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Ecology Vocabulary
Ecology—the study of the interaction between organisms and their environment
Autotroph—same as producer Ex: plants, algae (protists), some bacteria
Heterotroph—same as consumer Ex: animals, fungi, some protists, and bacteria
Herbivore—only eat plants
Carnivore—a predator that kills and eats other animals
Omnivore—eat plants and animals
Scavenger—eat dead animals
Decomposer—(also called saprobe/ saprophyte)—break down and absorb nutrients from dead
organisms Ex: bacteria and fungi
Detritivore or Detrivore—eat dead organic matter (detritus) Ex: earthworms, millipedes
Predation—the predator-prey relationship
Competition—occurs when 2 species fight for the same limited resources
Symbiosis—two species living together; at least one depends on the other
Mutualism—type of symbiosis in which BOTH species benefit
Commensalism—type of symbiosis in which one species benefits and the other is NOT
Parasitism—type of symbiosis in which one species benefits and the other is HARMED
Food Web—expresses ALL possible feeding relationships in a community
Food chain—one path in a food web
Trophic level—represents a feeding step in a food web
Ecological or energy pyramids—describe energy conversion in an ecosystem
Biomass—the total mass of all organisms at any one level in the pyramid
Biological Magnification—the concentration of toxic substances increases as it moves up the
food chain
Habitat—where an organism lives
Niche—an organism’s way of life; the role it plays in the ecosystem
Population—all members of the same species that live in a certain area
Community—All populations in a certain area
Ecosystem—the biotic and abiotic factors interacting in an area
Biotic—living things
Abiotic—nonliving things (Remember “a-” means without or not.)
Biome—A large area defined by the presence of certain plants and animals
Biosphere—the area on Earth where life exists (the SURFACE)
Terrestrial biome—land biome
Aquatic biome—water biome
Biogeochemical cycles—Processes that cycle certain chemicals through organisms and the
Transpiration—when plants release excess water through their leaves
Carbon fixation—when inorganic carbon (as in carbon dioxide) is changed to organic carbon (as
in sugar)
Combustion—the burning of fossil fuels that releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere
Nitrogen fixation—process that takes nitrogen gas and begins to put it into a form plants can use
Carrying capacity—the largest number of organisms from a species that can be supported by the
Limiting Factor—any living or nonliving thing that restricts the existence, numbers,
reproduction, or distribution of organisms
Tolerance—the ability to withstand
Succession—orderly, natural changes that take place in a community
Climax community—a stable, mature community that undergoes little to no succession
Primary—establishment & development of an ecosystem in an area that was previously
Secondary-REESTABLISHMENT of a damaged ecosystem in an area where the soil was left
intact; occurs after natural disasters and humans changing the landscape