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average residence time

a measure of time it takes for a given part of the total pool or reservoir of a particular material in a system to be cycled


all the parts of the planet that are inhabited by living things; sum of all Earth's ecosystems


all the organisms of all species living in an area or region up to and including the biosphere

closed system

a system that allows the exchange of energy, but not matter, between the system and its surroundings

doubling time

the time required for a population to double in size


a system formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their physical environment

environmental unity

a principle of environment sciences that states that everything affects everything else, meaning that particular course of action leads to an entire potential string of events

exponential growth

population growth pattern where a population grows faster as it increases in size


a kind of system response that occurs when output of the system also serves as input leading to changes in the system (positive and negative)

Gaia hypothesis

states that the environment on a global level has been changed for the better by life over the history of life on earth

lag time

the time between a stimulus and the response of a system

negative feedback

a type of feedback that occurs when the system's response is in the opposite direction of the output; negative feedback is self-regulating

open system

a system that can exchange both matter and energy with its surroundings

overshoot and collapse

this occurs when growth in one part of a system over time exceeds carrying capacity, resulting in sudden decline in one or both parts of the system

positive feedback

a type of feedback that occurs when an increase in output leads to a further increase in output

steady state

when input equals output in a system, there is no net change and the system is said to be in equilibrium


a set of components that are linked and interact to produce a whole

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