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a particular location on Earth distinguished by its particular mix of interacting biotic and abiotic components

ecosystem boundaries

some ecosystems have these; however, in most ecosystems it is difficult to determine where one ecosystem stops and the next begins

cellular respiration

the process by which other organisms gain energy from eating the tissues of producers

producers (autotrophs)

are able to use the suns energy to produce usable energy through the process called photosynthesis

consumers (heterotrophs)

obtain energy by consuming other organisms

primary consumers (herbivores)

consume producers

secondary consumers (carnivores)

obtain their energy by eating primary consumers

tertiary consumers (carnivores)

eat secondary consumers

food chain

the sequence of consumption from producers through tertiary consumers

food web

a more realistic type of food chain that takes into account the complexity of nature

gross primary productivity (GPP)

the total amount of solar energy that the producer in an ecosystem capture via photosynthesis over a given amount of time

net primary productivity (NPP)

the energy capture (GPP) minus the energy respired by producers


the energy in an ecosystem is measured in terms of this

standing crop

the amount of biomass present in an ecosystem at a particular time

ecological efficiency

the proportion of consumed energy that can be passed from one tropic level to another

trophic pyramid

the representation of the distribution of biomass among trophic levels


the combination of all ecosystems on Earth

biogeochemical cycles

the movement of matter within and between ecosystems involving biological, geologic, and chemical processes


the process where plants release water from their leaves into the atmosphere


the combined amount of evaporation and transpiration


when water moves across the land surface into streams and rivers, eventually reaching the ocean


water moves down into the soil where plants can absorb it, or down through layers of rock to recharge aquifers

nitrogen fixation

bacteria convert nitrogen gas to ammonia [or ammonium ion]


plants absorb nitrate


decomposers break down organic nitrogen into ammonium


bacteria convert nitrates into nitrogen gas


an event caused by physical, chemical, or biological agents that results in changes in population size or community composition; not necessarily bad


all of the land in a given landscape that drains into a particular stream, river, lake, or wetland


a measure of how much a disturbance can affect the flow/exchange of energy and matter in an ecosystem; the ability of an ecosystem to resist change from a disturbance


the rate at which an ecosystem returns to its original state after a disturbance

restoration ecology

a new scientific discipline that is interested in restoring damaged ecosystems

intermediate disturbance hypothesis

states that ecosystems experiencing intermediate levels of disturbance are more diverse than those with high or low disturbance levels

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