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Glossary – Environmental Science

Abundance – This refers to the number or amount of something found in the environment, generally in plenty.

Acid precipitation- This refers to the acidic rain, snow, or dry particles set down from the air owing to increased acids released by anthropogenic or natural resources.

Acids- This refers to the substances that liberate hydrogen ions (protons) in water.

Aerosols- This refers to the minute particles or liquid droplets suspended in the air.

Albedo- This refers to the description of a surface's reflective properties.

Ambient air- This refers to the air around us in which we live.

Amino acid- These are found in the organic compound so obviously makes significant portion of environment and environmental studies.

Anaerobic respiration- - This refers to the incomplete intracellular breakdown of sugar or other organic compounds in the absence of oxygen that releases some energy and produces organic acids and/or alcohol.

Annual- This refers to a plant that lives for a single growing season.

Aquifers- This refers to the porous, water-bearing layers of sand, gravel, and rock below the earth's surface; reservoirs for groundwater.

Bedrock- This refers to the rock that underlies the soil; it can be permeable or non-permeable.

 Bioremediation- This refers to the treatment processes that use microorganisms (usually naturally occurring) such as bacteria, yeast, or fungi to break down hazardous substances into less toxic or nontoxic substances. Bioremediation can be used to clean up contaminated soil and water. In situ bioremediation treats the contaminated soil or groundwater in the location in which it is found. For ex situ bioremediation processes, contaminated soil must be excavated or groundwater pumped before they can be treated.

Biosensor- This refers to the portable device that uses living organisms, such as enzymes, tissues, microbes, and antibodies, to produce reactions to analytes.

 Bioventing- This refers to an in situ remediation technology that combines soil vapor extraction methods with bioremediation. It uses vapor extraction wells that induce air flow in the subsurface through air injection or through the use of a vacuum. Bioventing can be effective in remediating releases of petroleum products, such as gasoline, jet fuels, kerosene, and diesel fuel. See also Bioremediation and Soil Vapor Extraction.

Borehole- This refers to the hole cut into the ground by means of a drilling rig.

Capillary action- This refers to the water drawn through a medium by surface tension.

Carbon budget- This refers to the measure of carbon inputs and outputs for a particular activity.

Carbon credit- This refers to the market-driven way of reducing the impact of greenhouse gas emissions; it allows an agent to benefit financially from an emission reduction.

Carbon dioxide- This refers to the gas with the chemical formula CO2; the most abundant greenhouse gas emitted from fossil fuels.

Carbon footprint- This refers to the measure of the carbon emissions that are emitted over the full life cycle of a product or service and usually expressed as grams of CO2-e.

Carbon labeling- This refers to the use of product labels that display greenhouse emissions associated with goods

Carcinogen- This refers to the substance, radionuclide or radiation that is an agent directly involved in the promotion of cancer or in the facilitation of its propagation.

Carrying capacity- This refers to the maximum population that an ecosystem can sustain

Catchments area- This refers to the area that is the source of water for a water supply whether a dam or rainwater tank.

CFC – chlorofluorocarbon. CFCs are potent greenhouse gases which are not regulated by the Kyoto Protocol since they are covered by the Montreal Protocol.

Climate change- This refers to the change in weather over time and/or region; usually relating to changes in temperature, wind patterns and rainfall; although may be natural

Consumer- This refers to the organism, human being, or industry that maintains itself by transforming a high-quality energy source into a lower one .

Cyanobacteria- This refers to the phylum of bacteria that obtain their energy through photosynthesis.

Cyclone- This refers to the intense low pressure weather systems; mid-latitude cyclones are atmospheric circulations that rotate clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere and anti-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and are generally associated with stronger winds, unsettled conditions, cloudiness and rainfall. Tropical cyclones (which are called hurricanes in the Northern Hemisphere) cause storm surges in coastal areas.

Decomposers- This refers to the consumers, mostly microbial, that change dead organic matter into minerals and heat.

Deforestation- This refers to the conversion of forested areas to non-forest land for agriculture, urban use, development, or wasteland.

Ecad— This refers to the population of individuals, which although belong to the same genetic stock, but differ markedly in external characters such as size, shape and colour etc.

Ecosystem Ecology- This refers to the relation and interaction of both plant and animal communities with their total environment.

Environmental Biology or Ecology—Living organisms are inseparably related with their
physical and biological surroundings. This interrelationship of organisms with their
physical and biotic environments is studied under a separate discipline of science,
which is known as environmental biology or ecology.

Factor- This refers to the external force, substance or condition that affects organisms In any way.

Fauna- This refers to the collective term used for all the animals in a given region or geological period.

Flora- This refers to the collective term for all the plants big and small found in a given region or geological period.

Geographic Ecology or Eco-geography- This refers to the study of geographical distribution of organisms.

Habitat- This refers to the the place where an organism lives, eats and reproduces is known as its habitat.

Insect Ecology—It is the ecology of insects.

Limnology—It is the study of freshwater bodies like ponds, lakes and their organisms.

Mammalian Ecology—Ecology of mammals.

Oceanography—Study of marine habitat and organisms

Mammalian Ecology—Ecology of mammals.

Oceanography—Study of marine habitat and organisms.

Palaeo-ecology—Organisms and their environment in geological past.

Pedology—Study of fossils, in particular their acidity alkalinity, humus content, mineral
contents, soil types etc., and their influence on the plant and animal life.

Population and Community- This refers to the population which represents a group of individual organisms of the same species in a given area. A community is a group of populations of different species in a given area.

Population Ecology- This refers to the study of population, its growth, competition, means of dispersal etc.

Production Ecology and Ecological Energetic—These branches of ecology deal with the
mechanisms and quantity of energy conversion and energy flow through different
tropic levels in food chain and rate of increase in organic weight of the organisms in
space and time. The productivity is measured both in gross and net values. The total
organic production is called the gross production, and the actual gain, i.e. the gross
production minus the loss in respiration is termed as the net production, It includes
the proper management of different ecosystems so that the maximum yield can be
obtained. e.g. agriculture and horticulture.

Radiation Ecology—The gross effect of radiation and radioactive substances over the
environment and living organisms.

Space Ecology—It is the modern subdivision of ecology. It is concerned with the development of those ecosystems, which support life of man during space flights or during extended exploration of extraterrestrial environment.

Species- This refers to the uniform interbreeding population spread over time and space.
Terrestrial Ecology—It is the study. of biomes and the organisms distributed therein. It
can further be differentiated into (a) forest ecology, (b) cropland ecology and (c)
grassland ecology.

Vegetation—Collection and continuous growth of plants in space is called vegetation. Thus vegetation is the totality of plant growth including large or small populations of each species intermixed in a region.

Flora- This refers to the all of the plants present in a given region.

Food chain- This refers to a linked feeding series; in an ecosystem, the sequence of organisms through which energy and materials are transferred, in the form of food, from one tropic level to another.

Food web- This refers to the complex, interlocking series of individual food chains in an ecosystem.

Green revolution- This refers to the dramatically increased agricultural production brought about by “miracle” strains of grain.

Hazardous- This refers to the chemicals that are dangerous, including flammables, explosives, irritants, sanitizers, acids and caustics; may be relatively harmless in diluted

Health—A state of physical and emotional well being the absence of disease or ailment..

Insecticide- This refers to the chemical that kills insects.

Jet streams- This refers to the powerful winds or currents of air that circulate in shifting flows; similar to oceanic currents in extent and effect on climate.

Keystone species- This refers to the species that determines the essential characteristics of a community.

Land rehabilitation- This refers to the utilitarian program to repair damage and make land useful to humans.

Landfills- This refers to the land disposal sites for solid waste; operators compact refuse and cover it with a layer of dirt to minimize rodent and insect infestation, wind-blown debris and leaching by rain.

Marine—Living in or pertaining to the sea.

Metabolism—All the energy and matter exchanges that occur within a living cell or organism; collectively, the life processes.

Natural resources- This refers to the natural supplies of the environment.

Ozone- This refers to the highly reactive molecule containing three oxygen atoms; a dangerous pollutant in ambient air. In the stratosphere, however, ozone forms an ultraviolet absorbing shield that protects us from mutagenic radiation.

Pasture- This refers to the Enclosed domestic meadows or managed grazing lands.

Pest- This refers to the organism that reduces the availability, quality or value of a useful resource.

Pesticide- This refers to the chemical that kills; controls, drives away or modifies the behaviour of a pest.

Photochemical oxidants—Products of secondary atmospheric reactions.

Photosynthesis—The biochemical process by which green plants and some bacteria capture light energy and use it to produce chemical bonds. Carbon dioxide and water are
consumed while oxygen and simple sugars are produced.

Plankton—Primarily microscopic organisms that occupy the upper water layers in both
freshwater and marine ecosystems.

Pollution- This refers to make foul, unclean, dirty; any physical, chemical or biological change that adversely affects the health, survival, or activities If living organisms or that alters the environment in undesirable ways.

Producer- This refers to the organism that synthesizes food molecules from inorganic compounds by using an external energy source; most producers are photosynthetic.

Renewable resource- This refers to the resources normally replaced or replenished by natural processes; resources not depleted by moderate use; examples include solar energy, biological resources such as forests and fisheries, biological organisms and some biogeochemical cycles.

Smog- This refers to the term used to describe the combination of smoke and fog in the stagnant air of London; now often applied to photochemical pollution products or urban air pollution of any kind.

Species diversity- This refers to the number and relative abundance of species present in a community.

Sustainable development- This refers to the improvement in human well-being that allows us to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Tectonic plates- This refers to the huge blocks of the earth’s crust that slide around slowly, pulling apart to open new ocean basins or crashing ponderously into each other to create new, larger landmasses.

Terracing—Shaping the land to create level shelves of earth to hold water and soil; requires extensive hand labour or expensive machinery but it enables farmers to farm very steep hillsides.

Threatened species—While still abundant in parts of its territorial range, this species has
declined significantly in total numbers and may be on the verge of extinction in certain
regions or localities.

Mountains—the highest-altitude edge of forest that marks the beginning of the treeless
alpine tundra.
Topsoil- This refers to the first true layer of soil; layer in which organic material is mixed with mineral particles; thickness ranges from a meter or more under virgin prairie to zero in some deserts.

Tropic level- This refers to the organism’s feeding status in an ecosystem.

Vulnerable species— Naturally rare organisms or species whose numbers have been so
reduced by human activities that they are susceptible to actions that could push them
into threatened or endangered status.

Water logging—Water saturation of soil that fills all air spaces and causes plant roots to
die from lack of oxygen; a result of over-irrigation. Weather- Description of the physical
conditions of the atmosphere (moisture, temperature, pressure, and wind).

Wetlands- This refers to the ecosystems of several types in which rooted vegetation is surrounded by standing water during part of the year.

Wildlife- This refers to the plants, animals and microbes that live independently of humans; plants, animals and microbes that are not domesticated.

Woodland- This refers to the forest where tree crowns cover less than 20 percent of the ground; also called open canopy.

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