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Introductory Plant Ecology
Glossary


Biogeography
“deals mostly with the factors controlling the distributions of individual species, including changes in distribution patterns.”
biome
“all of the ecosystems of a single type on Earth,” roughly synonymous with Life Zone (see Chapter 2).”
carrying capacity
(1) “the capacity of the environment to support a population of a species, stated in terms of population size or density,”
(2) “the fitness of the species in the environment, stated as the theoretical maximum population size or density, given the values of the environmental factors,”
(3) “the capacity of the environment to support the populations of all species, stated in terms of the sum of the populations of all species present.”
competition
“more than one individual is using the same limited resource (food, nest site or germination site, etc.), so we anticipate that not all competing individuals will gain enough of the resource to support survival.”
community
“the populations of all species [usually of a single high level taxon, such as Order] occupying the same site.”
continuum
“a descriptive term for the nearly continuous change in species composition between communities.”
data (singular: datum)
“a collection of facts.”
density, population density
“the number of individuals of the species per unit area.”
detritus
“the decomposing remains of dead plant and animal carcasses or parts.”
diversity, or Biodiversity
“the number of species (often of a single higher taxon, such as Order) which can potentially be found on any site in a given geographic area.”
ecosystem
“all of the populations [Animal, Plant, Fungi, Protista, & Bacteria] which occupy the same site, plus the physical & chemical environment of the site.”
efficiency, or ecological efficiency
“the biomass of the animal which is eating as a percentage of the biomass of the organism being eaten; and for producers, the biomass of producers as a percentage of the light energy striking the leaf surfaces.”
fact
“anything which is observable, either directly or indirectly.”
fauna
“a complete listing of the animal species known to occur in a defined geographic area.”
fitness
“[from Genetics] the probability of survival in a competitive situation.”
flora
“a complete listing of the plant species known to occur in a defined geographic area.”
generation
the population of offspring from the previous generation,
gradient
“a series of communities across an environmental system where the (limiting) environmental factors co-vary with geography,”
habitat
“the general environment (physical & biological) within which a particular population can exist.”
hypothesis (plural: hypotheses)
“the expected answer to the question under investigation.”
interesting
“anything I find interesting is inherently interesting, and I intend to discuss it as if you agree that it is interesting.”
invasive species
“species which are not historically members of a local flora or fauna, and which rapidly increase in population density at the expense of the native flora or fauna”
jargon
“any word which will be used in a restricted sense, including common words with broader meanings, as well as words made up by scientists.”
life expectancy
“the age by which 50% of the population can be expected to die.”
life span
“the age at death of the oldest known individual of the species (or population).”
landscape
“a broad overview, as if seen from some elevation above the terrain, of the vegetation across many communities.”
Landscape Ecology
“seeks to detect, and understand, the correlations between the Vegetation and the physical/chemical environment within Ecosystems.”
migration
“any movement of a population, or a part of the population, from one site to another,”
niche
“the specific details of the habitat which support one species, but not the other species of the same community.”
population
[statistical] “the entire statistical universe, or all of the values which exist for the phenomenon under investigation,”
[ecological] “all of the individuals of a species which occupy the same site and interact with each other.”
population density
“the number of individuals of the species population per unit area.”
reproductive potential
“the maximum number of offspring which can be produced by an individual.”
stand
“area occupied by floristically and structurally homeogeneous vegetation. It is the [community]” (quoted from Pierre Dansereau, 1957. Biogeography, an Ecological Perspective, The Ronald Press Co, New York, p. 333).
succession
“an [orderly] transition of community structure over time on a single site.”
taxon (plural: taxa)
“a classification unit of any of several ranks: {species, Genus, Family; Order; Class; Phylum (Division in older botanical references); Kingdom; Domain}.”
transect
“a sampling regime in which samples are taken at intervals along a geographic line,
or a geographic line drawn across a series of communities.”
vegetation
“the total plant cover of an area, consisting of one or more communities” (quoted from Pierre Dansereau, 1957. Biogeography, an Ecological Perspective, The Ronald Press Co, New York, p. 336).

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revised: 26 Jan 2011