abiotic- part of the environment including temperature, humidity, light, altitude and chemical make up. These factors limit the types of organisms that live there.
algal bloom- fast-growing microscopic, single-cell algae, as opposed to beneficial blue-green algae, that block out light and kill water life, and alter marine habitats.
anaerobic digestion- bacteria's converting organic matter into combustible biogas.
the study of man-made land forms.
aquatic- pertaining to water, commonly fresh water or dwelling in fresh water.
autotrophs- organisms that produce organic material from inorganic material by outside energy, such as plants with chlorophyll and some types of bacteria.
biodegradable- materials that readily decompose to become soil over time.
biodiversity- the presence of multiple species, so as to balance the needs of all species.
biomass- total amount of living organic material in an ecosystem.
biomass heating systems- energy harvested from plants.
biosolids- solid by-products of waste water treatment processes.
biosphere- where living species are found, within a few meters of the earth's surface, in soil, water, or in the atmosphere.
biotic- living part of the environment, including plants, animals and microbes.
bog- a thick mat of sphagnum moss encircling or covering a small lake or pond containing cranberry, Labrador tea and bog laurel.
brownfields- post-industrial sites; abandoned or degraded sites, left over from industry
carbon cycle- process by which carbon circulates through the environment. Carbon is part of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Plants absorb carbon from the atmosphere, which is changed into carbohydrates via photosynthesis, and eaten by animals. Animals release carbon through respiration or decomposition, when plants or animals die.
carnivores-animals that eat other animals. If they feed on herbivores they are called first-order carnivores. If they feed on other carnivores they are called second-order carnivores.
carrying capacity- the maximum population of an individual plant or animal species that the community can support.
cellulose- a complex carbohydrate making up a major part of plant cell walls.
channeling- rivers lined with concrete, Meant to protect the watershed from toxins, but channelization hastens flooding, as there's no soil or plants to absorb excess water.
chlorophyll- the green pigment of plants that converts light energy into chemical energy, see also photosynthesis.
chloroplast- the tiny spheres in plant cells that contain chlorophyll.
clean-air experts- specialists that improve ventilation, thermal comfort.
coniferous- cone-bearing trees or bushes such as evergreen, needle- leafed or softwood trees, and many tropical trees. Leaves remain on the tree for tow or more years.
consumers- any organism that feeds on other plants or animals. Also called heterotrophs, which means other feeders.
conversational drift- an open dialogue that inspires imaginative ideas, brainstorming.
CSOs- combined-sewer overflow; the effect of the sewers, whose pipes follow the river's contour, overflowing into a waterway and vice-versa. Caused by silting and excess water entering both systems at accelerated rates during rainstorms.
culvert- a sewer or drain running under a road or embankment.
daylighting- returning streams from underground pipes to the open air, where sunlight can activate the microbial communities, providing sustainable water quality benefits.
deciduous- broad leaf or hardwood trees, leaves stay on tree for one growing season, change color in the fall and are shed for winter.
decomposers- organisms, usually bacteria and fungi, that get energy from breaking down dead organic matter into simple but useful substances.
detritus- decaying organic debris that forms silt like layers on the floor of the wetland, and creates a food base in streams.
E and R ratings- ratings that describe the eco-efficiency of building materials.
ecology- the study of how plants and animals interact in their non- living environment.
ecological niche- lifestyle unique to a species of plant or animal. Includes food chain, relationship to habitat, adaptations to ecosystem, and daily and seasonal activities.
ecosystem- living (biotic), and non-living (abiotic) parts of the environment. Includes plant and animals as well as chemicals, and climate.
emergent- plants with root systems submerged in water.
environment- external factors that an organism is exposed to, including living and non-living factors.
eutrophication- process by which a wetland becomes overloaded with mineral and organic nutrients (disturbed soil or animal waste run-off), thus reducing the oxygen.
evapotranspiration- plants cool the air by releasing water vapors through their leaves.
flow forms- objects placed in rivers to stimulate river's flow and aerate via movement.
food chain- transfer of energy cycle from one organism to the next. This chain starts with the Sun's energy, then to the plants, then to animals.
food pyramid- estimate of energy available at each feeding level shown in pyramid diagram. The energy amount is measured by weighing plants and animals at each level.
food web- diagram showing all feeding relationships in a given community.
global warming- the heating of the planet due to excess energy use and hot gases.
greenhouse effect- the heating of the atmosphere due to solar radiation's being trapped in ozone, water vapors and carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere.
greenhouse gases- carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), and Chlorofluorocarbons.
green-minded "carpenters"- carpenters who use clean construction processes and non-toxic materials that are often recyclable. One alternative to standard dry wall is a formaldehyde-free biocomposite made from soybeans and recycled newspaper.
green roofs- self-sustaining shallow (3-30 inches of soil) gardens (usually an alpine ecosystem which endures harsh weather conditions) placed on a building's roof to reduce urban heat in summer and insulate in winter. Roofs typically reach 175 degrees Fahrenheit in summer, adding 8oF to city's temperature and cooking the pollution. Not only extends a typical roof's life from 15 years to 40-100 years, but reduces runoff by absorbing 58-71 % of the storm water and decreases building's energy use enough to cover the initial $15/square foot investment in two-three years. A feasible roof must be rated for at least 15 lbs/square feet.
greenwashing- non-green industries support green projects to alter their public image.
ground water- water which flows underground and keeps wetlands wet and streams flowing during droughts.
habitat- place where an organism lives.
harmful gaseous emittents- those like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide (NOX).
herbivores- animals that feeds on plants. Herbivores are at the second level in the food chain. They have specialized digestive tracts to convert plant fiber into energy.
heterotropic- organism that cannot produce its own food. All animals obtain their food, directly or indirectly, from plants.
horizon- a layer of soil that runs parallel to the surface. Different levels have different degrees of organic matter, the richest being the top layer, or topsoil.
humus- decaying organic matter, usually dark in color and rich with nitrogen.
hyperaccumulators- plants that selectively absorb and contain large amounts of metal or minerals in their vascular structure.
invasive species- foreign plants that alter the balance of local plants and animals.
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification- rating method created by US Green Building Council.Calculates environmental correctness and offers standards of achievement from certified to bronze, silver, gold and platinum (the top).
lichen- a symbiotic relationship between two plants, a fungus which provides structure and a green or blue-green algae, which photosynthesizes and produces nutrients.
life process- factors that separate living from non-living things. The common life processes are eating and digestion of food, ability to sense change, respiration growth and reproduction.
Love Canal- the 1950s community developed atop a radioactive landfill, despite Hooker Chemical's resistance. Story exploded in 1978.
methanogens- garbage-eating microbes.
native plants- local plants that sustain the balance of local animals and plants.
nitrogen cycle- plants can only use nitrogen after it has been converted to nitrate. Nitrates are made either by bacteria in the soil or in some select cases, by the plants themselves. Plants use nitrate to build plant tissue, which is then eaten by animals. When animals die and decompose bacteria and fungi return the nitrogen back to the soil and the cycle starts again.
non-point source pollution- less visible discharges, such as stormwater, rain, lawn and parking lot runoff that contribute to pollution.
off-gasing- a by-product of every day solid materials that emit toxic substances.
omnivore- animals that eat both plants and other animals.
organism- a living creature such as a plant, animal or single celled organisms like bacteria.
parent material- rock that has been broken down by either physical weathering, chemical weathering, or biological weathering
parasite- an organism that grows, feeds, and is sheltered on or in a different organism, while contributing nothing to host's survival.
pH - stands for potential of Hydrogen, a measure of a solution's acidity (<7) or alkalinity (>7).
phosphorus cycle- phosphorus from rocks in broken down and dissolved in water. This phosphorus rich water is used by plants to build plant material which is in turn eaten by animals.
photosynthesis- the process by which green plants use chlorophyll to convert light energy, carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates. Oxygen is the by-product created in this process.
point-source pollution- observable dumping practices (air, land or water discharges) that are currently regulated.
population- number of the same species that are living in the same are at a given time.
post-industrial sites- brownfields or sites degraded by industry, awaiting a new vision.
predator- a carnivore that feeds on live animals.
plants, which are the only organism that can produce their own food.
reclamation- altering a site, so as to highlight particular attributes that are overlooked.
respiration- energy for growth and reproduction comes from burning a fuel, namely glucose (a simple sugar). The by- product of cell respiration in plants is oxygen, and in animals it is carbon dioxide.
riparian zone- area of vegetation adjacent to a body of water that influences and is influenced by the water.
riprap- a loose assemblage of broken stones erected to form a foundation in water or on soft ground.
salmonid- a species of the family salmonidae, which includes salmons, trout, chars, and white fishes.
scavengers- animals that feed on dead plants or animals.
sick-building doctors- specialists who improve air delivery systems by detecting and eliminating off-gasing materials or toxin-emitting walls, counters and floors.
slag- a hard, gray, porous by-product of the steel industry.
soil erosion- the amount of soil eroded from the earth during rainstorms. Distributed via the watershed and often clogs local waterways. Each year, a self-contained forest loses only 5 lb/square mile, a farm loses 50 lb/square mile, but a house under construction loses 5000 lb/square mile.
species- a group of similar organisms that have a shared origin and the ability to breed freely with one another.
succession- the gradual replacement of one plant community with another due to environmental changes.
sustainable materials- healthy, long-lasting and kind to those who use them, make them and live with them.
3 Rs- reuse, reduce, recycle.
transpiration- the process by which excess water released by plants was water vapor from leaf pores.
trophic level- a species position in the food chain as determined by their place in the energy transfer in the ecosystem. Plants are first, as they derive their energy from the sun. Animals that feed on plants are second and animals that feed on other animals are the third.
turbidity- the level of suspended particulants in a waterway.
vernal pools- aquatic spot where amphibians lay eggs.
VOCs- volatile organic compounds; primary contributors to off-gassing.
waste stream- total flow of residential and commercial solid waste (not including hazardous or industrial waste) that must be recycled or put in landfills.
water cycle- the process by which water circulates through the ecosystem. Water enters the ecosystem by water vapors produced by plants and animals, as it rises, cools and condenses, it forms clouds that then produce rain, bringing the water back to the earth surface for consumption by plants and animals.
watershed- an area bounded by mountains or hills from which all rainwater flows to a single body of water. The system of visible and underground creeks, tributaries, streams and brooks feeding into a river.
a natural habitat of wildlife found in a lowland area, such as a bog,
marsh, or swamp, that is saturated with moisture. Wetlands are often planted
near buildings to clean either the building's storm water runoff
or the gray water produced by its users. wetland types:
xeriscaping- landscaping with drought-resistant plants that don't require watering.