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Environmental Science: A Global Concern, 7/e
William P. Cunningham, University of Minnesota
Mary Ann Cunningham, Vassar College
Barbara Woodworth Saigo, St. Cloud State University

Glossary E-L

earth charter  A set of principles for sustainable development, environmental protection, and social justice developed by a council appointed by the United Nations.
earthquakes  Sudden, violent movement of the earth's crust.
ecocentric (ecologically centered)  A philosophy that claims moral values and rights for both organisms and ecological systems and processes.
ecofeminism  A pluralistic, nonhierarchical, relationship-oriented philosophy that suggests how humans could reconceive themselves and their relationships to nature in nondominating ways as an alternative to patriarchal systems of domination.
ecojustice  Justice in the social order and integrity in the natural order.
ecological development  A gradual process of environmental modification by organisms.
ecological economics  Application of ecological insights to economic analysis in a holistic, contextual, value-sensitive, ecocentric manner.
ecological equivalents  Different species that occupy similar ecological niches in similar ecosystems in different parts of the world.
ecological niche  The functional role and position of a species (population) within a community or ecosystem, including what resources it uses, how and when it uses the resources, and how it interacts with other populations.
ecological succession  The process by which organisms occupy a site and gradually change environmental conditions so that other species can replace the original inhabitants.
ecology  The scientific study of 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.
economic development  A rise in real income per person; usually associated with new technology that increases productivity or resources.
economic growth  An increase in the total wealth of a nation; if population grows faster than the economy, there may be real economic growth, but the share per person may decline.
economic thresholds  In pest management, the point at which the cost of pest damage exceeds the costs of pest control.
ecosystem  A specific biological community and its physical environment interacting in an exchange of matter and energy.
ecosystem management  An integration of ecological, economic, and social goals in a unified systems approach to resource management.
ecosystem restoration  To reinstate an entire community of organisms to as near its natural condition as possible.
ecotage  Direct action (guerrilla warfare) or sabotage in defense of nature. See monkey wrenching.
ecotone  A boundary between two types of ecological communities.
ecotourism  A combination of adventure travel, cultural exploration, and nature appreciation in wild settings.
edge effects  A change in species composition, physical conditions, or other ecological factors at the boundary between two ecosystems.
effluent sewerage  A low-cost alternative sewage treatment for cities in poor countries that combines some features of septic systems and centralized municipal treatment systems.
electron  A negatively charged subatomic particle that orbits around the nucleus of an atom.
electrostatic precipitators  The most common particulate controls in power plants; fly ash particles pick up an electrostatic surface charge as they pass between large electrodes in the effluent stream, causing particles to migrate to the oppositely charged plate.
element  A molecule composed of one kind of atom; cannot be broken into simpler units by chemical reactions.
El Niño  A climatic change marked by shifting of a large warm water pool from the western Pacific Ocean towards the east. Wind direction and precipitation patterns are changed over much of the Pacific and perhaps around the world.
emergent diseases  A new disease or one that has been absent for at least 20 years.
emigration  The movement of members from a population.
emission standards  Regulations for restricting the amounts of air pollutants that can be released from specific point sources.
endangered species  A species considered to be in imminent danger of extinction.
endemism  A state in which species are restricted to a single region.
energy  The capacity to do work (that is, to change the physical state or motion of an object).
energy efficiency  A measure of energy produced compared to energy consumed.
energy pyramid  A representation of the loss of useful energy at each step in a food chain.
energy recovery  Incineration of solid waste to produce useful energy.
environment  The circumstances or conditions that surround an organism or group of organisms as well as the complex of social or cultural conditions that affect an individual or community.
environmental ethics  A search for moral values and ethical principles in human relations with the natural world.
environmental hormones  Chemical pollutants that substitute for, or interfere with, naturally occurring hormones in our bodies; these chemicals may trigger reproductive failure, developmental abnormalities, or tumor promotion.
environmental impact statement (EIS)  An analysis, required by provisions in the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970, of the effects of any major program a federal agency plans to undertake.
environmental indicators  Organisms or physical factors that serve as a gauge for environmental changes. More specifically, organisms with these characteristics are called bioindicators.
environmentalism  Active participation in attempts to solve environmental pollution and resource problems.
environmental justice  A recognition that access to a clean, healthy environment is a fundamental right of all human beings.
environmental law  The special body of official rules, decisions, and actions concerning environmental quality, natural resources, and ecological sustainability.
environmental literacy  Fluency in the principles of ecology that gives us a working knowledge of the basic grammar and underlying syntax of environmental wisdom.
environmental policy  The official rules or regulations concerning the environment adopted, implemented, and enforced by some governmental agency.
environmental racism  Decisions that restrict certain people or groups of people to polluted or degraded environments on the basis of race.
environmental resistance  All the limiting factors that tend to reduce population growth rates and set the maximum allowable population size or carrying capacity of an ecosystem.
environmental resources  Anything an organism needs that can be taken from the environment.
environmental science  The systematic, scientific study of our environment as well as our role in it.
enzymes  Molecules, usually proteins or nucleic acids, that act as catalysts in biochemical reactions.
epidemiology  The study of the distribution and causes of disease and injuries in human populations.
epiphyte  A plant that grows on a substrate other than the soil, such as the surface of another organism.
equilibrium community  Also called a disclimax community; a community subject to periodic disruptions, usually by fire, that prevent it from reaching a climax stage.
estuary  A bay or drowned valley where a river empties into the sea.
eukaryotic cell  A cell containing a membrane-bounded nucleus and membrane-bounded organelles.
eutrophic  Rivers and lakes rich in organisms and organic material (eu = truly; trophic = nutritious).
evaporation  The process in which a liquid is changed to vapor (gas phase).
evolution  A theory that explains how random changes in genetic material and competition for scarce resources cause species to change gradually.
exhaustible resources  Generally considered the earth's geologic endowment: minerals, nonmineral resources, fossil fuels, and other materials present in fixed amounts in the environment.
existence value  The importance we place on just knowing that a particular species or a specific organism exists.
exotic organisms  Alien species introduced by human agency into biological communities where they would not naturally occur.
exponential growth  Growth at a constant rate of increase per unit of time; can be expressed as a constant fraction or exponent. See geometric growth.
external costs  Expenses, monetary or otherwise, borne by someone other than the individuals or groups who use a resource.
extinction  The irrevocable elimination of species; can be a normal process of the natural world as species out-compete or kill off others or as environmental conditions change.
extirpate  To destroy totally; extinction caused by direct human action, such as hunting, trapping, etc.
family planning  Controlling reproduction; planning the timing of birth and having as many babies as are wanted and can be supported.
famines  Acute food shortages characterized by large-scale loss of life, social disruption, and economic chaos.
fauna  All of the animals present in a given region.
fecundity  The physical ability to reproduce.
fen  An area of waterlogged soil that tends to be peaty; fed mainly by upwelling water; low productivity.
feral  A domestic animal that has taken up a wild existence.
fermentation (alcoholic)  A type of anaerobic respiration that yields carbon dioxide and alcohol.
fertility  Measurement of actual number of offspring produced through sexual reproduction; usually described in terms of number of offspring of females, since paternity can be difficult to determine.
fetal alcohol syndrome  A tragic set of permanent physical and mental and behavioral birth defects that result when mothers drink alcohol during pregnancy.
fibrosis  The general name for accumulation of scar tissue in the lung.
fidelity  A principle that forbids misleading or deceiving any creature capable of being mislead or deceived. We are to be truthful in our dealings with others.
filters  A porous mesh of cotton cloth, spun glass fibers, or asbestos-cellulose that allows air or liquid to pass through but holds back solid particles.
fire-climax community  An equilibrium community maintained by periodic fires; examples include grasslands, chaparral shrubland, and some pine forests.
first law of thermodynamics  States that energy is conserved; that is, it is neither created nor destroyed under normal conditions.
floodplains  Low lands along riverbanks, lakes, and coastlines subjected to periodic inundation.
flora  All of the plants present in a given region.
flue-gas scrubbing  Treating combustion exhaust gases with chemical agents to remove pollutants. Spraying crushed limestone and water into the exhaust gas stream to remove sulfur is a common scrubbing technique.
fluidized bed combustion  High pressure air is forced through a mixture of crushed coal and limestone particles, lifting the burning fuel and causing it to move like a boiling fluid.
food aid  Financial assistance intended to boost less-developed countries' standards of living.
food chain  A linked feeding series; in an ecosystem, the sequence of organisms through which energy and materials are transferred, in the form of food, from one trophic level to another.
food security  The ability of individuals to obtain sufficient food on a day-to-day basis.
food surpluses  Excess food supplies.
food web  A complex, interlocking series of individual food chains in an ecosystem.
forest management  Scientific planning and administration of forest resources for sustainable harvest, multiple use, regeneration, and maintenance of a healthy biological community.
fossil fuels  Petroleum, natural gas, and coal created by geological forces from organic wastes and dead bodies of formerly living biological organisms.
Fourth World  A political/economic category describing very poor nations that have neither market economies nor central planning and are either not developing or are developing very slowly. Also used to describe indigenous communities within wealthier nations.
freezing condensation  A process that occurs in the clouds when ice crystals trap water vapor. As the ice crystals become larger and heavier, they begin to fall as rain or snow.
fresh water  Water other than seawater; covers only about 2 percent of earth's surface, including streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and water associated with several kinds of wetlands.
freshwater ecosystems  Ecosystems in which the fresh (nonsalty) water of streams, rivers, ponds, or lakes plays a defining role.
front  The boundary between two air masses of different temperature and density.
fuel assembly  A bundle of hollow metal rods containing uranium oxide pellets; used to fuel a nuclear reactor.
fuel cells  Mechanical devices that use hydrogen or hydrogen-containing fuel such as methane to produce an electric current. Fuel cells are clean, quiet, and highly efficient sources of electricity.
fuel-switching  A change from one fuel to another.
fuelwood  Branches, twigs, logs, wood chips, and other wood products harvested for use as fuel.
fugitive emissions  Substances that enter the air without going through a smokestack, such as dust from soil erosion, strip mining, rock crushing, construction, and building demolition.
fungi  One of the five kingdom classifications; consists of nonphotosynthetic, eukaryotic organisms with cell walls, filamentous bodies, and absorptive nutrition.
fungicide  A chemical that kills fungi.
Gaia hypothesis  A theory that the living organisms of the biosphere form a single, complex interacting system that creates and maintains a habitable Earth; named after Gaia, the Greek Earth mother goddess.
gamma rays  Very short wavelength forms of the electromagnetic spectrum.
gap analysis  A biogeographical technique of mapping biological diversity and endemic species to find gaps between protected areas that leave endangered habitats vulnerable to disruption.
garden city  A new town with special emphasis on landscaping and rural ambience.
gasohol  A mixture of gasoline and ethanol.
gene  A unit of heredity; a segment of DNA nucleus of the cell that contains information for the synthesis of a specific protein, such as an enzyme.
gene banks  Storage for seed varieties for future breeding experiments.
general fertility rate  Crude birthrate multiplied by the percentage of reproductive age women.
genetic assimilation  The disappearance of a species as its genes are diluted through crossbreeding with a closely related species.
genetic engineering  Laboratory manipulation of genetic material using molecular biology techniques to create desired characteristics in organisms.
geometric growth  Growth that follows a geometric pattern of increase, such as 2, 4, 8, 16, etc. See exponential growth.
geothermal energy  Energy drawn from the internal heat of the earth, either through geysers, fumaroles, hot springs, or other natural geothermal features, or through deep wells that pump heated groundwater.
germ plasm  Genetic material that may be preserved for future agricultural, commercial, and ecological values (plant seeds or parts or animal eggs, sperm, and embryos).
global environmentalism  A concern for, and action to help solve, global environmental problems.
grasslands  A biome dominated by grasses and associated herbaceous plants.
greenhouse gas  Gasses added to the atmosphere by human actions that trap heat and cause global warming.
green plans  Integrated national environmental plans for reducing pollution and resource consumption while achieving sustainable development and environmental restoration.
green political parties  Political organizations based on environmental protection, participatory democracy, grassroots organization, and sustainable development.
green revolution  Dramatically increased agricultural production brought about by "miracle" strains of grain; usually requires high inputs of water, plant nutrients, and pesticides.
gross domestic product (GDP)  The total economic activity within national boundaries.
gross national product (GNP)  The sum total of all goods and services produced in a national economy. Gross domestic product (GDP) is used to distinguish economic activity within a country from that of off-shore corporations.
groundwater  Water held in gravel deposits or porous rock below the earth's surface; does not include water or crystallization held by chemical bonds in rocks or moisture in upper soil layers.
gully erosion  Removal of layers of soil, creating channels or ravines too large to be removed by normal tillage operations.
habitat  The place or set of environmental conditions in which a particular organism lives.
habitat conservation plans  Agreements under which property owners are allowed to harvest resources or develop land as long as habitat is conserved or replaced in ways that benefit resident endangered or threatened species in the long run. Some incidental "taking" or loss of endangered species is generally allowed in such plans.
Hadley cells  Circulation patterns of atmospheric convection currents as they sink and rise in several intermediate bands.
hazardous  Describes chemicals that are dangerous, including flammables, explosives, irritants, sensitizers, acids, and caustics; may be relatively harmless in diluted concentrations.
hazardous waste  Any discarded material containing substances known to be toxic, mutagenic, carcinogenic, or teratogenic to humans or other life-forms; ignitable, corrosive, explosive, or highly reactive alone or with other materials.
health  A state of physical and emotional well-being; the absence of disease or ailment.
heap-leach extraction  A technique for separating gold from extremely low-grade ores. Crushed ore is piled in huge heaps and sprayed with a dilute alkaline-cyanide solution, which percolates through the pile to extract the gold, which is separated from the effluent in a processing plant. This process has a high potential for water pollution.
heat  A form of energy transferred from one body to another because of a difference in temperatures.
heat capacity  The amount of heat energy that must be added or subtracted to change the temperature of a body; water has a high heat capacity.
heat of vaporization  The amount of heat energy required to convert water from a liquid to a gas.
herbicide  A chemical that kills plants.
herbivore  An organism that eats only plants.
heterotroph  An organism that is incapable of synthesizing its own food and, therefore, must feed upon organic compounds produced by other organisms.
high-level waste repository  A place where intensely radioactive wastes can be buried and remain unexposed to groundwater and earthquakes for tens of thousands of years.
high-quality energy  Intense, concentrated, and high-temperature energy that is considered high-quality because of its usefulness in carrying out work.
holistic science  The study of entire, integrated systems rather than isolated parts. Often takes a descriptive or interpretive approach.
homeostasis  Maintaining a dynamic, steady state in a living system through opposing, compensating adjustments.
Homestead Act  Legislation passed in 1862 allowing any citizen or applicant for citizenship over 21 years old and head of a family to acquire 160 acres of public land by living on it and cultivating it for five years.
host organism  An organism that provides lodging for a parasite.
hot desert  Deserts of the American Southwest and Mexico; characterized by extreme summer heat and cacti.
human ecology  The study of the interactions of humans with the environment.
human resources  Human wisdom, experience, skill, labor, and enterprise.
humus  Sticky, brown, insoluble residue from the bodies of dead plants and animals; gives soil its structure, coating mineral particles and holding them together; serves as a major source of plant nutrients.
hurricanes  Large cyclonic oceanic storms with heavy rain and winds exceeding 119 km/hr (74 mph).
hybrid gas-electric motor  Automobiles that run on electric power and a small gasoline or diesel engine.
hypothesis  A provisional explanation that can be tested scientifically.
igneous rocks  Crystalline minerals solidified from molten magma from deep in the earth's interior; basalt, rhyolite, andesite, lava, and granite are examples.
inbreeding depression  In a small population, an accumulation of harmful genetic traits (through random mutations and natural selection) that lowers viability and reproductive success of enough individuals to affect the whole population.
inductive reasoning  Inferring general principles from specific examples.
industrial revolution  Advances in science and technology that have given us power to understand and change our world.
industrial timber  Trees used for lumber, plywood, veneer, particleboard, chipboard, and paper; also called roundwood.
inertial confinement  A nuclear fusion process in which a small pellet of nuclear fuel is bombarded with extremely high-intensity laser light.
infiltration  The process of water percolation into the soil and pores and hollows of permeable rocks.
informal economy  Small-scale family businesses in temporary locations outside the control of normal regulatory agencies.
inherent value  Ethical values or rights that exist as an intrinsic or essential characteristic of a particular thing or class of things simply by the fact of their existence.
inholdings  Private lands within public parks, forests, or wildlife refuges.
insecticide  A chemical that kills insects.
insolation  Incoming solar radiation.
instrumental value  Value or worth of objects that satisfy the needs and wants of moral agents. Objects that can be used as a means to some desirable end.
intangible resources  Factors such as open space, beauty, serenity, wisdom, diversity, and satisfaction that cannot be grasped or contained. Ironically, these resources can be both infinite and exhaustible.
integrated pest management (IPM)  An ecologically based pest-control strategy that relies on natural mortality factors, such as natural enemies, weather, cultural control methods, and carefully applied doses of pesticides.
internal costs  The expenses, monetary or otherwise, borne by those who use a resource.
internalizing costs  Planning so that those who reap the benefits of resource use also bear all the external costs.
interplanting  The system of planting two or more crops, either mixed together or in alternating rows, in the same field; protects the soil and makes more efficient use of the land.
interpretive science  Explanation based on observation and description of entire objects or systems rather than isolated parts.
interspecific competition  In a community, competition for resources between members of different species.
intraspecific competition  In a community, competition for resources among members of the same species.
ionizing radiation  High-energy electromagnetic radiation or energetic subatomic particles released by nuclear decay.
ionosphere  The lower part of the thermosphere.
ions  Electrically charged atoms that have gained or lost electrons.
irruptive growth  See Malthusian growth.
island biogeography  The study of rates of colonization and extinction of species on islands or other isolated areas based on size, shape, and distance from other inhabited regions.
isotopes  Forms of a single element that differ in atomic mass due to a different number of neutrons in the nucleus.
J curve  A growth curve that depicts exponential growth; called a J curve because of its shape.
jet streams  Powerful winds or currents of air that circulate in shifting flows; similar to oceanic currents in extent and effect on climate.
joule  A unit of energy. One joule is the energy expended in 1 second by a current of 1 amp flowing through a resistance of 1 ohm.
keystone species  A species whose impacts on its community or ecosystem are much larger and more influential than would be expected from mere abundance.
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.
known resources  Those that have been located but are not completely mapped but, nevertheless, are likely to become economical in the foreseeable future.
kwashiorkor  A widespread human protein deficiency disease resulting from a starchy diet low in protein and essential amino acids.
Kyoto Protocol  An international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
landfills  Land disposal sites for solid waste; operators compact refuse and cover it with a layer of dirt to minimize rodent and insect infestation, wind-blown debris, and leaching by rain.
land reform  Democratic redistribution of landownership to recognize the rights of those who actually work the land to a fair share of the products of their labor.
landscape ecology  The study of the reciprocal effects of spatial pattern on ecological processes. A study of the ways in which landscape history shapes the features of the land and the organisms that inhabit it as well as our reaction to, and interpretation of, the land.
landslide  The sudden fall of rock and earth from a hill or cliff. Often triggered by an earthquake or heavy rain.
LD50  A chemical dose lethal to 50 percent of a test population.
less-developed countries (LDC)  Nonindustrialized nations characterized by low per capita income, high birthrates and death rates, high population growth rates, and low levels of technological development.
life-cycle analysis  Evaluation of material and energy inputs and outputs at each stage of manufacture, use, and disposal of a product.
life expectancy  The average age that a newborn infant can expect to attain in a particular time and place.
life span  The longest period of life reached by a type of organism.
limiting factors  Chemical or physical factors that limit the existence, growth, abundance, or distribution of an organism.
lipid  A nonpolar organic compound that is insoluble in water but soluble in solvents, such as alcohol and ether; includes fats, oils, steroids, phospholipids, and carotenoids.
liquid metal fast breeder  A nuclear power plant that converts uranium 238 to plutonium 239; thus, it creates more nuclear fuel than it consumes. Because of the extreme heat and density of its core, the breeder uses liquid sodium as a coolant.
lobbying  Using personal contacts, public pressure, or political action to persuade legislators to vote in a particular manner.
logistic growth  Growth rates regulated by internal and external factors that establish an equilibrium with environmental resources. See S curve.
longevity  The length or duration of life; compare to survivorship.
low-head hydropower  Small-scale hydro technology that can extract energy from small headwater dams; causes much less ecological damage.
low-quality energy  Diffuse, dispersed energy at a low temperature that is difficult to gather and use for productive purposes.
LULUs  Locally Unwanted Land Uses such as toxic waste dumps, incinerators, smelters, airports, freeways, and other sources of environmental, economic, or social degradation.