Chapter 1- Nutrient Cycles and Energy Flow Glossary Terms

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Chapter 1- Nutrient Cycles and Energy Flow Glossary Terms
2015-09-25 07:56:45
glossary terms

Define and explain what each term means. Meant to be used for tests and for the final exam.
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  1. Ecosystem
    • All of the interacting parts of a biological community and its environment
    • In an ecosystem, living and non-living components depend on each other to survive
    • Like a source of shelter for many organisms that live in them 
    • Most organisms require more than one ecosystem to survive
    • Ecosystems can be divided into two main categories which are bitoic and abiotic parts 
    • Examples of ecosystems are tropical rain forests, deserts, tundra and grasslands
  2. Sustainable Ecosystem
    • A biological environment that is capable of maintaining itself and giving support to other organisms without outside influence or assistance
    • Examples of a sustainable ecosystem would be a rain forest, the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Erie because all of these ecosystems don't get helped and they can sustain themselves since the organisms living there only depend on each other
  3. Biotic
    • The living or recently living components of an ecosystem
    • All interact with other living things in an ecosystem  
    • Rely on the abiotic or other biotic components of an ecosystem to survive (e.g. plants need energy from the Sun to go through photosynthesis so they can produce food for themselves)
    • Examples would be plants, animals, fungi and bacteria
  4. Abiotic
    • The non-living components of an ecosystem
    • They are important because they affect the way how organisms survive 
    • They help to sustain an ecosystem 
    • Without abiotic components, the ecosystem can not be able to sustain itself and biotic components would struggle with survival or if there aren't many abiotic components, that too will affect organisms (e.g. if there is very little sunlight, then the plant could die since it can't produce it's own food without the process of photosynthesis)
    • Examples would be climate, water, oxygen, carbon dioxide and soil
  5. Lithosphere
    • It is the outer hard part of Earth, including Earth's crust and uppermost mantle (the area between the crust and the core) 
    • It is subdivided into tectonic plates
    • The pedosphere is when the highest part of the lithosphere chemically reacts with the atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere through pedogenesis (a process that leads to the formation of soil)
    • This includes rocks and soil
    • Phosphorus can be found in the lithosphere which is used in the phosphorus cycle   
    • Diagram of the lithosphere-

  6. Hydrosphere
    • This is the liquid part of Earth's surface
    • Includes oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, ponds and streams 
    • Covers about 70% of Earth's surface
    • Provides shelter to many living organisms 
    • The hydrosphere can be liquid, vapor or ice 
    • Water moves through the hydrosphere in a cycle, also known as the water cycle 
    • This is when water travels between the hydrosphere and atmosphere as it gets evaporated into the cloud and as it cools, eventually it will return to the lithosphere as precipitation 
    • It enters the biosphere when plants and other organisms absorb it or animals drink it
  7. Atmosphere
    • The layers of gasses above Earth's surface
    • Roughly 80% of Earth's atmosphere is nitrogen and 20% is oxygen, including some other gasses like carbon dioxide 
    • All gasses put together is called air, which is what all life on Earth breathe 
    • It protects Earth from meteors and harmful solar radiation 
    • Heats the Earth's surface by heat retention (meaning it keeps heat close to the Earth's surface)
  8. Biosphere
    • The biosphere is the region of Earth where living organisms exist 
    • Capable of supporting life 
    • Includes interactions between the atmosphere, lithosphere and hydrosphere (living organisms rely on these spheres to survive since these spheres provide food, water, shelter and air to many organisms)
    • Every living organism within the biosphere rely on each other for survival (for example, a deer needs plants for energy and food like how the wolf needs the deer for energy and food)
  9. Nutrients
    • A chemical that living organisms need to survive 
    • Not all of Earth's spheres get nutrients 
    • They get cycled through Earth's spheres, commonly known as nutrient cycles (includes the water cycle, carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle and phosphorus cycle)
    • Too many nutrients can harm aquatic ecosystems   
    • Humans can affect the amount of nutrients given to an organism with a process called eutrophication (will be explained in card #10)
  10. Eutrophication
    • A process mostly caused by humans that ends up harming aquatic ecosystems 
    • Too many nutrients run off (nitrogen and phosphorus) into these ecosystems making it hard to sustain  
    • When exceeding the nutrient level in the ecosystem, it causes algae to "bloom", which prevents plants from getting that sunlight and reduces oxygen for fish to breathe 
    • For example, a farmer uses too much fertilizer causing eutrophication because the extra nutrients went into the aquatic ecosystem and killed all of the living organisms in it 
    • The result of eutrophication is the end of an ecosystem
    • This is a photo of the process of eutrophication- 
  11. Photosynthesis
    • A process that takes solar energy and coverts it into chemical energy during the day 
    • Plants, algae and some bacteria use this process to synthesize food to eat from carbon dioxide and water
    • Chlorophyll and light are needed in this process 
    • Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen all combined produce glucose (also known as sugar) 
    • At the end of this process, the oxygen released by plants, algae and bacteria are used by all organisms in use for cellular respiration
    • The word equation and chemical equation for photosynthesis is- 


    The diagram for photosynthesis-

    • The plants leaves take in the solar energy, carbon dioxide and water, and the chlorophyll assembles them to form glucose molecules
  12. Trophic Level
    • It is the position an organism occupies in a food chain and it is defined by how the organism gains its energy 
    • Food chains are used to show the different trophic levels in an ecosystem 
    • Usually only four trophic levels because not all the energy gets passed on 
    • Food pyramids can show how much energy in each level gets passed on
    • The first trophic level are the primary producers with 1000 energy units (plants)
    • The second trophic level are the primary consumers with 100 energy units (herbivores)
    • The third level are secondary consumers with 10 energy units (carnivores)
    • The fourth level are tertiary consumers with 1 energy unit (top carnivores)

  13. Biomass
    The total mass of organisms in a certain group or area
  14. Trophic Efficiency
    • A measure of how much energy or biomass is transferred form one tophic level to a higher trophic level 
    • It is measured in energy units 
    • The percentage is always less than 100% because the organism uses majority of the energy for themselves 
    • About 10% is passed on through each higher trophic level so the primary producers have more energy compared to a carnivore  
    • The reason why it decreases each time is due to three main reasons
    • The first reason why is that not every part of the organism is being consumed (bones)
    • The second reason why is that not everything eaten is digested (waste)
    • The third reason is that energy is lost as heat or sweat
    • All of this loss in energy keeps the amount of organisms in each level balanced so that's why there are less herbivores than plants and more herbivores than carnivores
  15. Bioaccumulation
    • A process where toxins are ingested by an organism at a rate higher than they are eliminated 
    • Within one organism 
    • Toxins that are human-made like pesticides can be destructive to a species
    • Related to biomagnification except the toxin doesn't increase in the concentration as it moves from one trophic level to another
    • Works to the advantage of the species 
    • It can result harmful amounts of pollutants in organisms
  16. Biomagnification
    • The increase in the concentration of ingested toxins increases as it moves from one trophic level to the next (the higher the trophic level, the worse it is going to be for that organism)
    • Possible ingested toxins could be DDT or mercury and these mostly ran off into rivers and streams 
    • Dangerous to all organisms that ate an organism which had ingested these toxins, death is possible
    • This is an act of human nature because it is the excess pesticide that runs off into the nearest water source for organisms

  17. Cellular Respiration
    • This is a method plants, animals, fungi, and other organisms use to extract energy from glucose efficiently
    • This occurs when oxygen is present or under aerobic conditions 
    • Compared to photosynthesis, cellular respiration consumes oxygen and produces carbon dioxide, and it happens during both day and night 
    • Glucose + Oxygen → Carbon Dioxide + Water

  18. Fermentation
    • A process that breaks down energy from plant molecules like glucose by the action of enzymes 
    • Occurs when oxygen is absent or under anaerobic conditions 
    • Organisms like bacteria and fungi use this method
  19. Greenhouse Gases
    • A type of gas that prevents heat from leaving Earth's atmosphere, causing Earth's surface to increase in temperature 
    • When there is an increase of temperature, greenhouse gases are responsible for the greenhouse effect which leads to global warming 
    • Without greenhouse gases, Earth's temperature can average below 0°C, resulting in loss of species because when one species dies from the cold, the rest of the species that eats that can also die since they don't have anything to eat 
    • Essential to life on Earth 
    • Examples of these gases are water vapour, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane
  20. Greenhouse Effect
    • The actual warming of Earth which traps the energy from leaving Earth, so when the Sun's radiation comes down to Earth, some of it leaves and some of it is absorbed by greenhouse gas molecules and is then re-emitted in all directions 
    • The effect is Earth's surface increasing in temperature
    • Main cause of global warming is the greenhouse effect due to humans adding more burned fossil fuels into the atmosphere 
    • Diagram of the greenhouse effect

  21. Acid Precipitation
    • When a fossil fuel burns, it releases nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide
    • As it goes into the atmosphere, these gases combine with water which produces nitric and sulfuric acid 
    • As it falls to the ground as rain, snow or sleet, it harms ecosystems (like a pond, river or lake) since it is unusually acidic, making the normal pH (5.6) lower
    • The effects it has on plants is that it makes its nutrient level lower and increases the amount of aluminum which blocks the roots from receiving nutrients or water and it ends up dying since it can't fight of pesticides either without the given nutrients
    • The effect on aquatic ecosystems is that it suffocates the organisms living there because the aluminum being created, attracts to their gills causing their source of oxygen to be blocked and it prevents eggs from hatching killing off the entire ecosystem 
    • The pH is a way to tell how acidic something is so the lower the pH, the more harmful to organisms and the higher the pH, the more basic it is