Ecology Vocabulary

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ecosystem
the complex interplay between the living organisms and the physical environment in a specific area; made up of a community of plants, animals, bacteria, and other microorganisms and their physical environment
organism
any living thing
population
all the organisms of a species that live in a specific area
biotic factor
all the living things that affect an ecosystem
abiotic factor
all the non-living things such as soil, minerals, climate, water, sunlight, wind, and topography of the land that can affect the ecosystem
food chain
a model that shows how materials are transferred from producers to different levels of consumers in an ecosystem; the basis is energy stored in green plants
photosynthesis
green plants use the energy of sunlight to change carbon dioxide and water into simple carbohydrates (sugar) and oxygen
producer
an organism that can make its own food; green plants, some algae, and some bacteria are examples
consumer
an organism that cannot make its own food, and therefore must eat food; all animals are examples
herbivore
a consumer that eats only plants
carnivore
a consumer that eats only animals
omnivore
a consumer that eats both plants and animals
food web
a model that shows the complex variety of energy sources available to most consumers in an ecosystem
predator
an animal that lives by capturing and feeding upon other animals
prey
an animal that is hunted and killed for food by another animal
primary consumer
usually herbivores, feeding on plants and fungus
secondary consumer
mainly carnivores; they prey on other animals (primary consumers)
tertiary consumer
a carnivore at the topmost level in a food chain that feeds on other carnivores; an animal that feeds only on secondary consumers