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174 terms

Environmental Science Vocabulary

Vocab terms and definitions for vocab test on 2/4/11.
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Indicator Organisms
Organisms that indicate particular conditions.
Succession
The sequence of changes in a plant community over time.
Soil Horizon
The horizontal layer(s) into which many soils are organized.
Weathering
Process in which rock is broken down into smaller and smaller pieces.
Urban Heat Sink
Local heat buildup in an area with low population.
Global Warming
Process in which global temperatures rise due to a variety of factors, resulting in environmental conflict.
Chaparral
A biome with a Mediterranean climate.
Endangered
Species at risk for extinction.
Threatened
Species at risk for endangerment.
Critical Habitat
Habitat created for the rehabilitation of threatened and endangered species.
Restoration
The process of returning a degraded environment as close as possible to its former, undisturbed state.
Brownfield
An urban area of abandoned: vacant factories, warehouses, and residential sites that may be contaminated.
Biomagnification
The increasing concentration of a substance in the tissues of an organism at higher levels of the food chain.
Bioremediation
A method employed to clean up a hazardous waste site that uses micro-organisms to break down toxic pollutants.
Pioneer Species
Species that initially colonized a particular area.
Boreal Forest
A region of coniferous forest in the Northern Hemisphere.
Industrial Revolution
The shift in the mid-1700's from rural life to urban.
Sustainable Resources
Resources that can meet the needs of the present without compensating future needs.
GAIA Theory
The collective name for a series of hypotheses that Earth's organisms adjust the environment to keep it habitable for life.
Thomas Malthus
British economist that pointed out that population growth isn't always desirable.
Environmentalism
The concern of environmental quality.
Rachel Carson
Wrote about interrelationships among living organisms, including humans, and the natural environment.
Paradigm
A dominant philosophical and theoretical framework within a scientific discipline.
Chemoautotrophic Hypothesis
Hypothesis stating that an organism obtains nourishment through the oxidation of inorganic chemicals.
Montreal Protocol
International negotiations that resulted in a timetable to phase out CFC production.
Kyoto Protocol
An international treaty that stipulates that highly developed countries must cut their emissions of CO2 and other gases that cause climate warming by an averaged 5.2% by 2012.
Clean Air Act
Took place in 1970 to set stricter standards for air quality; Revised in 1990.
World View
One of many perspectives based on a collection of our basic values.
Relativist
An ethicist who maintains that do and should vary with social context.
Universalist
An ethicist who maintains that there exist objective notions of right and wrong that hold across cultures and situations.
Anthropo Centrism
A human-centered view of our relationship with the environment.
Ecocentrism
A philosophy that considers actions in terms of their damage or benefit to the integrity of whole ecological systems.
Transcendentalism
Movement that called on people to view objects in the world as small versions of the whole universe, and to trust their individual institutions.
Resource Partitioning
The reduction in competition for environmental resources that occurs among coexisting species as a result of each species' niche differing from the others in one or more ways.
Niche
The totality of an organism's adaptations, its use of resources, and the lifestyle to which it's fitted.
Saprophytes
Organisms that feed on dead matter; Aids in decomposition process.
Amensalism
A relationship between members of different species in which one organism is harmed and the other is unaffected.
Commensalism
A relationship between members of different species in which one organism benefits and the other is unaffected.
Mutualism
A relationship in which all participating organisms benefit from their interaction.
Hypoxia
The condition of extremely low dissolved oxygen concentrations in a body of water.
Transboundary Sewage
Sewage that is generated in one country, but able to cause harm in another.
Heterotrophic Hypothesis
Idea that life evolved from a primordial soup of simple inorganic chemicals.
Extraterrestrial Hypothesis
Modification to heterotrophic hypothesis in which early chemical reactions had help from outer space.
Artificial Selection
Natural selection conducted under human direction.
OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conservation)
The generation of electricity from ocean temperature gradients.
Immigration
A type of dispersal in which individuals enter a population and thus increase its size.
Emigration
A type of dispersal in which individuals leave a population and thus decrease its size.
Type I Survivorship
Survivorship curve in which probability of death is greater later in life.
Type II Survivorship
Survivorship curve in which probability of survival does not change with age.
Type III Survivorship
Survivorship curve in which probability of death is greater earlier in life.
Enzymes
Any of various proteins originating from living cells and capable of producing certain chemical changes through catalytic action.
Biotic Potential
Potential for growth of a population under certain conditions.
IPAT Model
Model that shows the mathematical relationship between environmental impacts and the forces that drive them. (Number of people, affluence per person, environmental effects of technologies, etc).
Phylogenetic Tree
A tree-like diagram that represents the history of divergence of species or other taxonomic groups of organisms.
Disruptive Selection
Describes changes in population genetics in which extreme values for a trait are favored over intermediate values.
Directional Selection
A particular mode of natural selection when it favors a single phenotype over others.
K-T Mass Extinction
A large-scale mass extinction of animal and plant species in a geologically short period of time that occurred about 65.5 million years ago.
Age Structure Diagram
Diagram representing the number and proportion of people at each age in a population.
Density-Dependent
Meaning that it affects population as population changes.
Keystone Species
A species that is crucial in determining the nature and structure of the entire ecosystem in which it lives.
Umbrella Species
Species selected for making conservation-related decisions.
Negative Feedback Loop
A situation in which a change in some condition triggers a response that counteracts, or reverses, the changed condition.
Positive Feedback Loop
A situation in which a change in some condition triggers a response that intensifies the condition.
Biosphere
All of Earth's organisms and their interactions with each other, the land, the water, and the atmosphere.
Nitrogen Cycle
The circulation of nitrogen; nitrates from the soil are absorbed by plants which are eaten by animals that die and decay returning the nitrogen back to the soil.
Phosphate Cycle
The biogeochemical cycle that describes the movement of phosphorus through the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere
Carbon Cycle
•Sequence of transformations whereby carbon dioxide is converted to organic forms by photosynthesis or chemosynthesis, recycled through the biosphere (with partial incorporation into sediments), and ultimately returned to its original state through respiration or combustion.
Net Productivity
Energy that remains in an ecosystem after cellular respiration has occurred.
First Law of Thermodynamics
Energy cannot be created or destroyed, although it can change from one form to another.
Second Law of Thermodynamics
When energy is converted from one form to another, some of it is degraded into heat, a less-usable form that disperses into the environment.
Watershed
A land area that delivers water into a stream or river system.
Hydrosphere
Earth's supply of water. (All forms).
Lithosphere
The soil and rock of Earth's crust.
Mantle
The malleable layer of rock that lies beneath Earth's crust and surrounds a mostly iron core.
Crust
The lightweight outer layer of the Earth, consisting of rock that floats atop the malleable mantle, which in turn surrounds a mostly iron core.
Clay
The smallest inorganic soil particles.
Humus
Black or dark brown decomposed organic material.
Silt
Medium-sized inorganic soil particles.
Sand
Inorganic soil particles that are larger than silt or clay.
John Muir
Scottish immigrant to the United States who eventually settled in California. Most strongly associated with the "preservation ethic."
UNCLOS
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. International agreement that resulted from the 3rd Law of the Sea Convention which occurred from 1973 to 1982.
Acute Toxicity
Adverse effects that occur within a short period after exposure to the accident.
Chronic Toxicity
Adverse effects that occur after a long period of exposure to a toxicant.
LD-50
The amount of toxicant it takes to kill 50% of a population of test animals.
R-Selected Species
Species that typically have a small body size, rapid development, short life span, and devotes a large proportion of its metabolic energy to the production of offspring.
K-Selected Species
Species that typically have a large body size, slow development, long life span, and does not devote a large proportion of its metabolic energy to the production of offspring.
Ecotones
Transitional zones where ecosystems meet.
Convergent
Area where plate tectonics collide
Divergent
Area where plate tectonics are divided and pushed apart.
Transform
Area where two tectonic plates meet and slip and grind alongside one another.
Plate
A rigid layer of the earth's crust that is believed to drift slowly.
Cartagena Protocol
An international agreement on biosafety that regulated the trade of genetically engineered products.
Madrid Protocol
The primary international system for facilitating the registration of trademarks in multiple jurisdictions around the world.
Desertification
A loss of more than 10% of a land's productivity due to erosion, soil compactation, forest removal, overgrazing, drought, salinization, climate change, etc.
Intercropping
Planting different types of crops in alternating bands or other spatially mixed organisms.
Urban Ecology
A scientific field that views cities explicitly as ecosystems.
Benthic
Of, relating to, or living on the bottom of a body of water.
Littoral
Of, relating to, or living along shorelines between the highest reach of the highest tide, and the lowest reach of the lowest tide.
Terracing
A soil conservation method that involves building dikes on hilly terrain to produce level, terraced areas for agriculture.
Aquaculture
The rearing of aquatic organisms, either freshwater or marine, for human consumption.
Endocrine Disrupter
A chemical that interferes with the actions of the endocrine system.
DDT
Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane; a chlorine-containing organic compount that has insecticidal properties.
Profundal Zone
The deepest zone of a large lake.
Limnetic
The open-water area away from the shore of a lake or a pond that extends as far as the sunlight penetrates.
Polyculture
A type of intercropping in which several kinds of plants that mature at different times are planted together.
Reduced Tillage
Tillage types that leave 15-30 percent residue cover after planting.
Transgenic
Of, pertaining to, or containing a gene or genes transferred from another species.
GMO
Genetically Modified Organism; An organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.
Integrated Pest Management
An agricultural pest control strategy that utilizes a variety of complementary strategies among others. (I.e. Cultural Management, Chemical Management, etc).
Atrazine
A triazine herbicide that inhibits photosynthesis.
FIFRA
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act; U.S. federal law that set up the basic U.S. system of pesticide regulation to protect applicators, consumers, and the environment.
Biodiversity Hot Spots
Areas that support an especially great diversity of species, particularly those that are endemic to the area.
Red List
An updated list of species facing unusually high risks of extinction.
Marine Reserves
Areas of the ocean designated as "no-fishing" zones, allowing no extractive activities.
Dam
Any obstruction placed in a river or stream to block the flow of water so that the water can be stores in a reservoir.
Upwelling
A rising ocean current that transports colder, nutrient-laden water to the surface.
Continental Shelves
The submerged, relatively flat ocean bottoms that surround continents.
Methane Hydrates
Reserves of ice-encrusted natural gas located in porous rock in the arctic tundra.
Bycatch
Unwanted fish, dolphins, and sea-turtles that are caught along with commercially valuable fishes and then dumped, dead or dying, back into the ocean.
PCB
Polychlorinated biphenyls; Chlorine-containing organic compounds that enjoyed a wide variety of industrial uses until their dangerous properties were recognized.
Ozone
O3; A blue gas with a distinctive odor. Human-made pollutant in the troposphere; Important for stratosphere.
CO
Carbon Monoxide; Poisonous and reduces the blood's ability to transport oxygen.
CO2
Carbon Dioxide; Greenhouse gas; Buildup associated with global warming.
CITES
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species; Aimed to ensure that trade of specimens did not threaten their survival.
No Fly Zones
Territories in which aircraft is not permitted to fly.
Levees
A natural or artificial slope or wall to regulate water levels.
Dike
A natural or artificial slope or wall to regulate water levels.
CFC
Chlorofluorocarbon; Chemical compound that depletes ozone.
Dinoflagellate
Large group of flagellate protists; Contributes to red tide through forming toxic blooms.
Biodiesel
Diesel fuel produced by mixing vegetable oil, used cooking grease, or animal fat with small amounts of ethanol or methanol in the presence of a chemical catalyst.
Wastewater
Any water that is used in households, businesses, industries, or public facilities, and is drained or flushed down pipes. (I.e. run-off).
Ecological Footprint
The cumulative amount of land and water required to provide the raw materials a person or population consumes and to dispose of or recycle the waste that is produced.
Gray Water
Waste-water generated from domestic activities. (i.e. laundry, dishwashing, bathing).
BTU
British Thermal Unit; Unit of amount of heat required to raise one pound of water one degree fahrenheit at one atmospheric pressure.
VOC
Volatile Organic Compound; Organic chemical compounds that have high enough vapor pressures under normal conditions to vaporize and enter Earth's atmosphere.
Xeriscape
Landscaping and gardening in ways that reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental irrigation.
Manganese Nodule
A small rock that contains manganese and other minerals. Common on the ocean floor.
Geothermal Power
The natural heat within the Earth that arises from ancient heat within Earth's core.
Photovoltaic Cells
Wafers or thin-filmed devices that generate electricity when solar energy is absorbed.
Passive/Solar Energy
Energy conducted by using the sun's energy without requiring mechanical devices to distribute collected heat.
Synfuel
A liquid or gaseous fuel synthesized from coal, (or other naturally occurring sources), and used in place of oil or natural gas.
Coal
A black combustible solid found in Earth's crust.
Natural Gas
A mixture of gaseous hydrocarbons that occur in Earth's crust.
Fossil Fuel
Combustible deposits in Earth's crust.
SLOSS
Single Large or Several Small dilemma; The debate over whether it is better to make reserves larger in size and few in number, or many in number but small in size.
Septic Systems
A wastewater disposal method, common in rural areas, consisting of an underground tank and series of drain pipes.
Desalinization
The removal of salt from ocean or brackish, (somewhat salty), water.
Confined Aquifer
A groundwater storage area trapped between two impermeable layers of rock.
Ogallala Aquifer
A massive groundwater deposit under either mid-western states.
Flood Plain
The area bordering a river that is subject to flooding.
Primary Treatment
Treating wastewater by removing suspended and flooding particles (such as sand and silt) by mechanical processes.
Secondary Treatment
Treating wastewater biologically; By using microorganisms to decompose the suspended organic material; Occurs after primary treatment.
Wetlands
Lands that are transitional between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and are covered with water for part of a year.
Artificial Wetlands
Man-made wetland, marsh, or swamp created as a new or restored habitat for native and migratory wildlife for water discharge. (Used for reclamation purposes).
Artificial Coral Reefs
Man-made structures made from calcium carbonate that act as "rainforests of the sea," housing diverse aquatic ecosystems.
Sludge
Residual, semi-solid material left from industrial wastewater, or sewage-tratment processes.
Waterborne Diseases
Diseases caused by pathogenic microorganisms which are directly transmitted when contaminated fresh water is consumed.
NIMBY
Not In My Back Yard; Describes residential opposition to a proposal for a new development close to them.
Municipal Wastewater
Effluent from wastewater treatment plants that deeal with sewage from homes, businesses, and excess water after storms.
Flood Control
The art or technique of trying to control rivers with dams to try and minimize the occurence of floods.
Water Treatment
Processes used to make water more acceptable for a desired end-use.
3 Indicators of Water Quality
May include: Dissolved Oxygen, Water Temperature, pH Levels, Nitrates, or even Transparency.
Three Gorge Dam in China
The world's largest hydroelectric power station; Increases shipping while reducing potential for flooding.
Arsenic in Bangledesh
Poisoning of resources in Bangledesh from arsenic intensifying malnutrition, poverty and destitution among the villagers.
Subsistence Agriculture
Traditional agricultural methods that are dependent on labor and a large amount of land to produce enough food to feed oneself and one's family, with little left over to sell or reserve for hard times. (Uses humans and draft animals as main source of energy).
Agro Ecosystem
A complex mixture of pastures, farm fields, businesses, home sites, natural habitats and cities and towns.
Temperature Inversion
A deviation from the normal temperature distribution in the atmosphere, resulting in a layer of cold air temporarily trapped near the ground by a warmer, upper layer.
Clean Air Act of 1990
A piece of United States environmental policy relating to the reduction of smog and air pollution. Revision of the Clean Air Act of 1970.
Global Distillation Effect
The process whereby volatile chemicals evaporate from land far away as the tropics and are carried by air currents to higher latitudes, where they condense and fall to the ground.
3 Examples of Particulate Matter
Can include: Soil particles, soot, lead, asbestos, sea salt, and sulfuric acid droplets.
3 Examples of Volatile Organic Compounds
Can include: Acetone, Benzene, Ethylene glycol, Formaldehyde, Methylene chloride, Perchloroethylene, Toluene, Xylene, and 1,3-butadiene.
Climate Change Benefits/Costs
Advantages: Prevention of next ice age, less need for energy consumption to warm facilities, fewer deaths or injuries due to cold weather, etc.

Disadvantages: Desertification, agricultural disruption, melting of ice caps, rise in sea levels, etc.
Aerosol
Tiny particles of natural and human-produced air pollution that are so small they remain suspended in the atmosphere for days or even weeks.
Second Green Revolution
A change in agricultural production widely thought necessary to feed and sustain the growing population on Earth.