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Ecology Definitions

Module 3: Ecosystems and Sustainability - Key Terms

TermDefinition
Ecosystem all the living organisms and all the non-living components in a specific habitat, and their interactions
Habitat the place where an organism lives
Population all the organisms of one species, who live in the same place at the same time, and can breed together
Community all the populations of different species who live in the same place at the same time, and can interact with each other
Producer an autotrophic organism that converts light energy to chemical energy, which is then supplied to consumers
Consumer a living organism that feeds on another living organism
Decomposer an organism that feeds on dead organic matter
Trophic Level the level at which an organism feeds in a food chain
Niche the role that a species plays in an ecosystem
Productivity a measure of the rate at which energy passes through each trophic level in a food chain
Primary Productivity the rate of production of new biomass by producers; the total energy fixed by photosynthesis and used to synthesise organic molecules
Net Primary Productivity gross primary productivity minus the energy lost; the total amount of energy available to primary consumers
Succession a directional change in a community of organisms over time
Sere an intermediate stage found in ecological succession in an ecosystem advancing towards its climax community
Conservation the maintenance of biodiversity, including diversity between species, genetic diversity within species, and maintenance of a variety of habitats and ecosystems; but the area can still be sustainably exploited
Preservation protection of species by leaving their habitat completely untouched
Carrying Capacity the maximum population size that can be maintained over a period of time in a particular habitat
Biotic Factors factors resulting from the living organisms in an ecosystem: food supply, predation and disease
Abiotic Factors factors resulting from the non-living components of an ecosystem: pH, temperature and soil type
Gross Primary Productivity the rate at which plants convert light energy into chemical energy
Nitrification the oxidation of ammonium ions to nitrite ions or nitrate ions by chemoautotrophic bacteria
Denitrification the conversion of nitrate ions back to nitrogen gas
Nitrogen Fixation the conversion of nitrogen gas to organic nitrogen in the soil (e.g. ammonium ions)
Limiting Factor a factor that, when in short supply, limits the rate of a reaction or limits growth
Competition the interaction of organisms when resources are not present in adequate amounts to satisfy the needs of all the organisms who depend on those resources
Coppicing cutting a tree trunk close to the ground to encourage new growth
Biodiversity the variety and variability of life; within species, between species and between ecosystems
Created by: GraceAlston