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South Florida Aquatic Environments

Glossary

Glossary

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


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A

ahermatypic - non reef-building corals.

algae - a diverse group of photosynthetic organisms that lack roots, stems, leaves, and vascular tissues. Examples range from unicellular phytoplankton to multicellular seaweeds that are meters in length.

allochthonous - pertaining to materials in a waterway that orginate outside and are brought in.

amino acids - the 20 smaller units that are the building blocks from which proteins are made.

annelids - any of various worms with cylindrical segmented bodies.

apical - of, relating to, or situated at an apex, comes from the word "apex" which means tip.

aquaculture - cultivation of aquatic plants or animals for harvest and utilization by humans. Usually aquaculture refers to fresh water cultivation, while mariculture refers to seawater cultivation.

archaeological - having to do with the study of material remains from past human activities.

autochthonous - pertaining to materials originating and remaining in a waterway.

beach- the shore zone, usually sand, from the low water line up to a permanent line of vegetation or where the physical characteristics of the ground change to rock outcroppings or cliffs.



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B

benthic - pertaining to organisms that live on rock or sediment beneath a body of water.

biodiversity - in an ecosystem, variability among living organisms from all sources, sometimes measured by the total number of species or other taxonomic groupings, and their relative abundances.

brackish - somewhat salty, containing salt, where freshwater mixes with saltwater, the salt content is greater than freshwater but less than sea water.



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C

calcareous - containing characteristics of calcium carbonate, calcium, or limestone.

calcification - a process by which calcium carbonate in ocean water is changed into solid limestone by corals and coralline algae, resulting in the building of coral reef structures.

calcium carbonate - compound consisting of calcium and carbonate with a chemical structure of CaCO3.

canopy - uppermost layer of branches in a forest.

carbohydrates - any of various neutral compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen (as sugars, starches, and celluloses) most of which are formed by green plants and which constitute a major class of animal foods.

carnivore - An animal or plant that consumes meat as its primary diet.

coelenterate - are members of a Phylum Cnidaria (synonym: Coelenterata) with radial symmetry, includes jellyfishes, corals, and hydroids.

commensalism - symbiotic association in which one partner benefits while the other receives neither a benefit or harm.

consumers - heterotrophic organisms, primarily animals, that get their organic compounds by eating other organisms.

coral reef - a ridge or mass of calcareous material formed from the calcium carbonate skeletal structures of corals and coralline algae.

coralline algae - algae that secrete calcium carbonate in their tissues. Hard, encrusting, red coralline algae are significant reef builders in some areas.

cryptic - camouflage or coloration serving to hide an animal or plant.

cyanide - a group of poisonous salts used to capture live fish.



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D

decomposition -breakdown of matter by bacteria and fungi, changing the chemical makeup and physical appearance of materials.

defoliation - to deprive of leaves especially prematurely.

desiccation - removal of moisture, drying out.

detritus - Dead or decaying organic matter.

diurnal - pertaining to or occurring in a day or each day; daily.

diversity - refers to the variety of species within a given association, areas of high diversity are characterized by a great variety of species.

dredging - to dig, gather, or pull out of a body of water.

dynamite - an explosive that is made of nitroglycerin absorbed in a porous material and that often contains ammonium nitrate or cellulose nitrate, used in preparation for construction or in water to kill fish which are then quickly collected.



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E

echinoderm - radially symmetrical animals that are exclusively marine and possess a spiny skin and a system of water-filled canals that aids in feeding and locomotion (e.g., sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers).

ecology - a branch of science focused on the interrelationships between organisms and their environments.

ecosystem - a community, including all the component organisms, along with the environment, forming an interactive system.

emergent - plants rooted in bottom substrate, extending upwards above the water surface.

endangered species - a species in danger of becoming extinct that is protected by the Endangered Species Act.

endemic -restricted to or native to a particular area or region.

epibenthic - organisms that live on the surface of a substrate, including motile organisms such as gastropods, echinoderms, and a variety of crustacea.

epifauna - animals that live near or on the ocean bottom, in contrast to infauna which are animals living within the sediment.

epiphytic - any organisms that grow on the blades of seagrasses, including algae, diatoms, and other encrusting organisms.

erosion - the wearing away of soil, rock, and sediments, etc. by the action of wind, rain, and other weather-related elements.

estuary - area where freshwater meets the sea.

euryhaline - aquatic organism able to live in a range of salinities.

exotic species - an introduced species, plant or animal that is not native to a geographic area or ecosystem.



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F

facultative - the ability of an organism to survive either in the presence or absence of an particular environmental factor.

fauna - animal life of a particular region.

flora - plant life of a particular region.

Florida Current - the segment of current between the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current and the Gulf Stream form the Dry Tortugas to the southeastern tip of Florida, and confined by the 250 meter and 500 meter isobaths.

Florida Reef Tract - the third largest barrier reef in the world, running from the Miami area southwest to the Dry Tortugas.

forage -to search for food or water.



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G

gamefish - species of fish considered to possess sporting qualities on fishing tackle.

gastropod - "stomach-footed" class of molluscs that have only one shell and usually move about on a muscular "foot".

genus - a taxonomic category that includes groups of closely related species.

germinate - to sprout or begin to grow.

gorgonian - a type of octocoral (soft coral) commonly found in southeast Florida reefs at depths less than 30 meters; they include sea fans, sea plumes, sea whips, and sea rods.

gulf - a large embayment along a coast with a wide opening to open waters.



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H

habitat - the living place or "home" of a particular organism or biological community.

halophyte - type of plant that can survive in saltwater environments

hammock - area that is often higher than the surrounding land with humus rich soil and hardwood trees including oaks, sweetgums, hickories, and palms.

herbicide - a chemical substance that controls or kills plants.

herbivore - an animal that feeds on plants.

heritage - something handed down by one's ancestors or people from past generations.

humus soil - amorphous, dark colored soil formed from the decomposition of organic matter.

hydroperiod - period of time during which the land is covered by water.

hypersaline - Water with excessive or supersaturated salt content.



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I

infauna - organisms that live buried in sediments, including a variety of polychaetes, burrowing crustaceans, and molluscs.

intertidal – the area also known as the littoral zone which is covered by water during high tide and exposed at low tide.

invertebrate - an animal without a spinal column.



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J

jetty- structure of rocks, logs, pilings or other materials that projects part way across a channel to direct the stream current.

lagoon- a shallow area generally separated from open waters by a reef structure.



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L

lagoon- small, shallow, pond-like body of water that is connected to a larger body of water or shallow water separated from the sea by a sandbar or a reef.

larvae - immature form of an animal that undergoes metamorphosis prior to changing into the adult form.



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M

marl - earthy, loose deposit formed near bodies of freshwater, consisting primarily of calcium carbonate mixed with clay.

meiofauna - small animals (between .1mm and 1mm) that live in the sediment at the bottom of a body of water.

meristem - plant tissue that hasn't yet taken a specific function, found in growth areas.

microfauna - animals too small to see with the naked eye, generally less than .1mm long, includes protozoa and nematodes.

monitor - one that warns, overseer.

morphological – the structure or form of an organism.

mucus - wet and slippery secretion which provides protection and moisture.

mutualistic - mutually beneficial association between two species, where both gain an increase in overall fitness.



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N

native species - a species that is a part of an area's original biota.

nematocyst - stinging organelle of a coelenterate.

nocturnal - pertaining to or occurring in a night or each night; nightly.

nutrients - organic or inorganic compounds used by plants in primary production (typically nitrogen and phosphorus).



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O

octocorals - coral type that includes sea plumes, sea whips, gorgonians, and soft corals.

omnivorous - organisms that feed on both plant and animal tissues.

organic - containing carbon.

osmoregulation - adjustment in the osmotic concentration of solutes in body fluids within organisms to surrounding environmental conditions.

osmotic pressure – the pressure difference that exists between two solutions (water and a dissolved solute) on either side of a permeable membrane due to the tendency of water to flow in osmosis.



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P

parasitism - relationship between two organisms in which one lives within or on the other, obtaining nourishment at a cost to the host organism.

patch reef - small circular or irregular reefs that arise from the floor of lagoons, behind barrier reefs, or within an atoll.

pathogen - any agent, most commonly a microorganism, capable of causing disease.

peat – partially decayed plant matter formed on the surface of water-logged soils, used as a fertilizer, fuel, or in the production of charcoal.

periphyton – the mat of algae covering the shoreline, rocks, and bottom vegetation within freshwater habitats, useful as an indicator of water quality.

pelagic - organisms living in the water column, pelagic zone refers to the entire water column in contrast to benthic which refers to the bottom.

photosynthesis - process of making chemical compounds using light for the energy, plants get their energy from photosynthesis by using chlorophyll converted with carbon dioxide and water to produce carbohydrates and release oxygen.

physiological - having to do with the function of living matter and how it works.

phytoplankton – microscopic plants that depend upon water currents for transportation, primary producers in aquatic environments.

plankton - organisms dependent on water movement and currents as their means of transportation, including phytoplankton, zooplankton, and ichthyoplankton.

pneumatophores – roots on wetland plants that function in respiration.

pollutant - substance, especially man-made, that pollutes or contaminates an environment.

polychaete - class of annelid worms that includes bristle and feather duster worms.

polyp - an individual of a solitary cnidarian or one member of a cnidarian colony.

population - a group of interacting individuals of the same species, area, or community.

predator - animal that lives by preying on and eating other animals.

preserve - to protect and keep for the future.

prey - animal that is killed and eaten by a predator.

propagules - structures that propagate a plant.

protein - chain of amino acids joined by peptide bonds, containing carbon, hyrdrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, usually sulfur and other elements, includes many biological important compounds such as enzymes and hormones.



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R

reef - a ridge of rocks, sand, or coral rising from the bottom substrate towards the surface of the water.

restoration - the act of restoring to a previous state of existence.

rhizome - the somewhat elongate portion of a plant's stem that is underground, producing shoots above and roots below.



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S

salinity - concentration of total salts dissolved in water, usually measured in parts per thousand.

sediment – particulate organic and inorganic matter of allochthonous and/or autochthonous origin which lies on the bottom of an aquatic habitat.

sessile- organisms that are attached to a substrate and are not free to move around.

sheet flow - surface water runoff.

slough - swamp bog or marsh, especially one that is part of an inlet or backwater.

solution holes - depression in the Earth’s surface caused by dissolving of substrate composed primarily of calcium carbonate.

spawn - to produce or release eggs or sperm into water.

species - phylogenic category more specific than genus, a population or group of populations that are in reproductive contact but are reproductively isolated from all other populations.

spur and groove - a coral reef formation characterized by fingerlike projections of coral accumulation (spurs) separated by sand (grooves) that form in the direction of prevailing waves.

storm surge - water pushed to the shore by the force of tropical storms or hurricanes, resulting in increases of 15 feet or more over the mean water level.

subsistence - minimum food and shelter necessary to support life.

substrate – the material upon or within an organism lives or grows, including soil, plants, animals and rocks.

subspecies - a population of a species isolated and genetically distinguishable from other populations of that species, shows identifiable characteristics different from other subspecies. Members of one subspecies can interbreed with members of other subspecies of the same species.

subtropical - area on the surface of the earth between tropic and temperate regions, approximately between 40 degrees N. and S.

successional- predictable changes in community composition following a disturbance that opens an environment to colonization.

symbiosis – two organisms of different species living in close association, includes parasitism, commensalism, and mutualism.



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T

taxon – a "kind" of organism, any taxonomic unit or category of organisms.

taxonomy - organism classification with reference to their precise relationship in the plant or animal kingdom; systematics.

temperate – temperate zone lies between 30 and 60 degrees latitude, climate undergoes seasonal changes in temperature and moisture.

threatened species - plants or animals likely to become endangered in the near future.

tropical – tropical zone lies between 23.5 degrees north and south of the equator, has small seasonal changes in temperature and large seasonal changes in precipitation.

turbidity – measurement of water clarity, turbidity increases when more light is scattered by particles suspended in the water.



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U

unicellular – refers to an organism composed of only one cell, includes blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), protozoans, and bacteria.



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V

vascular - having to do with channels for conveying fluid; a vascular plant has specialized channels that transport water and nutrients throughout the plant.

vertebrates - any group of animals that has an internal skeletal system including a backbone.

viviparity - bearing or bringing forth live young, as with most mammals.



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W

watershed - region drained by surface and groundwater flow in rivers, streams, or other surface waterways.

wave - a vertical disturbance on the surface of a stream, river, lake, or sea in the form of a ridge, usually caused by the wind.

wetland - land areas that are wet for at least part of the year which are poorly drained and have characteristic vegetation, soils and hydrology.



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X

xeric- locations lacking in water due to limited rainfall.

xeriscape- the conservation of water and energy through creative landscaping.



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Z

zoanthids - generally small anemone; may be colonial or solitary, and both symbiotic and free-living.

zonation - distribution patterns of organisms in different biogeographic zones.

zone - an area or region considered as separate and distinct, characterized by similar flora or fauna.

zoning - the partitioning of areas of land or water into sections dedicated to specific purposes and activities.

zooplankton – animal portion of the plankton, primarily microscopic.

zooxanthellae – unicellular dinoflagellate algae that live symbiotically in the cells of marine invertebrates including sea anemones and corals.