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Glossary of Terms

This glossary is a work in progress. If you come across a word that's not in the glossary, please feel free to send us an email!

Antibiotic

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A chemical compound that slows or destroys the growth of microorganisms.

Aposematic Coloration

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Bright coloration of animals that serves as a warning to predators. Although the coloration usually indicates that the animal has a chemical or physical defense, there are some animals that have this coloration and try to fool predators into believing they have a defense.

Atlantic and Pacific Slope

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Monteverde, Costa Rica is situated on the Cordillera de Tilaran Mountain Range. The Atlantic slope is the eastern side of the mountain range and the Pacific slope is the western side of the mountain range.

Biodiversity

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The number of different organisms or types of organisms in an environment.

Biomass

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The total weight of organisms in a given area.

Bromeliads

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Plants in the pineapple family, often epiphytic.

Canopy

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The uppermost layer of vegetation formed by the crowns of trees in a forest, often forms a distinct habitat.

Clay

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Very fine-grained sediment particles that are one component of soils.

Colonize

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The successful entrance of a species into a new area.

Competition

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An interaction between two organisms where both seek the same limited resource.

Crypsis

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Coloration of organisms that makes them resemble or blend into their background, often useful for avoiding predators.

Decomposition

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The process by which complex organic compounds are broken down into simpler ones which are then available for use by organisms.

Deforestation

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The clearance of forest via logging or burning.

Detritus

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Dead organic matter such as dead leaves (see leaf litter).

Drought Stress

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Interference in a plant's ability to grow and maintain itself as a result of a prolonged lack of available water.

Elevation

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Refers to the height of a location above sea level.

Endemic

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An organism found in only a certain area. An animal only found in the tropical montane cloud forest is said to be endemic to that geographic area.

Epiphyte

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A plant that grows entirely on another plant.

Evaporate

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The process of turning a liquid into a vapor.

Frugivore

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An organism that feeds on fruit.

Genus

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Refers to a group of organisms sharing common characteristics in a common system of organization, called Linnaean Classification. From largest to smallest unit, it proceeds: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species.

Germinate

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To begin to grow, here refers to a seed of a plant becoming a seedling.

Growth Ring

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A layer of growth in a plant stem that occurs in a distinct period of time, usually annually as a result of a distinct growing season.   

Hemiepiphyte

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A plant that only spends part of its life as an epiphyte, with distinct life stages where the plant has only has roots in the canopy or only has roots in the ground.

Herbivore

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An organism that feeds on leaves, or more generally on plants.

Iridescence

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The changing of color as a function of the angle from which something is viewed.

Larvae

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A free-living, immature form of an animal that often differs in form, feeding, and habitat from the adult form.

Leaf Litter

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Dead leaves that have fallen from plants and form a mat on the forest floor.

Lignin

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A common plant tissue that provides strength to plant cell walls.

Litter

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Scattered objects on the ground, referes here to dead leaves (see leaf litter).

Liverwort

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A group of non-vascular (lacking in tissue to conduct fluids), seedless plants that reproduce through spores. Liverworts are closely related to hornworts and mosses.

Matter

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The material or substance that makes up a physical object.

Metabolism

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The chemical processes that generate and use energy in a living organism.

Microclimate

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The weather conditions in a small, well-defined area. Here, we often refer to the microclimate of the forest canopy.

Microorganisms

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Organisms that cannot be seen without the aid of a microscope, including many bacteria, fungi, archaea, and protests.

Montane

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Referring to a mountainous location.

Nutrients

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A substance required by an organism for growth and activity.

Organic

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Compounds derived from living organisms and therefore containing carbon. Here, we refer to organic soils, which are soils with decomposing leaf material that contain carbon.

Parasite

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An organism living on another host organism and using its host as a source of energy. This has a negative impact on the health of the host.

Pheromones

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Chemical compounds produced and released by organisms into the environment.

Photosynthesis

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The process by which plants convert light energy into sugars using carbon dioxide and water. Oxygen is a by-product of this reaction.

Remnant Tree

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A tree left standing in a pasture or an open field for shade, economic value, or other reasons.

Seedling

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A young plant, often considered smaller than a sapling.

Sapling

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A young tree that has not yet reached its full height.

Species Evenness

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Refers to the number of individuals of each species in a given area relative to one another.

Species Richness

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Refers to the number of species in a given area.

Symbiosis

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A close association between two different organisms.

Thermoregulation

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The maintenance of an animal's internal body temperature within an acceptable range for survival.

Understory

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A layer of small trees, shrubs and saplings that occur below the canopy.

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