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Glossary for Ecosystems: Change and Challenge
Abiotic Non- living components of an ecosystem including climate (temperature and
precipitation), soil characteristics, parent rock, air, relief, drainage
Arresting The factors that cause succession to be interrupted
Autotroph Green plants that photosynthesise to produce their own food to support trophic
levels above them.
Biodiversity Variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or on the entire Earth.
Biodiversity is often used as a measure of the health of biological systems.
Biodiversity found on Earth today consists of many millions of distinct biological
Biomass The total mass of living organisms present in a community at any one time- kg/m2
Biome A major global ecosystem influenced by the climate. E.g. Tropical Rainforest
Biotic Community of interdependent living components in an ecosystem includes;
vegetation, grasses, herbs, ferns, algae, mosses shrubs, trees mammals, insects,
birds and micro organisms.
Brown Earth A deep and fertile soil found in temperate deciduous woodland
Carnivore An animal which only eats meat; trophic level 3
Climatic The final stage in succession, the richest community for a climate when equilibrium
climax has been reached e.g. oak and ash in deciduous woodland biome.
Colonisers First plants to invade e.g. lichens and mosses. These plants have adaptations which
allow them to grow in a difficult environment e.g. waxy leaves to retain moisture
and withstand winds, deep tap roots to obtain available moisture
Community The entire variety of species that are found in an ecosystem.
Conservation Protection and possible enhancement of natural environments to ensure their
survival for future use.
Decomposers Organisms that take remains of dead plants and animals, as well as excreted waste
and convert them back to carbon dioxide and nutrients e.g. Bacteria and fungi
Deforestation The deliberate clearance of forest from land by cutting or burning. Causes
Detritivores Organisms that brake down leaves and dead animals; reducing them by
decomposition back into soil nutrients
Ecology The study of communities of living organisms and the relationships among the
members of those communities and between them and the physical and chemical
constituents of their surroundings
Ecosystem A dynamic, stable, community of interdependent living (biotic) and non-living
Eluviation Process of washing out of materials in suspension e.g. clay from the A to the B
horizon in a podsol. (see leaching)
Food chain A sequence of energy transfers from one trophic level to another. A food web is a
more realistic and complex interconnected sequence.
Fragile Easily disturbed and lacks resilience to change, many fragile environments cross
Environments national boundaries, creating international management challenges. Human activity
, both direct and indirect (in the guise of pollution and global warming) has
damaged many fragile environments.
Gersmehl Stores are drawn proportional circles representing biomass, litter and soil. Nutrient
diagram transfers are shown as arrows whose thickness represents the relative rate of flow
Habitats Specific locations with a particular set of conditions and an appropriately adapted
community e.g. a hedgerow
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Herbivore Animal that only eats plants; tropic level 2
Horizon Distinct horizontal layer in a soil profile
Humus Decomposed organic matter in the A-horizon
Illuviation Process of deposition or washing in of soil material from the A to the B horizon in a
podsol. This material has been removed from an upper horizon by eluviation.
Intrazonal soil Soil with locally modified characteristics e.g. Waterlogging produces a gley soil
Leaching Removal of base cations from the soil by acidic rainwater (see eluviation) where
precipitation exceeds evaporation.…read more