Ecology Vocabulary

Term Definition
abiotic nonliving, not from a living organism
biogeochemical cycle the movement of atoms and molecules from living organisms and the physical environment
biotic a living organism or produced by a living organism.
carbon cycle the movement of carbon from the nonliving environment into living things and back.
commensalism a relationship between two organisms in which one organism benefits and the other is unaffected.
competition ecological relationship in which two or more organisms depend on the same limited resource.
consumer a organism that eats other organisms or organic matter.
decomposer an organism that gets energy by breaking down the remains of dead organisms or animal wastes and consuming or absorbing the nutrients.
ecology the study of the interactions of living organisms with one another and with their environment.
ecosystem a community of organisms and their abiotic, or nonliving, environment.
energy pyramid a triangular diagram that shows an ecosystem’s loss of energy, which results as energy passes through the ecosystem’s food chain.
food chain the pathway of energy transfer through various stages as a result of the feeding patterns of a series of organisms.
food web a diagram that shows the feeding relationships between organisms in an ecosystem.
limiting factor an environmental factor that prevents an organism or population from reaching its full potential of size or activity.
mutualism a relationship between two species in which both species benefit.
parasite an organism that benefits from another species, the host, which is harmed.
parasitism a relationship between two species in which one species, the parasite, benefits from the other species, the host, which is harmed.
predation when a predator feeds on prey
predator an organism that kills and eats all or part of another organism.
prey an organism that is killed and eaten by another organism.
primary consumer an animal that feeds on plants; a herbivore Any organism that consumes or feeds on autotrophs or decaying matter.
producer an organism that can make its own food by using energy from its surroundings.
secondary consumer a carnivore that feeds only on herbivores An organism that largely feeds on primary consumers
symbiosis a relationship in which two different organisms live in close association with each other.
tertiary consumer An organism that largely feeds on secondary and primary consumers.
trophic level position in the food chain
water cycle the natural sequence through which water passes into the atmosphere as water vapor, precipitates to earth in liquid or solid form, and ultimately returns to the atmosphere through evaporation.

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