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*S Largent* Environmental Science Ch 2 Terms


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the scientific study of the relationships between organisms and their environment. It is concerned with the life histories; distribution; and behavior of individual species as well as the structure and function of natural systems at the level of populations; communities; and ecosystems.
everything that takes up space and has mass.
Conservation of matter
in any chemical reaction; matter changes form; it is neither created nor destroyed.
the capacity to do work.
Kinetic energy
energy contained in moving objects such as a rock rolling down a hill; the wind blowing through the trees; or water flowing over a dam.
Potential energy
stored energy that is latent but available for use. A rock poised at the top of a hill or water stored behind a dam are examples.
total kinetic energy of atoms or molecules in a substance not associated with the bulk motion of the substance.
a branch of physics that deals with transfers and conversions of energy.
1st law of thermodynamics
energy is conserved; that is; it is neither created nor destroyed under normal conditions.
2nd law of thermodynamics
with each successive energy transfer or transformation in a system; less energy is available to do work.
Energy quality
the measure of an energy sourceÂ’s ability to do work.
High energy quality
organized/concentrated to perform useful work; examples include: electricity; coal; gasoline; natural gas; and concentrated sunlight)
Low energy quality
disorganized/dispersed and has little ability to do useful work; best example is heat.
all the organisms genetically similar enough to breed and produce live; fertile offspring in nature.
all the members of one species that live in the same area at the same time.
Biological community
the populations of plants; animals; and microorganisms living and interacting in a certain area at a given time.
a specific biological community and its physical environment interacting in an exchange of matter and energy.
an organism that synthesizes food molecules from inorganic compounds by using an external energy source; most producers are photosynthetic.
an organism that obtains energy and nutrients by feeding on other organisms or their remains.
Food chain
the sequence of organisms through which energy and materials (in the form of food) are transferred.
Food web
a complex; interlocking series of individual food chains in an ecosystem.
Biogeochemical cycle
movement of matter within or between ecosystems; caused by living organisms; geological forces; or chemical reactions. The cycling of nitrogen; carbon; sulfur; oxygen; phosphorus; and water are examples.

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