Ecosystems Notes:


Abiotic: Non-living – examples of abiotic factors include soil, water, temperature, bedrock, etc.


Adaptations: Characteristics that help an organism survive in a particular ecosystem – ex. thorns, camouflage


Animal: consumer, must eat other organisms to survive


Bacteria: simplest one of the five kingdoms of life, single celled organisms, decomposers, do not have membrane-bound nuclei, ex: streptococcus, E. coli


Biotic: living – ex. producers, consumers, decomposers


Carbon Dioxide: CO2, a basic nutrient, required by plants for photosynthesis, also a product of decomposition


Carnivores: animals that eat only other animals


Cell Membrane: controls what goes in and out of cell


Cell Wall: provides structure, support, protection to plant cells; not found in animal cells; composed of cellulose, or fiber, which is not digested by humans


Chloroplasts: cell organelle that is the site of photosynthesis, contains the pigment chlorophyll; not found in animal cells


Club Mosses: one of the five major plant groups, grow taller than mosses, thicker cell walls, more developed roots, leaves and vascular tissue (“tubes” that transport nutrients, etc.)


Conifers: one of the five major plant groups, male cones produce pollen that is spread by air, female cones produce seeds (plant embryo, food supply, protective covering) – ex. firs, pines, sequoia


Consumers: animals, must eat other organisms to survive


Cytoplasm: jelly-like substance that fills the cell and holds the organelles in place; organelles are parts of the cell (ex. nucleus, chloroplasts, etc.)


Decomposers: do not eat: they secrete enzymes on to dead material to break it down and then absorb nutrients directly; when decomposers are finished, all that is left is the most basic nutrients (water, carbon dioxide, minerals) – ex. bacteria, fungi


Domesticated Organisms: in and around the home; often cannot survive in the wild; used by people for food, decoration, companionship, etc. – ex. pets, livestock, houseplants


Earthworm: animal, scavenger, omnivore


Ecosystem: everything living and non-living in an area


Enzyme: biological catalyst, or substance that speeds up chemical reactions; used by decomposers to break down dead material in to basic nutrients


Ferns and Horsetails: one of the five major plant groups, reproduce using spores


Flowering Plants: most highly-developed plant group; flowers use color, scent, nectar, etc. to attract animals that help pollination; fruit attracts animals that help spread seeds


Food Chain: shows a linear progression of “who eats whom,” the flow of nutrients and energy through an ecosystem; arrows point from what is eaten to the eater (ex. carrot => bunny)


Food Web: similar to a food chain, but more complex; branches show all of the nutritional relationships for an entire ecosystem; can demonstrate the balance of an ecosystem


Fungi: one of the five kingdoms of life, decomposers, microscope reveals fibers and sporangia (round masses of developing spores) ex. – mushrooms, molds, yeast


Herbivores: animals that eat only plants


Kingdom: the broadest category of organisms, there are five kingdoms: bacteria, protists, fungi, plants, animals


Litter: dead and decomposing material


Mosses: most primitive of the five major plant groups; no, or poorly developed, roots, leaves; grow very low to ground; require moist habitat; reproduce using spores (single cells that develop in to new organism)


Native Organisms: evolved as part of the local ecosystem


Nucleus: cell organelle, “brain” of cell, controls cell activity, contains genetic information


Omnivores: animals that eat both plants and other animals, ex. humans, raccoons, ants


Photosynthesis: process that plants use to produce their own food (sugar), occurs in the chloroplasts – CO2  +  H2O  _sunlight_>  sugar  +  O2


Plant: producer, makes its own “food” via photosynthesis


Predator: animals that hunt, kill and eat other animals, ex. ball python


Prey: animals that are hunted and killed for food, ex. rabbits


Producers: plants, make their own “food” via photosynthesis


Protists: one of the five kingdoms of life, very diverse, live in moist or aquatic habitats, usually single-celled, contain membrane-bound nuclei, ex. amoeba, algae


Scavengers: animals that eat dead organisms: ex. vultures, millipedes, flies


Species: very specific category of organisms; two animals are of the same species if they can mate to produce fertile offspring; ex. labrador retreivers and poodles are two different breeds, but they can produce fertile offspring, so they are the same species


Vacuole: stores nutrients or waste


Vertebrates: animals that have a backbone, a brain protected by a skull, and paired appendages; ex. fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals


Weed: undesirable species; often non-native, with no local predators; reproduce and spread quickly, competing with native species