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plant and animals

Jul 18th 2010 at 5:55 AM

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Plants and animals

Main articles: Plant and Animal

See also: Botany, Fauna, and Biology

A confluence of "natural" and a "made" environment

The distinction between plant and animal life is not sharply drawn, with some categories of life that stand between or across the two. Originally Aristotle divided all living things between plants, which generally do not move, and animals. In Linnaeus' system, these became the kingdoms Vegetabilia (later Plantae) and Animalia. Since then, it has become clear that the Plantae as originally defined included several unrelated groups, and the fungi and several groups of algae were removed to new kingdoms. However, these are still often considered plants in many contexts. Bacterial life is sometimes included in flora,[64][65] and some classifications use the term bacterial flora separately from plant flora.

Among the many ways of classifying plants are by regional floras, which, depending on the purpose of study, can also include fossil flora, remnants of plant life from a previous era. People in many regions and countries take great pride in their individual arrays of characteristic flora, which can vary widely across the globe due to differences in climate and terrain.

Wildebeest in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania. Note the tendency to congregate, one of nature's displays of what is sometimes called the herding instinct or herd behavior.

Regional floras commonly are divided into categories such as native flora and agricultural and garden flora, the lastly mentioned of which are intentionally grown and cultivated. Some types of "native flora" actually have been introduced centuries ago by people migrating from one region or continent to another, and become an integral part of the native, or natural flora of the place to which they were introduced. This is an example of how human interaction with nature can blur the boundary of what is considered nature.

Another category of plant has historically been carved out for weeds. Though the term has fallen into disfavor among botanists as a formal way to categorize "useless" plants, the informal use of the word "weeds" to describe those plants that are deemed worthy of elimination is illustrative of the general tendency of people and societies to seek to alter or shape the course of nature. Similarly, animals are often categorized in ways such as domestic, farm animals, wild animals, pests, etc. according to their relationship to human life.

Animals as a category have several characteristics that generally set them apart from other living things, though not traced by scientists to having legs or wings instead of roots and leaves. Animals are eukaryotic and usually multicellular (although see Myxozoa), which separates them from bacteria, archaea and most protists. They are heterotrophic, generally digesting food in an internal chamber, which separates them from plants and algae. They are also distinguished from plants, algae, and fungi by lacking cell walls.

With a few exceptions, most notably the sponges (Phylum Porifera), animals have bodies differentiated into separate tissues. These include muscles, which are able to contract and control locomotion, and a nervous system, which sends and processes signals. There is also typically an internal digestive chamber. The eukaryotic cells possessed by all animals are surrounded by a characteristic extracellular matrix composed of collagen and elastic glycoproteins. This may be calcified to form structures like shells, bones, and spicules, a framework upon which cells can move about and be reorganized during development and maturation, and which supports the complex anatomy required for mobility.


Main articles: Earth, Earth science, Structure of the Earth, Plate tectonics, and Geology

View of Earth, taken in 1972 by the Apollo 17 crew. This image is the only photograph of its kind to date, showing a fully sunlit hemisphere of the Earth.

Earth (or, "the earth") is the only planet presently known to support life, and as such, its natural features are the subject of many fields of scientific research. Within the solar system, it is third nearest to the sun; it is the largest terrestrial planet and the fifth largest overall. Its most prominent climatic features are its two large polar regions, two relatively narrow temperate zones, and a wide equatorial tropical to subtropical region.[6] Precipitation varies widely with location, from several metres of water per year to less than a millimetre. 71 percent of the Earth's surface is covered by salt-water oceans. The remainder consists of continents and islands, with most of the inhabited land in the Northern Hemisphere.

Earth has evolved through geological and biological processes that have left traces of the original conditions. The outer surface is divided into several gradually migrating tectonic plates, which have changed relatively quickly several times. The interior remains active, with a thick layer of molten mantle and an iron-filled core that generates a magnetic field.

The atmospheric conditions have been significantly altered from the original conditions by the presence of life-forms,[7] which create an ecological balance that stabilizes the surface conditions. Despite the wide regional variations in climate by latitude and other geographic factors, the long-term average global climate is quite stable during interglacial periods,[8] and variations of a degree or two of average global temperature have historically had major effects on the ecological balance, and on the actual geography of the Earth.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

This article is about the physical universe. For other uses, see Nature (disambiguation).

"Natural" redirects here. For other uses, see Natural (disambiguation).

Bachalpsee in the Swiss Alps; generally mountainous areas are less affected by human activity

Lightning strikes during the eruption of the huge Galunggung volcano in 1982

Much attention has been given to preserving the natural characteristics of Hopetoun Falls, Australia, while allowing ample access for visitors.

Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. It ranges in scale from the subatomic to the cosmic.

The word nature is derived from the Latin word natura, or "essential qualities, innate disposition", and literally means "birth".[1] Natura was a Latin translation of the Greek word physis (φύσις), which originally related to the intrinsic characteristics that plants, animals, and other features of the world develop of their own accord.[2][3] The concept of nature as a whole, the physical universe, is one of several expansions of the original notion; it began with certain core applications of the word φύσις by pre-Socratic philosophers, and has steadily gained currency ever since. This usage was confirmed during the advent of modern scientific method in the last several centuries.[4][5]

Within the various uses of the word today, "nature" may refer to the general realm of various types of living plants and animals, and in some cases to the processes associated with inanimate objects–the way that particular types of things exist and change of their own accord, such as the weather and geology of the Earth, and the matter and energy of which all these things are composed. It is often taken to mean the "natural environment" or wilderness–wild animals, rocks, forest, beaches, and in general those things that have not been substantially altered by human intervention, or which persist despite human intervention. For, example, manufactured objects and human interaction generally are not considered part of nature, unless qualified as, for example, "human nature" or "the whole of nature". This more traditional concept of natural things which can still be found today implies a distinction between the natural and the artificial, with the artificial being understood as that which has been brought into being by a human consciousness or a human mind. Depending on the particular context, the term "natural" might also be distinguished from the unnatural, the supernatural, and the

Oceans, lakes, and rivers

Main articles: Ocean, Lake, and River

[edit] Oceans

A view of the Atlantic ocean from Leblon, Rio de Janeiro.

Earth's oceans
(World Ocean)

An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface (an area of some 361 million square kilometers) is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas. More than half of this area is over 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) deep. Average oceanic salinity is around 35 parts per thousand (ppt) (3.5%), and nearly all seawater has a salinity in the range of 30 to 38 ppt. Though generally recognized as several 'separate' oceans, these waters comprise one global, interconnected body of salt water often referred to as the World Ocean or global ocean.[29][30] This concept of a global ocean as a continuous body of water with relatively free interchange among its parts is of fundamental importance to oceanography.[31]

The major oceanic divisions are defined in part by the continents, various archipelagos, and other criteria: these divisions are (in descending order of size) the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean (which is sometimes subsumed as the southern portions of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans), and the Arctic Ocean (which is sometimes considered a sea of the Atlantic). The Pacific and Atlantic may be further subdivided by the equator into northerly and southerly portions. Smaller regions of the oceans are called seas, gulfs, bays and other names. There are also salt lakes, which are smaller bodies of landlocked saltwater that are not interconnected with the World Ocean. Two notable examples of salt lakes are the Aral Sea and the Great Salt Lake.


The Lácar Lake is a lake of glacial origin in the province of Neuquén, Argentina.

A lake (from Latin lacus) is a terrain feature (or physical feature), a body of liquid on the surface of a world that is localized to the bottom of basin (another type of landform or terrain feature; that is, it is not global) and moves slowly if it moves at all. On Earth, a body of water is considered a lake when it is inland, not part of the ocean, is larger and deeper than a pond, and is fed by a river.[32][33] The only world other than Earth known to harbor lakes is Titan, Saturn's largest moon, which has lakes of ethane, most likely mixed with methane. It is not known if Titan's lakes are fed by rivers, though Titan's surface is carved by numerous river beds. Natural lakes on Earth are generally found in mountainous areas, rift zones, and areas with ongoing or recent glaciation. Other lakes are found in endorheic basins or along the courses of mature rivers. In some parts of the world, there are many lakes because of chaotic drainage patterns left over from the last Ice Age. All lakes are temporary over geologic time scales, as they will slowly fill in with sediments or spill out of the basin containing them.


Macal River in Belize at San Ignacio, in November, 2001.

A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing toward an ocean, a lake, a sea or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including stream, creek, brook, rivulet, and rill; there is no general rule that defines what can be called a river. Many names for small rivers are specific to geographic location; one example is Burn in Scotland and North-east England. Sometimes a river is said to be larger than a creek,[34] but this is not always the case, due to vagueness in the language.[35] A river is part of the hydrological cycle. Water within a river is generally collected from precipitation through surface runoff, groundwater recharge, springs, and the release of stored water in natural ice and snowpacks (i.e., from glaciers).


Loch Lomond in Scotland forms a relatively isolated ecosystem. The fish community of this lake has remained unchanged over a very long period of time.[36]

Main articles: Ecology and Ecosystem

All forms of life interact with the environment in which they exist, and also with other life forms. In the 20th century this premise gave rise to the concept of ecosystems, which can be defined as any situation where there is interaction between organisms and their environment.

Ecosystems are composed of a variety of abiotic and biotic components that function in an interrelated way.[37] The structure and composition is determined by various environmental factors that are interrelated. Variations of these factors will initiate dynamic modifications to the ecosystem. Some of the more important components are: soil, atmosphere, radiation from the sun, water, and living organisms.

Each living organism has a continual relationship with every other element that makes up its environment. Within the ecosystem, species are connected and dependent upon one another in the food chain, and exchange energy and matter between themselves as well as with their environment.[38]

An aerial view of a human ecosystem. Pictured is the city of Chicago

Every species has limits of tolerance to factors that affect its survival, reproductive success and ability to continue to thrive and interact sustainably with the rest of its environment, which in turn may have effects on these factors for many other species or even on the whole of life.[39] The concept of an ecosystem is thus an important subject of study, as such study provides information needed to make decisions about how human life may interact in a way that allows the various ecosystems to be sustained for future use rather than used up or otherwise rendered ineffective. For the purpose of such study, a unit of smaller size is called a microecosystem. For example, an ecosystem can be a stone and all the life under it. A macroecosystem might involve a whole ecoregion, with its drainage basin.[40]

The following ecosystems are examples of the kinds currently under intensive study:

·         oceanic ecosystems,

·         "continental ecosystems", such as "forest ecosystems", "meadow ecosystems" such as steppes or savannas), or agro-ecosystems,

·         systems in inland waters, such as lentic ecosystem"s such as lakes or ponds; or lotic ecosystems such as rivers.

Another classification can be made by reference to its communities, such as in the case of a human ecosystem. Regional groupings of distinctive plant and animals best adapted to the region's physical natural environment, latitude, altitude, and terrain are known as biomes. The broadest classification, today under wide study and analysis, and also subject to widespread arguments about its nature and validity, is that of the entire sum of life seen as analogous to a self-sustaining organism; a theory studied as earth system science (less formally known as Gaia theory).[41][42]



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Jul 30th 2011 at 2:04 PM by jenifarbaby
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