Ecosystems Vocabulary

biome
One of the world's major ecosystems, classified according to the predominant vegetation and characterized by adaptations of organisms to that particular environment.
biogeochemical cycling
Any of the various chemical circuits occurring in an ecosystem, involving both biotic and abiotic components of the ecosystem.
biomass
The dry weight of organic matter comprising a group of organisms in a particular habitat.
chemical cycling
The use and reuse of chemical elements such as carbon within an ecosystem.
cryptic coloration
A type of camouflage that makes potential prey difficult to spot against its background.
decomposition
The breakdown of organic materials into inorganic ones.
detritivore
A consumer that derives its energy from nonliving organic material.
disturbance
A force that changes a biological community and usually removes organisms from it. Disturbances, such as fire and storms, play pivotal roles in structuring many biological communities.
ecological niche
A population’s role in its community; the sum total of the species’ use of the biotic and abiotic resources of its habitat.
ecological succession
Transition in the species composition of a biological community, often following ecological disturbance of the community; the establishment of a biological community in an area virtually barren of life.
ecosystem
All the organisms in a given area as well as the abiotic factors with which they interact; a community and its physical environment.
food web
A network of food transfers from trophic level to trophic level, beginning with producers.
host
The larger participant in a symbiotic relationship, serving as home and feeding ground to the symbiont.
keystone predator
A species that reduces the density of the strongest competitors in a community.
mutualism
A symbiotic relationship in which both participants benefit.
omnivore
A heterotrophic animal that consumes both meat and plant material.
parasitism
A symbiotic relationship in which the symbiont (parasite) benefits at the expense of the host by living either within the host (as an endoparasite) or outside the host (as an ectoparasite)
phytoplankton
Algae and photosynthetic bacteria that drift passively in the pelagic zone of an aquatic environment.
primary consumer
An herbivore; an organism in the trophic level of an ecosystem that eats plants or algae.
primary productivity
The amount of light energy converted to chemical energy (organic compounds) by autotrophs in an ecosystem during a given time period.
producers
Organisms that make organic food molecules from CO2, H2O, and other inorganic raw materials: a plant, alga, or autotrophic bacterium.
stability
The tendency of a biological community to resist change and return to its original species composition after being disturbed.
symbiont
The smaller participant in a symbiotic relationship, living in or on the host.
trophic structure
The different feeding relationships in an ecosystem, which determine the route of energy flow and the pattern of chemical cycling.