingestion -- The intake of water or food particles by "swallowing" them, taking them into the body cavity or into a vacuole. Contrast with absorption.
kelp forest -- Marine ecosystem dominated by large kelps. These forests are restricted to cold and temperate waters, and are most common along the western coasts of continents. Kelp forests first appeared in the Miocene.
niche -- n. The portion of the environment which a species occupies, defined in terms of the conditions under which an organism can survive, and may be affected by the presence of other competing organisms.
nitrogen fixation -- The conversion of gaseous nitrogen into a form usable by plants. Ususally by bacteria.
nutrient cycling -- All the processes by which nutrients are transferred from one organism to another. For instance, the carbon cycle includes uptake of carbon dioxide by plants, ingestion by animals, and respiration and decay of the animal.
parasite -- n. An organism that lives on or within a host (another organism); it obtains nutrients from the host without benefiting or killing (although it may damage) the host; parasitic- adj.; parasitism- n. a type of symbiotic relationship in which one organism benefits and the other does not.
periphyton -- Dense strands of algal growth that cover the water surface between the emergant aquatic plants. Spirogyra is commonly responsible for this growth.
plankton -- n. Very small, free-floating organisms of the ocean or other aquatic systems, including phytoplankton, which produce their own nutrients through photosynthesis, or zooplankton, which get their nutrients from organisms.
pollinator -- Animal which carries pollen from one seed plant to another, unwittingly aiding the plant in its reproduction. Common pollinators include insects, especially bees, butterflies, and moths, birds, and bats.
producer -- Any organism which brings energy into an ecosystem from inorganic sources. Most plants and many protists are producers.
rain shadow -- n. The dry region on the leeward side of a mountain range, where rainfall is noticeably less than on the windward side. For example, the White Mountains in east central California are in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada.
specialist -- Organism which has adopted a lifestyle specific to a particular set of conditions. Contrast with generalist.
substrate -- "Supporting surface" on which an organism grows. The substrate may simply provide structural support, or may provide water and nutrients. A substrate may be inorganic, such as rock or soil, or it may be organic, such as wood.
symbiosis -- n. A relationship between two organisms that live in intimate contact with each other; includes mutualism (both organisms benefit, they rely on each other for survival), parasitism (one organism benefits at its host's expense) and commensalism (one partner benefits and the other is neither benefitted nor harmed); symbiotic- adj.
tropical -- Region in which the climate undergoes little seasonal change in either temperature or rainfall. Tropical regions of the earth lie primarily between 30 degrees north and south of the equator.
tundra -- n. A vast, mostly flat, treeless Arctic region of Europe, Asia, and North America in which the subsoil is permanently frozen. The dominant vegetation is low-growing lichens, mosses, and stunted shrubs.
upwelling -- The raising of benthic nutrients to the surface waters. This occurs in regions where the flow of water brings currents of differing temperatures together, and increases productivity of the ecosystem.
zooplankton -- Tiny, free-floating organisms in aquatic systems. Unlike phytoplankton, zooplankton cannot produce their own food, and so are consumers.