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Vocab from chapters 3-12, 15-16 of Living in the Environment 15th edition

deep ocean

Of all the aquatic biomes on earth, we know the least about the _____.

coral reefs

Where are the most biodiversity found?

aquatic ecosystems

_____ provide flood control, climate moderation, and nutrients cycling.

trawl fishing

____ has the most destructive effects on ocean floor ecosystems.

commercially extinct

When fish populations are temporarily reduced due to overfishing, they are said to be _____.

tragedy of the commons

The depletion of the world's marine fish stocks due to overfishing is a classic example of _____.


Whales and porpoises are called _____.

International Whaling Commission

intergovernmental organization that sets quotas for hunting certain whale species

optimum sustainable yield

_____ is the most beneficial to fish populations when estimating marine fish populations.

high seas

Ocean areas beyond any country's legal jurisdiction.


The largest wetlands restoration project in the US is in the _____.

US Army Corps of Engineers

The _____ is responsible for undoing the development of the Everglades that the same agency has done since the 1940s.

alien species

_____ is considered the single greatest threat to the Great Lakes.

Columbia River

The worlds largest hydroelectric power system is located on the _____.

Zebra mussel

_____ was introduced into the Great Lakes and has now spread through most of the major river systems in central and eastern U.S.

national wild and scenic rivers act

Under _____ protection can be offered to rivers and river segments with cultural and historic value, wildlife and scenic value, and recreational value.


the genetic, species, and ecological diversity of the organisms in a given area

biodiversity hot spots

Areas with exceptionally high numbers of endemic species

endangered species

A species considered to be in imminent danger of extinction

intrinsic value

Value of an organism, species, ecosystem, or the earth's biodiversity based on its existence, regardless of whether it has any usefulness to us.


The irrevocable elimination of species; can be a normal process of the natural world as species out-compete and kill off others or as environmental conditions change

habitat conservation plan

Agreements under which property owners are allowed to harvest resources or develop land as long as habitat is conserved or replaced in ways that benefit resident endangered or threatened species in the long run. Some incidental "taking" or loss of endangered species is generally allowed in such plans

invasive species

Organisms that thrive in new territory where they are free of predators, diseases, or resource limitations that may have controlled their population in their native habitat

threatened species

While still abundant in parts of its territorial range, this species has declined significantly in total numbers and may be on the verge of extinction in certain regions or localities

vulnerable species

Naturally rare organisms or species whose numbers have been reduced by human activities that they are susceptible to actions that could push them into threatened or endangered status

crude oil

the form petroleum takes when in the ground


the capacity to work


a nuclear reaction in which an atomic nucleus, especially a heavy nucleus such as an isotope of uranium, splits into fragments, usually two fragments of com¬parable mass, releasing from 100 million to several hundred million electron volts of energy.

fossil fuel

a hydrocarbon deposit, such as petroleum, coal, or natural gas, derived from living matter of a previous geologic time and used for fuel.

First Law of Thermodynamics

says that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only be transferred and transformed.

fly ash

a waste product produced by the burning of coal.

half life

the amount of time it takes for half of a radioactive sample to disappear.


the process of fusing two nuclei.


the rocks and Earth that is removed when mining for a commercially valuable mineral resource.


a hydrocarbon that forms as sediments are buried and pressurized.


devices containing alkaline substances that precipitate out much of the sulfur dioxide from industrial plants.

Second Law of Thermodynamics

when energy is changed from one form to another, some useful energy is always degraded into lower quality energy (usually heat)

strip mining

involves the removal of the Earth's surface all the way down to the level of the mineral seam.

underground mining

involves the sinking of shafts to reach underground deposoits. In this type of mining, networks of tunnels are dug or blasted and humans enter these tunnels in order to manually retrieve the coal.

Surface mining

removing shallow deposits such as nonfuel mineral and rock resources and 60% of U.S. coal

Open-pit mining

is used to create large pits to extract iron, copper, sand, gravel, and stone

Strip mining

used for extracting mineral deposits that lie close to the earth's surface in large horizontal beds

Contour strip mining

used on mountainous terrain; Terraces cut into the sides of hills; highwalls


the material that is extracted from the ground


the waste material left over after the desired metal is extracted


solid waste left over from ore mineral removal


the process of heating ores to remove metals

Cyanide heap extraction

involves spraying toxic cyanide salts on heaps of crushed ore, where it reacts with the material and separates the gold from the ore

Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act

requires mining companies to restore most surface-mined land by grading and replanting it

Net energy

the amount of high-quality energy that is available to be used from a resource after subtracting the energy needed to make it usable

Crude oil

a thick liquid hydrocarbon that is extracted from underground deposits and separated into a wide variety of products


made of long chains of carbon atoms bonded together and also bonded to hydrogen, as well as smaller amounts of sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen

Peak production

passes when the pressure starts to decline and more and more energy is expended to get oil to the surface (Generally only 35-50% of oil is retrieved from any particular well)

Natural gas

is a mixture of gases, with a majority of methane (CH4)

Conventional natural gas

found above most reservoirs of crude oil


Partially decayed plant matter in swamps and bogs, low heat content


brown coal; coal with a low heat content; low sulfur content; limited supplies in most areas


soft coal; Coal that is extensively used as a fuel because of its high heat content and large supplies; normally has a high sulfur content


hard coal; highly desirable fuel because of its high heat content and low sulfur content; supplies are limited in most areas

Coal gasification

the process behind the concept of "clean coal," and is designed to remove carbon dioxide from the emissions produced by burning coal and turn coal into liquid gas fuel

Barrier Islands

Low, narrow, sandy islands that form offshore from a coastline.

Benthic zone

The bottom of a sea or lake.


A broad, regional type of ecosystem characterized by distinctive climate and soil conditions and a distinctive kind of biological community adapted to those conditions.


An area of waterlogged soil that tends to be peaty; fed mainly by precipitation; low productivity; some are acidic.

Boreal Forrest

A broad band of mixed coniferous and deciduous trees that stretches across northern North America (and also Europe and Asia); its northernmost edge, the taiga, intergrades with the arctic tundra,


Thick, dense, thorny evergreen scrub found in Mediterranean climates.

Cloud Forest

High mountain forests where temperatures are uniformally cool and fog or mist keeps vegetation wet all the time.


Needle-bearing trees that produce seeds in cones.

Coral Reefs

Prominent oceanic features composed of hard, limy skeletons produced by coral animals; usually formed along edges of shallow, submerged ocean banks or along shelves in warm, shallow, tropical seas.


Trees and shrubs that shed their leaves at the end of the growing season.


A type of biome characterized by low moisture levels and infrequent and unpredictable precipitation. Daily and seasonal temperatures fluctuate widely.


A bay or drowned valley where a river empties into the sea.


A biome dominated by grasses and associated herbaceous plants.


Trees from a number of genera that live in salt water.


Wetland without trees; in North America, this type of land is characterized by cattails and rushes.


A ridge of rocks or sand, often of coral debris, at or near the surface of the water.


Wetland with trees.


The northernmost edge of the boreal forest, including species-poor woodland and peat deposits; intergrading with the arctic tundra.

Temperate Rainforest

The cool, dense rainy forest of the northern Pacific coast; enshrouded in fog much of the time; dominated by large conifers.

Tropical Rainforest

Forests in which rainfall is abundant- more than 00 cm (80 in.) per year- and temperatures are warm to hot year-round.


Treeless arctic or alpine biome characterized by cold, harsh winters, a short growing season, and potential for frost any month of the year; vegetation includes low-growing perennial plants, mosses, and lichens.


Ecosystems of several types in which rooted vegetation is surrounded by standing water during part of the year.




pertaining to life; environmental factors created by living organisms

biotic potential

The maximum reproductive rate of an organism when given unlimited resources and ideal environmental conditions.

carrying capacity

the maximum number of individuals of any species that can be supported by a particular ecosystem on a long term basis

demographic bottleneck

a population founded when just a few members of a species survive a catastrophic event or create a new habitat geographically isolated from other members of the same species


a sudden decline in population


the movement of members from a given population

environmental resistance

all the limiting factors that tend to reduce population growth rates, set the maximum allowable population growth rates and set the maximum allowable population size or carrying capacity of an ecosystem

exponential growth

growth at a constant rate of increase per unit of time; can be expressed as a constant fraction or exponent


the actual physical ability to reproduce


measurement of actual number of offspring produced through sexual reproduction: usually described in terms of number of offspring of females, since paternity can be difficult to determine

founder effect

the effect on a population founded when just a few members of a species survive a catastrophic event or when they create a new habitat geographically isolated from other members of the same species

genetic drift

the gradual changes in gene frequencies in a population due to random events

irruptive growth

a population explosion followed by a population crash

island biogeography

the study of rates of colonization and extinction of species on islands or other isolated areas based on size, shape, and distance from other inhabited regions

J curve

a growth curve that depicts exponential growth

life expectancy

the average age that a newborn infant can expect to attain in a particular time and place

life span

the longest period of life reached by a type of organism

logistic growth

growth rates regulated by internal and external factors that establish an equilibrium with environmental resources


death rate in a population; the probability of dying


production of new individuals by birth, hatching, germination, or cloning


the extent to which a population exceeds the carrying capacity of its environment

population crash

a sudden population decline caused by predation, waste accumulation, or resource depletion

population explosion

growth of a population at exponential rates to a size that exceeds environmental carrying capacity; usually followed by a population crash

S curve

a curve that depicts logistic growth


the percentage of a population reaching a given age or the proportion of the maximum life span of the species reached by any individual


Any genetically controlled structural, physiological, or behavioral characteristic that helps an organism survive and reproduce under a given set of environmental conditions. It usually results from a beneficial mutation.

adaptive radiation

Process in which numerous new species evolve to fill vacant and new ecological niches in changed environments, usually after a mass extinction. Typically, this takes millions of years.

artificial selection

Process by which humans select one or more desirable genetic traits in the population of a plant or animal species and then use selective breeding to produce populations containing many individuals with the desired traits. Compare genetic engineering, natural selection.

background extinction

Normal extinction of various species as a result of changes in local environmental conditions. Compare mass depletion, mass extinction.

Biological evolution

Change in the genetic makeup of a population of a species in successive generations. If continued long enough, it can lead to the formation of a new species. Note that populations not individuals evolve. See also adaptation, differential reproduction, natural selection, theory of evolution.


Use of genetically engineered animals to act as biofactories for producing drugs, vaccines, antibodies, hormones, industrial chemicals such as plastics and detergents, and human body organs.

chemical evolution

Formation of the earth and its early crust and atmosphere, evolution of the biological molecules necessary for life, and evolution of systems of chemical reactions needed to produce the first living cells. These processes are believed to have occurred about 1 billion years before biological evolution. Compare biological evolution.


Evolution in which two or more species interact and exert selective pressures on each other that can lead each species to undergo various adaptations. See evolution, natural selection.

differential reproduction

Phenomenon in which individuals with adaptive genetic traits produce more living offspring than do individuals without such traits. See natural selection.

domesticated species

Wild species tamed or genetically altered by crossbreeding for use by humans for food (cattle, sheep, and food crops), pets (dogs and cats), or enjoyment (animals in zoos and plants in gardens). Compare wild species.

ecological niche

Total way of life or role of a species in an ecosystem. It includes all physical, chemical, and biological conditions a species needs to live and reproduce in an ecosystem. See fundamental niche, realized niche.

endemic species

Species that is found in only one area. Such species are especially vulnerable to extinction.


Complete disappearance of a species from the earth. This happens when a species cannot adapt and successfully reproduce under new environmental conditions or when it evolves into one or more new species. Compare speciation. See also endangered species, mass depletion, mass extinction, threatened species.


Skeletons, bones, shells, body parts, leaves, seeds, or impressions of such items that provide recognizable evidence of organisms that lived long ago.

fundamental niche

The full potential range of the physical, chemical, and biological factors a species can use if there is no competition from other species. See ecological niche. Compare realized niche.

gene pool

The sum total of all genes found in the individuals of the population of a particular species.

generalist species

Species with a broad ecological niche. They can live in many different places, eat a variety of foods, and tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions. Examples are flies, cockroaches, mice, rats, and human beings. Compare specialist species.

genetic adaptation

Changes in the genetic makeup of organisms of a species that allow the species to reproduce and gain a competitive advantage under changed environmental conditions. See differential reproduction, evolution, mutation, natural selection.

genetic engineering

Insertion of an alien gene into an organism to give it a beneficial genetic trait. Compare artificial selection, natural selection.

geographic isolation

Separation of populations of a species for long times into different areas.


Animals that have no backbones.


Long-term, large-scale evolutionary changes among groups of species. Compare microevolution.

mass depletion

Widespread, often global period during which extinction rates are higher than normal but not high enough to classify as a mass extinction. Compare background extinction, mass extinction.

mass extinction

A catastrophic, widespread, often global event in which major groups of species are wiped out over a short time compared with normal (background) extinctions. Compare background extinction, mass depletion.


The small genetic changes a population undergoes. Compare macroevolution.


Random change in DNA molecules making up genes that can alter anatomy, physiology, or behavior in offspring. See mutagen.

natural selection

Process by which a particular beneficial gene (or set of genes) is reproduced in succeeding generations more than other genes. The result of natural selection is a population that contains a greater proportion of organisms better adapted to certain environmental conditions. See adaptation, biological evolution, differential reproduction, mutation.

realized niche

Parts of the fundamental niche of a species that are actually used by that species. See ecological niche, fundamental niche.

reproductive isolation

Long-term geographic separation of members of a particular sexually reproducing species.

specialist species

Species with a narrow ecological niche. They may be able to live in only one type of habitat, tolerate only a narrow range of climatic and other environmental conditions, or use only one type or a few types of food. Compare generalist species.


Formation of two species from one species because of divergent natural selection in response to changes in environmental conditions; usually takes thousands of years. Compare extinction.


Individuals of a species that live in a habitat patch.

theory of evolution

Widely accepted scientific idea that all life forms developed from earlier life forms.


Animals that have backbones.

adaptive trait

any heritable trait that enables an organism to survive through natural selections and reproduce better under prevailing environmental conditions


occurs when species crossbreed to produce fertile offspring

horizontal gene transfer

When some species can exchange genes without sexual reproduction


zone of earth where life is found, abiotic and biotic factors


communities with different species interacting with each other and the environment


populations of different species occupying an area


a group of the same species occupying a specific region

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