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NWRC Coastal Prairie Research Program

Coastal Prairie Region Glossary of Terms


This glossary contains definitions for botanical, ecological and environmental terms used on this site.



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



A

assemblages: a collection of "things", in this case a collection of native prairie plants.

B

biota: living plant and animal species.

burning regimes: set time periods for burning specific location; i.e., burning every 2 to 4 years.

C

characterization: the description of a specific mark or character.

competition: a powerful form of interaction that occurs when the same or different species living together in a community utilize the same resources to fill their needs; example: plants competing for the uptake of nitrogen or water.

D

diversity: an abundance of different species in a given location; species richness.

dormancy: an inactive or quiesent period in which seeds, spores, bulbs, buds, and other vegetative and reproductive organs cease growth and development and reduce metabolic activity; dormancy can be a physiological response to adverse environmental conditions, in many plants it is triggered by change in photoperiod and/or temperature.

E

endemic: restricted to a given region.

F

fire regimes: how often an area is burned; i.e., annually, every 2 years, every three years...

forb: a term for any herbaceous plant that is not a grass.

firebreak: an area where no fuel is available for further spread of a fire.

G

gap: an opening made in the canopy by some disturbance, such as a death of trees or grasses, that influences the development of vegetation beneath the gap.

germination: when the radicle emerges from the seed; sprouting of a seed.

H

herb: a flowering, vascular seed plant that lacks a woody stem aboveground and whose aboveground parts die at the end of a season.

herbaceous: a plant that is soft and green, rather than woody.

herbivory: feeding on plants.

I

indicator species: a species that has a sufficiently consistent association with some environmental condition (ecosystem) or other species that its presence can be used to indicate or predict that environmental condition or the potential for that other species being present.

invasive species: a species that is brought into an area, usually by human movement, and begins to out compete native species.

J

K

L

leaf: a flattened, usually photosynthetic structure arranged in various ways on a stem.

legume: a dry fruit that splits along two "seams", the seeds being attached along the edges.

M

monocotyledon: a class of angiosperms whose seeds have a single cotyledon; the term is commonly abgbreviated to monocot. Most grasses are monocots.

mycorrhiza: a mutualistic relationship between a soil fungus and a plant root in which the fungus obtains a supply of high energy organic molecules from the plant, and the plant's ability to get nutrients, especially phosphorus, and water from the soil are increased. The mycorrhizal relationship may also confer on plant roots increased resistance to pathogens.

N

natural selection: differential reproduction and survival of individuals that results in elimination of maladaptive traits from a population.

O

obligate: refers to a response to particular condition or way of life for which there is no alternative; ie. a plant or animal that only lives in a prairie ecosystem.

ordination: process by which communities are positioned graphically on a gradient of one to several axes so that the distances between them reflect differences in composition.

oscillation: regular fluctuation in a fixed cycle above or below some set point.

P

prescribed burns: controlled burns that are used as management and restoration tools for prairie, forest, and wetland ecosystems.

perennial: a plant that continues to live indefinitely after flowering.

Q

quiescence: a state in which a seed or other plant part will not germinate or grow unless environmental conditions normally required for growth are present.

R

recruitment: the movement of plants into an area by (1) the transport of seeds by wind or animal dispersal or (2) vegetative colonization through the growth of underground stem and root systems.

regime: a regular occurance of environmental conditions; i.e., biannual floods, annual fires.

rhizomes: underground stems, usually horizontally oriented, may be superficially rootlike in appearance but have definite nodes and internodes.

S

seed dormancy: the lack of germination of a seed caused by (1) characteristics of the embryo that prevents germination (endogenous dormancy) or (2) charisteristic of structures, including endosperm, seed coats, or fruit walls, covering the embryo that prevents germination (exogenous dormancy).

shade intolerant: describes plants that cannot grow and reproduce under low light conditions.

shade tolerant: describes plants that can grow and reproduce under low light conditions.

T

top-down regulation: regulation of population and community structure through consumers.

U

V

vegetation dynamics:germination, growth and reproduction of species and interaction of these species with each other.

W

wetland: areas characterized by presence of water at or near the surface, hydric soils, and vegetation adapted to wet conditions.

X

xeric: describes dry conditions, especially relating to soil.

xerophyte: plant adapted to drought or low water availability.

Y

Z

zonation: characteristic distribution of vegetation along an environmental gradient; i.e., salinity gradients where salt tolerant plants thrive without competition from nonsalt tolerant plants.

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