Glossary

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Term Term description
A horizon

The top layer of a soil profile, usually dark-colored and containing humus and from which soluble salts may have been leached.

abiotic

The non-living chemical and physical factors in the environment, including solar radiation, water, atmospheric gases, soil type and fertility, temperature, etc. that put constraints on the success of organisms.

 

ablution

 

The washing of one’s body as a religious purification.

 

acid mine drainage

The outflow of acidic water from (usually abandoned) metal mines or coal mines.

acid rain

Rain containing higher than normal amounts of nitric and sulfuric acids. Acid rain formation results from both natural sources, such as volcanoes and decaying vegetation, and man-made sources, primarily emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) resulting from fossil fuel combustion.

acidic

Having the properties of an acid, or containing acid; having a pH below 7. Acidic soil has a pH level less than 7. The lower the number, the higher the acidity. Soil's pH levels affect the availability of plant nutrients.

action

An act that one consciously wills and that may be characterized by physical or mental activity.

active carbon sink

A reservoir of living trees, algae and plants that removes CO2 from the atmosphere mainly through photosynthesis and accumulates and stores the carbon in plant materials.

adaptation

The adjustment or changes in behavior, physiology, and structure of an organism allowing it to become more suited to an environment.

 

adaptive radiation

evolution of a number of divergent species from a common ancestor, each species becoming adapted to occupy a different environment.

adenosine triphosphate (ATP)

A nucleoside, C10H13N5O4, composed of adenine linked to ribose, that is a component of nucleic acids and of ADP, AMP, and ATP, and that plays a role in regulating various physiological functions.

adhesion

The molecular attraction between substances in contact with surfaces or objects.
 

adhesive

The property of oppositely charged molecules to adhere to each other. Attracted to other types of molecules with positive and negative charges.

aeration

Soil aeration is the process of using mechanized or manual equipment to either puncture the soil with spikes or remove approximately 1" x 2" cores of soil from the ground. Aeration may be overlooked when trying to restore a lawn but is vital to bring it back to health. It improves drainage and reduces puddles formation.

aerobic

Living or occurring only in the presence of  oxygen.

 

agriculture

The science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products.

agroecosystems

The organisms and environment of an agricultural area considered as an ecosystem.

albedo

The fraction of solar energy (shortwave radiation) that is reflected from the Earth back into space. Ice, especially with snow on top of it, has a high albedo; most sunlight hitting the Earth's surface bounces back towards space. Water and land are much more absorbent and less reflective, so have lower albedo.

algae

Unicellular or multicellular organisms formerly classified as plants, occurring in fresh or salt water or moist ground, that have chlorophyll and other pigments but lack true stems, roots, and leaves. Algae, which are now regarded as protists, include the seaweeds, diatoms, and phytoplankton.

Allah

The Muslim name for God; the one Supreme Being.

alluvial fan

a fan or cone shaped deposit of sediment crossed and built up by streams

Alpine regions

Alpine tundra is an ecosystem that occurs in mountains worldwide. The high altitude climate is too cold and windy to support a wide variety of trees. The flora of the alpine tundra is characterized by dwarf shrubs close to the ground. The cold climate of the alpine tundra is caused by the low air pressure, and is similar to polar climate.

ambient

Of or relating to the immediate surroundings, e.g. the ambient temperature is the present temperature in a given place.

amino acid

Biologically important organic compounds containing amine (-NH2) and carboxylic acid (-COOH) functional groups, usually along with a side-chain specific to each amino acid. Amino acids are linked together to make proteins prescribed by genetic code.

ammonia

(NH3) A colorless gas that is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen, has a sharp smell and taste, and is used in cleaning products and in making fertilizers and explosives. Ammonia is naturally occurring and is an important component of the nitrogen cycle, but is also artificially produced through the Haber-Bosch process for industrial purposes.

ammonification

Decomposition of nitrogenous organic material resulting in the production of ammonia or ammonium compounds, usually through the action of bacteria.

ammonification

Decomposition of nitrogenous organic material resulting in the production of ammonia or ammonium compounds, usually through the action of bacteria.

ammonifier

A bacterium that produces ammonia from organic matter containing nitrogen.

ammonium

(NH4+) An ion derived from ammonia by combination with a hydrogen ion.

amoeba

A single-celled animal that catches food and moves about by extending fingerlike projections of protoplasm. Amoebas are either free-living in damp environments or parasitic.

anaerobic

Living or occurring in the absence of air or free oxygen.

anaerobic decomposition

The process by which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen.

 

anaerobic digestion

A process where microorganisms break down organic materials, such as food scraps, manure, and sewage sludge, in the absence of oxygen, produces a gas principally composed of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) otherwise known as biogas.

animal husbandry

Animal husbandry is the management and care of farm animals by humans, in which genetic qualities and behavior, considered to be advantageous to humans, are further developed.

animists

People who accept animism, the view that non-human entities (animals, plants, and inanimate objects or phenomena) possess a spiritual essence.

anion

An ion is an atom or molecule with a net electric charge due to an unequal number of protons (positive particles) and electrons (negative particles). Anions have a negative charge because they have more electrons than protons.

anoxia

Total absence of dissolved oxygen supply.

Anthropocene Mass Extinction

The exponential increase in species extinction during the current geological age, within the past 200 years, as a result of  human activity.

anthropogenic

Of, relating to, or resulting from the influence of human beings on nature.

 

apatite

A common mineral, calcium fluorophosphate, Ca5FP3O12, occurring in individual crystals and in masses and varying in color, used in the manufacture of phosphate fertilizers.

aquaculture

The breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, plants, algae and other organisms in all types of water environments.

aquatic

Of, in, or pertaining to water; aquatic organisms include fish, plankton, amphibians, and aquatic habitats include oceans, lakes, rivers and wetlands.

 

aquatic ecosystems

An ecosystem in a body of water. Two main types of aquatic ecosystems are marine and freshwater.

aquifer

An underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock, rock fractures or unconsolidated materials (gravel, sand, or silt) from which groundwater can be extracted using a water well.

arable

In agriculture, being or capable of being tilled for the production of crops.

arctic amplification

Arctic amplification refers to the greater rate of climate warming in the Arctic region than the rest of the world. The amount of land in the Northern Hemisphere allows for greater annual variation of snow cover. This fact allows for greater cooling and warming potentials when the overall climate forcing is altered. Less forcing would result in a cooling trend that would allow more snow cover and therefore a polar de-amplification effect in relation to the average temperature of the rest of the globe. More forcing, as is what happens under the influence of higher concentrations of greenhouse gases, allows for a more rapid decrease in snow and ice cover. The decrease of melting of snow and ice reduces the albedo reflectance of the poles therefore amplifying the temperature in the polar region.

arthropod

Any of numerous invertebrate animals having a segmented body, segmented appendages, and an external skeleton. Crustaceans, insects, and arachnids are all arthropods. Arthropods are the largest phylum in the animal kingdom.

Artificial Selection

Human intervention in animal or plant reproduction or survival to allow only individuals with desirable traits to reproduce.

astronomer

An expert in astronomy, the scientific study of the individual celestial bodies (including the stars, planets asteroids, etc.) and of the universe as a whole.

atman

A Sanskrit word that means inner self or soul, the true essence of an individual.

atmosphere

The envelope of gases that surrounds the Earth; consists largely of nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%)

 

atoll

A coral island or series of coral islands forming a ring that nearly or entirely encloses a shallow lagoon. Atolls are surrounded by deep ocean water and range in diameter from about 1 km (0.62 mi) to over 100 km (62 mi). They are especially common in the western and central Pacific Ocean and serve as important habitats for corals, algae and fishes.

atom

The smallest unit of an element, having all the characteristics of that element and consisting of a very small and dense central nucleus containing protons and neutrons, surrounded by one or more shells of orbiting electrons.

atrazine

A photosynthesis-inhibiting persistent herbicide C8H14ClN5 used especially to kill annual weeds and quack grass.

aurora borealis

A natural light display in the night time skies of the Northern Hemisphere created by colliding charged particles in the atmosphere, sometimes called the Northern Lights.

autotroph

An organism capable of synthesizing its own food from inorganic substances, using light or chemical energy. Green plants, algae, and certain bacteria are autotrophs.

Azomite

A highly mineralized complex silica ore (Hydrated Sodium Calcium Aluminosilicate or HSCAS), mined in Utah from an ancient deposit left by an volcanic eruption that filled a small nearby seabed an estimated 30 million years ago. It is used as a naturally rich soil re-mineralizer for plants, as well as a feed ingredient for animals. In a typical chemical assay, AZOMITE® contains more than 70 trace minerals which include many rare earth elements(lanthanides). Many of these elements have been depleted from soils worldwide.

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