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Glossary

alga (pl. algae)
A chiefly aquatic plantlike organism that uses photosynthesis to produce its own food. Unlike plants, algae do not have true roots,
stems, or leaves.

anthropology
The study of human origins, behavior, and physical, social, and cultural development.

archipelago
A chain of islands.

autotroph
An organism, such as a plant or alga, that manufactures its own food using light energy (photosynthesis) or chemical energy (chemosynthesis).

biocomplexity
The multitude of interconnections, at levels from molecules to ecosystems, between living things and their environments. Scientists who study biocomplexity are often interested in how individual interactions combine to create large-scale dynamics and pattern.

commercially extinct
When a species is of such low abundance that it can no longer support commercial harvesting.

community, biological
All the species living together in an area.

conservation
The management and protection of the natural world.

coral
A marine animal within the phylum Cnidaria that is composed of anatomical units called polyps and that typically forms a solid underskeleton of calcium carbonate (as in the "stony corals"), or an internal skeleton of calcareous spicules or complexes of protein and carbohydrates (as in the "soft corals"). Corals can be composed of single polyps, known as solitary corals, or multiple polyps, known as colonies. Colonial, stony corals that form large, rigid skeletons are sometimes known as reef-building corals to distinguish them from smaller stony corals and more flexible soft corals.

coral reef
(1) An underwater geological structure, made largely of calcium carbonate, that is secreted by corals and other organisms (such as coralline algae, sponges, bryozoans, and mollusks) over long periods of time; (2) the biological community and ecosystem associated with such structures.

development
In economic terms, the creation of industries in an area which allow a higher standard of living for the human inhabitants.

dispersal
The movement of organisms to new areas of habitat.

distribution
The geographic occurrence or range of an organism.

ecology
The relationships between organisms and their environments, and the study of those relationships.

ecosystem
A community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.

endangered
In danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.

environment
All the external factors that affect an organism during its lifetime.

fish aggregation
A group of fish that have come together to feed, migrate, or spawn.

fishery
All the activities involved to the exploitation of wild species or the harvest of farmed species. Fisheries frequently target many nonfish organisms, such as invertebrates (e.g., "shellfish"), algae, sea turtles, and marine mammals.

gene
An inherited piece of information contained in a cell's DNA. The information from each gene is used to make a unique type of protein, which has a specific function for the cell.

gene flow
The movement of genes among populations of a species. Depending on the organism, genes are carried by pollen, spores, seeds, sperm, eggs, and whole larval, juvenile, and adult organisms.

gene pool
All the genes within a particular population; that is, total genetic variation.

genetics
The scientific study of heredity. Also, the genetic constitution of an individual, group, or class.

global positioning system (GPS)
A system of satellites, computers, and receivers that can determine the location (latitude and longitude) of a receiver on Earth.

habitat
The environment where an organism can and does live.

hardbottom
A type of seafloor or substrate that is primarily solid rock without substantial amounts of sediment. In many tropical seas, hardbottom is formed by coral reefs that, over time, create carbonate rock, called limestone pavement. In The Bahamas, however, most hardbottom substrates were originally formed through the consolidation of carbonate sand. Hardbottom habitats often have a thin layer of sand on top of rock. They support a variety of organisms including algae, soft corals, and hard corals.

herbivore
An organism that eats plants or algae.

holistic
Relating to the whole of a system and the interconnectedness of its parts.

hydrography
The scientific study of the physical conditions, boundaries, flow, and related characteristics of Earth's surface waters.

larva (pl. larvae)
The earliest free-living (e.g., hatched) life stage of an organism that undergoes metamorphosis.

life cycle
The entire course of developmental change in an organism, often including fertilization of gametes, the growth of larval and juvenile stages, and reproduction by mature adults.

life history
The full developmental program or history of an organism, including the specific schedule of life cycle stages, the types of allocations to growth and reproductive function, and the probability of surviving over time.

mangroves
(1) Tropical and subtropical trees with salt-tolerant roots that grow along brackish shorelines; (2) the dense forests that these trees create along brackish waterways.

marine
Relating to the sea.

marine protected area (MPA)
A portion of the marine environment set aside by law or other regulations to protect and preserve its flora, fauna, historical, or cultural features. Marine protected areas have different levels of protection and use, and can be called many different names, such as reserves, preserves, sanctuaries, refuges, parks, fishery management zones, national seashores, national monuments, critical habitats, and conservation areas.

marine reserve
A common term for a marine protected area. Marine reserves are often, but not always, designated as "no-take" (see below).

model
A theoretical system that represents scientific processes using a set of variables and the quantitative relationships between them.

no-take zone
An area of ocean that is closed to fishing or other extractive activities.

Out Islands
In The Bahamas, essentially any island other than the two most populated, New Providence and Grand Bahama.

photosynthesis
The chemical process in which green plants (and blue-green algae) make carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water using sunlight or light as an energy source. Most forms of photosynthesis release oxygen as a byproduct, the chief source of atmospheric oxygen.

poaching
The taking of organisms, such as fish, game, or plants, from a forbidden area.

population
A group of organisms of one species, occupying a defined area and usually isolated from similar groups of the same species.

prey
Organisms that are hunted and eaten by predators.

range
The area naturally occupied by an individual, population, or species.

reserve
An area of land set aside for the use or protection of a species and its habitat.

sea fan
A type of gorgonian (a soft coral) with a fanlike colony shape.

sea sponge
A simple multicellular marine invertebrate that grows attached to the bottom and feeds by pumping water through its body and filtering bacteria and other microscopic particles from the water.

seagrass
An underwater flowering plant which, like land plants, has leaves, stems, and a root system.

sociology
The study of human social behavior.

soft coral
In most cases, flexible corals without an extensive external skeleton.

species
A group of individuals, usually identifiable by a set of distinctive features, with a unique evolutionary history. Classically, the members of a species can interbreed only with each other to produce fertile offspring.

sprawl
The haphazard, low-density spread of development.

stock
A group of individuals within a species that, based on similarities in their production characteristics, are often managed as a unit in support of the same fisheries. In practice, stocks sometimes include individuals from multiple populations.

stony (hard) coral
A coral that posses a stony outer skeleton composed of calcium carbonate.

survey
As frequently used in ecological science, to conduct a rigorous study of certain aspects of nature, such as the kind, abundance, or distribution of various organisms residing in some defined study area.

threatened
Populations or species likely to become endangered in the near future.

American Museum of Natural History

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