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Glossary – From Barron’s AP Review Book

Abatement costs – the costs of reducing emissions

Abiotic – refers to things that are not living

Abyssal floor – deep-ocean basin approximately 3 miles below of the ocean surface.
In consists of both

abyssal hills and abyssal plains—flat, deep ocean floor whose depth may be 2 to 3
miles or more. Thick accumulations of sediment bury topography of ocean’s crust

Acid mine drainage – drainage produced when rainwater seeps through a mine or
the tailings. The solution is acidic due to the presence of sulfuric acid that is
produced when aerobic bacteria act on iron sulfide

Acute toxicity – immediate and adverse effects within a short time of exposure

Adaptation – a change in morphology of habitats, usually hereditary, by which a

species or individual improves its condition in relation to its environment or a
genetic change in the morphology, behavioral pattern, or physiology of an organism
that enhances the individual’s ability to survive in an environment

Aerosols – small suspended particles in a gas, ranging in size from 1-nm molecules
up to 100-um pollen grains. Aerosols are emitted naturally. In the atmosphere,
aerosols are often crystal groupings of water molecules around a sulfate or nitrate

Age structure – the proportion of the population or of each sex at each age
category. Many species and plants produce a large number of offspring, but the
offspring have a high mortality rate because of high predation and other factors
that keep the population in check and stable

Agribusiness – large-scale farming operation including the production, processing,

and distribution of agricultural products and the manufacture of farm machinery,
equipment, and supplies

A horizon – layer of soil that contains organic matter (humus), living organisms, and
inorganic minerals. It occurs just below the O horizon or surface litter. Also known as

Algae blooms – algae that grow very fast and accumulates into dense, visible
patches near the surface of the water. Factors that affect blooms are water
temperatures, oxygen content of water, and nutrient levels. Red tide is a naturally-
occurring, higher-than-normal concentration of the microscopic algae Karenia
brevis, which produces a toxin that affects the central nervous system of fish so
that they’re paralyzed and can’t breathe. As a result, red tide blooms often result in
dead fish washing up on shores

Allelopathy – the prevention of growth or establishment of one species of plants by

chemicals produced by another species

Alley cropping – a system of land use in which harvestable trees or shrubs are
grown among or around crops or on pastureland, as a means of preserving or
enhancing the productivity of the land

Allopathic speciation – the evolutionary process through which two geographically

separated populations of the same species become less and less similar to each
other over time and eventually become distinctly different species

Ammonia – component of the nitrogen cycle that is released by organic matter

when it decomposes

Ammonification – the production of ammonia or ammonium compounds that is

produced in the decomposition of organic matter, especially through bacterial

Ammonium – ion whose formula is NH4+. Component of the nitrogen cycle that is
produced when organic matter decays

Aquifer – an underground bed or layer of Earth, gravel, or porous stone that yields

Assimilation – a stage of the nitrogen cycle in which plant roots absorb ammonia,
ammonium ions and nitrate ions to manufacture DNA, amino acids, and proteins

Autogenic succession – a type of succession where the plant community changes

the environment; changes that occur within a community caused by the actions of
the community members

Autotroph – an organism capable of synthesizing its own food from inorganic

substances, using light or chemical energy. Also known as primary producers

Backyard composting – composting in one’s personal backyard, typically in a fenced

off area or bin. Backyard composting provides a convenient way to reduce the
volume of trash a household produces. It also provides a valuable product that can
enhance the soil and increase the growth and health of the yard. It involves
converting vegetable matter to compost that is used to improve soil structure and
provide nutrients. Benefits of composting include:
- Keeping organic wastes out of landfills
- Providing nutrients to the soil
- Increasing beneficial soil organisms
- Suppressing certain plant diseases
- Reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides
- Protecting soils from erosion

B horizon – layer of soil characterized by its accumulation of iron, aluminum,

calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate, and other salts, humic compounds, and clay
particles that have been leached into it from O, A, and E horizons that lie above it.
Also known as subsoil

Biodiversity – the total diversity and variability of living things and of the systems of
which they are a part. This includes the total range of variation in and variability
among systems and organisms at all levels. It also covers the complex sets of
structural and functional relationships within and between different levels of
organization, including human action, and their origins and evolution in space and
time. The biological disciplines comprising biodiversity include evolutionary biology,
taxonomy, ecology, genetics, and population biology

Biological oxygen demand – the amount of oxygen required for the decomposition
of organic compounds by microorganisms in a specific amount of water and usually
measured in milligrams of oxygen consumed per liter. BOD is used by regulatory
agencies for monitoring wastewater treatment facilities and monitoring surface
water quality. BOD is the biochemical oxygen demand of the water and is related to
the concentration of the bacterial facilitated decomposable organic material in the

Biomagnification – a continued increase in the concentration of pollutants in higher

levels of a food chain

Biomass – the amount of living material in a habitat measured in terms of either

mass, volume, or caloric energy use

Biome – a major regional or global biotic community, such as a grassland or desert,

characterized chiefly by the dominant forms of plant life and the prevailing climate.
Temperature and precipitation are the most important determinants

Caloric Intake – the number of calories that a person takes in per day. The basic
minimum requirement is 2700 calories per day for men and 2000 calories per day
for women. World-wide average caloric intake has increased in the past 50 years,
despite the world’s population more than doubling. Problems in food distribution,
however, prevent many people from getting proper nutrition

Capital – wealth in the form of money or property used or accumulated in a

business by a person, partnership, or corporation
- Natural capital – goods and services provided by nature
- Human capital – experience and knowledge
- Manufactured capital – technology
- Social capital – shared values, cooperation

Carbon dioxide - .036% of the atmosphere by volume. CO2 is a natural component

of the atmosphere, produced from the decay of vegetation, volcanic eruptions,
exhalations of animals, the burning of fossil fuels, and deforestation.

Carbon monoxide – a natural component of the Earth’s atmosphere. CO forms due

to incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and the burning of biomass

Carrying capacity – the maximum number of organisms that an ecosystem can

support over time without degradation of the ecosystem. Factors that determine the
carrying capacity are 1) availability of nutrients 2) availability of energy 3) methods
of dealing with wastes 4) biotic relationships

Chaparral – a biome existing in the midlatitudes that is characterized by hot, dry

summers and cool, moist winters and dominated by a dense growth of mostly small-
leaved evergreen shrubs

C horizon – layer of soil located just above bedrock. It contains weathered bedrock
and inorganic minerals

Clean Air Act – legislation that directs EPA to protect the ozone layer through
several regulatory and voluntary programs. Title VI covers production of ozone-
depleting substances, their recycling and handling, the evaluation of substitutes,
and efforts to educate the public

Clear cutting – removing all the tress in a tract of timber at one time. Clear cutting
increases soil erosion and eliminates habitat for wildlife

Climate – the meteorological conditions—including temperature, precipitation, and

wind—that characteristically prevail in a particular region of the Earth

Climax community – a community of plants that is stable in the type of plant

species that inhabits the area. Not changing in terms of species replacing other
Cold front – the leading portion of a cold atmospheric air mass moving against and
eventually replacing a warm air mass

Competitive exclusion principle – a rule, derived by G.F. Gause in 1934, stating that
two species that occupy the same habitat cannot also occupy the same ecological
niche. Any two species that occupy the same niche will compete with each other to
the detriment of one of the species, which will thus be excluded

Continental crust – land above sea level up to 40 miles thick. It has a lower density
than the oceanic crust and “floats” higher than ocean crust on top of the mantle

Continental drift – the movement, formation, and re-formation of continents

described by the theory of plate tectonics

Contour farming – farming with row patterns nearly level around a hill—not up and
down. Crop row ridges built by tilling and/or planting on the contour create
hundreds of small dams. These ridges or dams slow water flow and increase water
infiltration that reduces erosion. Contour farming can reduce soil erosion by as
much as 50% from up-and-down hill farming. By reducing sediment and runoff, and
increasing water infiltration, contour farming promotes better water quality.

Contour mining – a type of surface mining in which resources are removed near the
surface. The mining follows the natural contours of the land

Convective lifting – air movement that occurs when air heated at the Earth’s surface
rises in the form of thermal currents

Convergent plate boundary – an interface formed where the top of convection cells
flow toward each other. At the boundary, the oceanic lithosphere moves downward
forming a subduction zone, where a trench is found

Crop rotation – crops are changed year by year in a planned sequence. Crop
rotation is a common practice on sloping soils because of its potential for soil
saving. Rotation also reduces fertilizer needs because alfalfa and other legumes
replace some of the nitrogen that corn and other grain crops remove. Pesticide
costs may be reduced by naturally breaking the cycles of weeds, insects, and
diseases. Grass and legumes in rotation protect water quality by preventing excess
nutrients or chemicals from entering water supplies. Short grasses or small grains
cut soil erosion dramatically. Crop rotation adds diversity.

Cyanobacteria – photosynthetic bacteria. Cyanobacteria are autotrophs—that is

they manufacture their own food through photosynthesis. Another group of
autotrophs are known as chemotrophs or chemosynthetic bacteria. Cyanobacteria
are generally blue-green in color and some species are capable of nitrogen fixation

Decomposer – organisms such as earthworms, snails, bacteria, and fungi that

consume energy-rich organic molecules and that feed upon waste products from
other organisms

Demand – the amount of goods or services people want. Factors that influence
demand are:
- The price of the good
- The income of consumers
- The demand for alternative goods that could be used
- The demand for goods used at the same time
- Whether people like the good

Demographic transition – in general, how a group of people change over time or a

theory that suggests that declines in death rates and birth rates follow the
industrialization of a nation. It generally can be demonstrated in the pattern of
population growth that occurred during the 19th and 20th centuries in the US, which
saw initial high birth and death rates (preindustrial stage). The result was a net low
population growth. The next phase (transitional) was characterized by high
economic productivity and growth, which resulted in a higher standard of living.
This economic boom resulted in a decline in mortality, but natality rates remained
high. This middle phase was characterized by rapid population growth. Countries
that are in the transitional stage today include countries in Southeast Asia, Africa,
and Latin America. The next phase (industrial stage), as a result of a higher
standard of living, produced a decline in birth rate matching the decline in death
rates. Access to birth control, decline in infant mortality, increased job opportunities
for women, and high cost of education also contributed. This returned population
growth to a controlled, steady state. Most developed countries are in this phase.
The last stage is called the postindustrial stage. This stage is characterized by zero
population growth and the death rate exceeding the birth rate. As countries become
industrialized, death rates decline first followed by declining death rates.

Denitrification – a stage in the nitrogen cycle whereby specialized bacteria convert

NH3 and NH4+ into NO2- and NO3- and then into N2 and N2O, which are then
released into the atmosphere

Density-independent factor – a factor that influences population growth and that

increases in magnitude with an increase in the size or density of the population

Density-dependent factor – a factor that influences population growth and that does
not depend on the size or density of a population
Developing country – low- and middle-income countries in which most people have
a lower standard of living with access to fewer goods and services than do most
people in high-income countries

Dioxins – any of several carcinogens or teratogenic heterocyclic hydrocarbons that

occur as impurities in petroleum-derived herbicides

Dust Bowl – an ecological and human disaster that took place in the southwestern
Great Plains region of the US in the 1930s. It was caused by misuse of land and
years of sustained drought

Ecological niche – the function or position of an organism or population within an

ecological community or the particular area within a habitat occupied by an
organism or the biological, chemical, and physical components required for a
particular species to survive, grow, and reproduce. The collection of all biological,
chemical, and physical factors necessary for a species to grow survive, and

El Nino – a warming of the ocean surface off the western coast of South America
that occurs every 4-12 years when an upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water does not
occur. It causes die-offs of plankton and fish that affects Pacific jet stream winds,
altering storm tracks and creating unusual weather patterns in various parts of the

Environmental indicators – a tool for state-of-the-environment reporting, measuring

environmental performance, and reporting on progress toward sustainable
development. It can be used at both the international and the national level.

Erosion – wearing away of the lands by running water, glaciers, winds, and waves
Exponential growth phase – population growth that is characterized by a constant
percentage of growth over time

First green revolution – international agricultural project that began in Mexico in

1944. The Rockefeller Foundation and the Mexican government established a plant-
breeding station in northwestern Mexico, with the goal of boosting grain yields. It
led to an increase in wheat production by cultivating high-yield varieties. By
doubling and tripling yields, it bought time for developing countries to start dealing
with rapid population growth. It raised the productivity of 3 main staple crops—rice,
wheat, and corn. It increased crop yields through introduction of high-yield
genetically engineered varieties of grains, use of pesticides and fertilizers, and
improved management techniques

First law of thermodynamics – a law that states that energy can neither be created
nor destroyed, but it may be converted from one form to another
Food chain – a succession of organisms in an ecological community that makes up a
continuation of food energy from one organism to another as each organism
consumes a member lower in the chain and in turn is preyed upon by a higher

Forest succession – a forest community is composed of a wide variety of tree

species and ages, and organisms, along a progression known as succession. In
primary succession, pioneering species first colonize previously uninhabited
landforms facilitating the establishment of later successional forms by developing
soil and other conditions favorable to the succeeding organisms leading to the
presence of final self-maintaining community. Secondary succession may also occur
following the abandonment of cultivated land or after major or minor environmental
changes such as forest fires or tree-falls that leave some trace of previous organic

Genetic engineering – the use of molecular biology techniques to create desired

characteristics in plants and animals. Techniques involve gene splicing or
recombinant DNA
Greenhouse effect – the phenomenon whereby the Earth’s atmosphere traps solar
radiation, caused by the presence in the atmosphere of gases such as carbon
dioxide, water vapor, and methane that allow incoming sunlight to pass through but
that absorb heat radiated back from the Earth’s surface

Hadley cell – a circulating body of air that occurs in, at, or near the equator,
between 0 and 30 degrees north and south latitude. It consists of a rising mass of
air near the equator known as the intertropical convergence zone and the
descending air that occurs near 30 degrees north and south latitude known as the
subtropical high

Industrial waste – material that is left over from the manufacturing process that is
recycled outside of the primary manufacturing facility

Integrated pest management – an ecologically based pest-control strategy that

relies on natural mortality factors such as natural enemies, weather, and crop
management. It involves the coordinated use of pest and environmental information
to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage by the most economical means,
resulting in the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment. It
can be promoted through taxes on pesticides to promote research, demonstration
projects, economic incentives for farmers, and reduces of federal and state
subsidies to farmers that use traditional pest management practices
Intercropping - the cultivation of two or more crops simultaneously on the same
field or the growing of two or more crops on the same field with the planting of the
second crop after the first one has already completed development
Internal costs – direct cost paid by those that use a resource. It usually involves the
direct cost of assessing the resource and converting it to a useable product or

K strategists – large organisms that have long life spans, produce few offspring, and
provide care for their offspring

Legumes – plants that belong to the pea or bean family. Legumes form mutualistic
associations with certain species of bacteria that allow the plant to absorb nitrogen
in a useable form and allow the bacteria to obtain necessary nutrients and a
suitable habitat

Limiting factor – an environmental factor that limits the growth or activities of an

organism or that restricts the size of a population or its geographical range

Logistic growth curve – a graph of the population growth that is the shape of a
sigmoid curve. Growth rate is initially high due to abundance of natural resources, it
then reaches a maximum or peak when natural resources are maximized, and then
it begins to decline as natural resources become limited

Malthusian – system of thought named after Thomas Malthus who believed that
human population would soon exceed food supplies. The result would be
catastrophic famine

Maximum sustainable yield – a population size grows over time to its carrying
capacity; which is when the rates of births and deaths exist in a dynamic
equilibrium and the population grows no further. As a population grows, its rate of
change in size increases, but at a decreasing rate. When the population size is half
as large as the carrying capacity, the population’s rate of change is at its maximum
and declines thereafter, reaching zero when the population reaches carrying
capacity. In theory, such a population could continually be harvested to ½ of its
carrying capacity, thereby producing a perpetual, maximum yield without
compromising the ability of the population to be replenished

Mutualism – an association between organisms of two different species in which

each member benefits

Natural selection – a process whereby organisms that posses inheritable adaptive

traits that offer an advantage to an organism’s survival achieve a higher rate of
reproduction, thereby influencing the makeup of the gene pool. Natural selection is
the mechanism of evolution
Niche – the physical and functional location of an organism within an ecosystem,
where a living thing is found and what it does there

Nitrification – a step in the nitrogen cycle in which ammonia is converted by aerobic

bacteria to nitrate ions, which are then converted to nitrate ions through bacterial

Nitrogen fixation – the process by which nitrogen gas which cannot be utilized by
plants, is converted to ammonium ions. Nitrogen fixation is accomplished naturally
through microbial action and lightning

Oceanic plate – a rigid section of the lithosphere beneath the ocean, consisting
primarily of granite, that due to density, rides on top of the asthenosphere and is
able to move slowly over Earth’s surface

Plate tectonics – a theory that states that the surface of the Earth is divided into
massive sections known as plates. The plates move slowly over time, sinking in
areas of volcanic island chains, folded mountain belts, and usually trenches and
rising up from ridges and rift valleys.

Rain shadow effect – condition that occurs on leeward (side of the mountain away
from ocean) side. Moist air from ocean rises when it hits mountains. As air rises, it
cools and loses its moisture as rain and snow on windward side. On leeward side, air
is dry, and semiarid to arid conditions exist.

Renewable water supplies – freshwater surface water runoff including infiltration of

water into underground aquifers that is usable and accessible to human use

Reservoir – a man-made facility for the storage, regulation, and controlled release of
water. Types of reservoirs include flood control, water supply, and power
- A reservoir gains water through inflows such as rivers and rain
- Outflows are ways reservoirs lose water such as by evaporation, river
outflow, and human usage
- If the inflow and outflow balance, the reservoir remains the same size
- Because water is constantly entering and leaving the system, a given
quantity of water only stays in the reservoir for a certain amount of time,
called the residence time

r-strategists – small organisms that produce many offspring, have a short life span,
and generally do not reach carrying capacity
second green revolution – international agricultural project that began in 1967 with
the introduction of fast-growing dwarf varieties of rice and wheat that were bred for
tropical and subtropical climates. Output of new genetically-modified plants that
can produce up to three crops per year can increase agricultural output up to 5
times over traditional varieties. By producing more output per acre, the effect is to
decrease the effects of deforestation and the conversion of wetlands and grasslands
for agricultural purposes. The debate is, however, whether the advantages of the
second green revolution really reduce the need for new land given that:
- Food output is tied to economic development
- The increase in the world population will place even more demand on more
agricultural output requiring more land
- Techniques employed in the second green revolution require even more use
of fertilizer, freshwater, and pesticides and their impact on the environment

Second law of thermodynamics – law that states that when energy is changed from
one form to another, some of the useful energy is always degraded to lower-quality,
more-dispersed, and a less useful energy form

Secondary consumer – an animal that feeds on smaller plant-eating animals in a

food chain

Sedimentary rock – rock that forms from the accumulation of smaller rocks under
pressure or from compacted shells/remains of organisms

Sustainable agriculture – agricultural practices and procedures that attempt to

maintain the productivity of the land for the future

Sustainable yield – catch that can be removed over an indefinite period without
causing the stock to be depleted. This could be either a constant yield from year to
year or a yield that is allowed to fluctuate in response to changes in abundance

Symbiosis – a close, prolonged association between two or more different organisms

of different species that may, but does not necessarily, benefit each member
- Antagonist or antipathetic symbiosis is an association that is destructive to
one of the symbionts or partners involved in the association
- Conjunctive symbiosis occurs when there is bodily union
- Disjunctive symbiosis occurs if there is not actual union of the organisms

Third law of thermodynamics – law that states that if all molecular motion within a
sample ceased, wherein the kinetic energy would be equal to zero, then a state
known as absolute zero would result

Total fertility rate – the number of children an average woman would have assuming
that she lives her full reproductive lifetime.
Toxicity – the quality of being poisonous, especially the degree of virulence of a
toxic microbe or of a poison. More chemicals are produced than there is time to test
their toxicity or interaction effects. Toxicity depends on
- Bioaccumulation—increase in concentration of a pollutant or toxin from the
environment to the first organism in the food chain
- Biomagnification—increase in concentration of a pollutant from one link in a
food chain to another
- Response an individual has to a toxin, depending on health status, genetic
factors, etc
- Synergistic or antagonistic interactions
- Persistence
- Chemical characteristics of the toxin
- How long the individual was exposed
- How much of the toxin the individual was exposed to
- Amount of the toxin the individual received
Toxicity is determined through epidemiology, case reports, and laboratory