Glossary

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Words with links will take you to a picture of that word.

A

Abiotic factor - physical effects such as sunlight, rainfall, type of soil, and pH that have a direct effect on living things.

Acid - a very reactive chemical that can harm organisms. Acids create a sour taste in foods, and have a pH level below 7.

Arthropod - a small animal with three or more pairs of legs and a hard covering called an exoskeleton.  Insects, spiders and crabs are examples of arthropods.

B

Base - a very reactive chemical that can harm organisms. Bases create a bitter taste in foods, and have a pH level above 7.

Biomass - the total weight of living organisms in a biotic community.

Biome - any one of the primary ecological areas of the Earth. These include: permanent ice, mountain, desert, grassland, scrub forest, chaparral deciduous forest, taiga, tundra.

Biotic community - an area where many species of organisms live and interact together.

Biotic factor - any living member of the environment, such as animals, plants, bacteria, etc.

Bryozoans- tiny animals that are similar to corals. Most types live in large colonies that surround themselves with limestone.

C

Canopy - the third and highest layer of plants in a forest.  The canopy is created by the tallest trees.  The spreading branches with their leaves form a kind of "roof" over the forest floor.

Carnivore - an animal that eats other animals.

Climax community - the final type of biotic community that forms in the natural development, or succession, of an area.

Colony - a group of animals that live together in one place.

Consumer - any organism that eats producers, or other consumers, as food.

Coral - a small animal that is related to a jellyfish, but instead of swimming, it stays in one place and builds a limestone wall around itself. Most corals live in large colonies and form limestone rock "apartment building" homes.

Coral Reef - a biotic community that exists in the marine environment. It gets its name from the limestone homes formed
by tiny animals called corals. It is the climax community of the oceans.

Crown - the top of a tree made up of all of the spreading branches and leaves .

Cover - the total area directly under a tree's crown. Measure this at noon, when the sun is directly overhead, or, measure the circumference of the tree's crown.

D

Decomposers - simple organisms that eat dead organisms. They are important because they recycle the nutrients of the dead organisms back into the environment.

Diurnal - being awake and active during the day.

Diversity - a measure of how many different species of organisms live in a particular community. The more species, the more diverse the community.

Dominant - the tree species that takes up the most total area in a community.

E

Everglades - an extensive, flat grassland that is submerged in freshwater.  The water moves slowly southward from Lake Okeechobee.  It is characterized by sawgrass, with hammocks scattered among this grass. It extends from lake Okeechobee southward to the tip of Florida.

Exotic - a plant or animal that is not native to a biotic community, but is brought there, usually by humans, either on purpose or by accident.

F

G

Grassland - a natural community where the dominant plants are grasses.

H

Habitat - the area in the environment that is an organism's home.  The organism chooses this area as its home because this is where all of its needs, like food and shelter, are met.

Hardwood - a tree that produces wood which is hard enough to be used as lumber.

Hardwood hammock- the climax community of South Florida. It includes hardwood trees that came here both from North America and the tropics.

Herb - the category of land (terrestrial) plants that includes the smallest types.

Herbivore - an animal that eats plants.

I

Indicator - a chemical that changes color in the presence of an acid or base.  It is used to measure the pH of a substance. The color tells you the pH.

Insect - an animal that has three pairs of legs and is covered by a hard exoskeleton. It also has antennae, compound eyes, and three main body parts.

J

K

L

Limestone - the most common rock in South Florida. It is made of Calcium Carbonate. It can be formed naturally in the water when the water has a lot of Calcium Carbonate dissolved in it. It can also be synthesized by organisms living in the water to form a protective covering around themselves.

Litter- fallen leaves, twigs, and other remains of plants that cover the ground.

M

Mangrove- any one of the three types of trees that live along coastlines. The three kinds of mangroves are the red, black, and white varieties.  They are important because they build beaches, protect the land from waves produced during storms, and provide a safe area for baby fish and other baby organisms to live.

Metabolism - all of the chemical reactions necessary for life that take place within an organism.

Mollusk - animals that have a soft body but are often covered by a hard shell. Examples are snails, clams, and squids.

Mosses - the simplest of all land plants.  They are usually very small and do not have true roots, stems or leaves.  They must leave near water.

N

Native - an organism that lives in an area and has been there since before humans arrived.

Neutral - a situation that exists when water contains no acids or bases, or when the acid and the base in the water cancel each other out.

Nocturnal - being awake and active at night.

O

Ooids- very small oval particles of limestone. They were formed when the dissolved calcium carbonate in the sea formed solid particles thousands of years ago.

Organism - any living thing. This can be an animal, plant, or a simpler form of life like a fungus or bacteria.

P

Palmetto- a small palm that has fan-like leaves.

Peninsula- a piece of land that extends out into the ocean and is surrounded by water on three sides.

pH - a measure of the concentration of chemicals called acids and bases that are in the soil or water.  This concentration is measured with a number scale that goes from 1 to 14.

Photosynthesis - the process by which certain organisms make sugar from carbon dioxide by using the sun’s energy.

Pine - a tree with thin, needle-like leaves and cones that contain the seeds.

Pineland - the biotic community in which the pine tree is the dominant organism. It is the climax community of South Florida where fires are frequent.

Pinnacle Rock- limestone rock that has been dissolved in places by the action of acids in the water.  The dissolving process produces deep grooves and holes in the rock.

Population - all of the members of a species that live together in a particular geographical area.

Predator - an animal that eats other animals.

Producer - a plant or other organism that carries out photosynthesis and therefore produces its own food.

Q

R

Rainforest - a biotic community usually found in the tropical regions of the earth. The name rainforest comes from the tremendous amounts of yearly rainfall.  Rainforests are the most diverse communities on the earth.

S

Sapling-the term for a young tree, not yet fully grown.

Scavenger - an animal that eats dead organisms.

Seedling - the term for a plant that has just emerged from its seed with its first root, stem and leaves.

Shrub- a plant with a trunk circumference of between

Specialist - an organism that eats only one type of other organism for food.

Species - organisms that look alike and can mate and produce normal offspring.

Subtropical - areas of the earth that are close to the tropics, the area near the equator, and have a climate much milder than temperate, northern zones.

T

Terrestrial - having to do with the land portions of the earth’s surface.  Organisms that live on land.

Tree - a plant with a trunk circumference of 10 centimeters or more.

U

V

W

Wood - the hard material found under the bark of trees and shrubs.  It is made of plant cells that die each year as the plant grows.  The walls around the dead cells are made of cellulose.  Cellulose is a hard material.  This is the wood of a plant, and wood is hard.

X

Y

Z