AP Environmental Science Practice Test: Earth Systems & Resources

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Question 1
An area beneath the ocean floor where tectonic plates move away from each other is known as a

A
Subduction zone
B
Seafloor spreading
C
Divergent plate boundary
D
Convergent plate boundary
E
Transform fault boundary
Question 1 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Beneath the ocean floor, tectonic plates move away from each other at the divergent plate boundary. A subduction zone is where the tectonic plates pass over one another. Seafloor spreading does not describe the movement of the plates; instead, it describes mantle pushing upward through to the surface. At a convergent plate boundary the tectonic plates move toward one another, and at a transform fault boundary, the plates move past each other. The tectonic plates move away from each other due to the force of magma rising through and splitting the lithosphere, of which the tectonic plates are made.
Question 2
Which of the following is an example of a metamorphic rock?

A
Granite
B
Basalt
C
Sandstone
D
Marble
E
Limestone
Question 2 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). Metamorphic rocks are formed when other rocks, such as igneous or sedimentary are subjected to high temperatures and pressures. As a result of these conditions, a new type of rock is formed. Marble is one example of a metamorphic rock. Granite and basalt are igneous rocks, while sandstone and limestone are sedimentary rocks.
Question 3
Which of the following layers of the earth is entirely liquid?

A
Inner core
B
Outer core
C
Mantle
D
Asthenosphere
E
Lithosphere
Question 3 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). The inner and outer core of the earth both consist of iron and nickel. Although the inner core is hotter than 5000 K, its accompanying 330-360 gigapascal pressure keeps it in the solid phase. The outer core, although hot, lacks the pressure to keep it in the solid phase; consequently, it is the only layer of Earth in the liquid phase. The mantle is made up of magma, which is molten rock, and not considered liquid. The asthenosphere is semi-molten, but not liquid. The lithosphere is composed of both the earth’s crust and the outer mantle, both of which are solid.
Question 4
The loss of some or all of a soil’s ability to support plant growth is called

A
Erosion
B
Soil degradation
C
Physical weathering
D
Chemical weathering
E
Base saturation
Question 4 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). Soil degradation describes the loss of some or all of a soil’s ability to support plant growth resulting from biological, chemical, or physical deterioration. Weathering describes the breakdown of rocks and minerals, not soil. Erosion describes the process by which rock fragments and soils are removed from a landscape, but does not specifically describe a soil’s capacity for supporting plant growth. Base saturation describes the proportion of soil bases to soil acids, and does not specifically relate to soil supported plant growth.
Question 5
The mining of stream bed deposits for minerals is known as

A
Strip mining
B
Open-pit mining
C
Mountaintop removal
D
Placer mining
E
Subsurface mining
Question 5 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). Placer mining is the mining of alluvial (stream bed) deposits for minerals. Alluvial deposits are clay, silt, or gravel carried by rushing streams and deposited where the stream slows down.
Question 6
A stair-like structure that allows migrating fish to navigate through a dam is known as a/an

A
Ladder
B
Aqueduct
C
Dike
D
Levee
E
Reservoir
Question 6 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). Fish use a “fish ladder” or a “ladder” to make their way around a dam during migration. This structure functions like a set of stairs enabling fish to jump from landing to landing. The other answer choices refer to ways of transporting or damming water, not specifically to a method of assisting fish during migration.
Question 7
Which body of water has been significantly reduced in size due to water diversion?

A
The Baltic Sea
B
The Aral Sea
C
Lake Huron
D
The Mississippi River
E
The Nile River
Question 7 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). Water diversion has reduced the size of the Aral Sea to less than 10% of its original size. It was once one of the four largest lakes in the world, but has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects. The shrinking of the Aral Sea is considered to be one of the planet's worst environmental disasters. The other bodies of water listed here are all still large in size and have not been the victims of massive water diversion.
Question 8
If a deep well pumps water from an aquifer more rapidly than it can be regenerated, which of the following may form?

A
Cone of depression
B
Saltwater intrusion
C
Confined aquifer
D
Unconfined aquifer
E
Flood plain
Question 8 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). A cone of depression results when wells pump water at a rate faster than it can be renewed. When this happens, a depressed area, or “cone,” is formed due to the rapid withdrawal.
Question 9
Freshwater makes up what percentage of the earth’s water?

A
0.003%
B
0.037%
C
2.78%
D
22.22%
E
97.22%
Question 9 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). The earth’s water supply is primarily a combination of a small amount of fresh water and a large majority of saltwater. As you are not expected to recall the actual percentages of the earth’s water supply, it is more important to deduce the percentage of freshwater from your familiarity with the water cycle and the world atlas. Once it is deduced that oceans constitute greater than 90% of the earth’s water supply, the next step is deciding that it constitutes less than 99%. The only answer choice that fits is then 2.78%.
Question 10
Frost wedging and unloading are examples of:

A
Biological weathering
B
Soil erosion
C
Chemical weathering
D
Mechanical weathering
E
Oxidation
Question 10 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). Mechanical weathering is the physical breakdown of rocks through atmospheric conditions such as ice, water, and heat. Frost wedging occurs when freezing water, an atmospheric condition, cracks rock. Unloading occurs when upper layers of rocks erode, another atmospheric condition, causing a release of pressure on lower rock layers. When the pressure is released these lower layers expand and break apart.
Question 11
Which of the following lists the correct order of increasing organic content in soil?

A
Young soil, Immature soil, Mature soil
B
Immature soil, Young soil, Mature soil
C
Mature soil, Immature soil, Young soil
D
Mature soil, Young soil, Immature soil
E
Young soil, Mature soil, Immature soil
Question 11 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). As soil ages, the amount of organic material in it increases proportionally. Immature soil develops into young soil as plants and organisms die. Eventually, young soil becomes mature soil, which contains all of organic material present in each of the earlier stages.
Question 12
The elemental composition of the earth’s crust includes the following percentages:

  1. 46%
  2. 28%
  3. 8%
  4. 6%
  5. 4%

Which of the following elements is first in this list?

A
Oxygen
B
Aluminum
C
Silicon
D
Magnesium
E
Iron
Question 12 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). Oxygen makes up the majority of the earth’s crust, at 46%, so it must be represented by the largest percentage out of this group, number 1. Silicon makes up 28% and is number 2, Aluminum makes up 8% and is number 3, Iron makes up 6% and is number 4, and Magnesium makes up 4% of the earth’s crust, and is number 5.
Question 13
Which list shows the layers of the atmosphere in order, starting with the layer closest to earth?

A
Stratosphere, Troposphere, Mesosphere, Thermosphere
B
Troposphere, Stratosphere, Mesosphere, Thermosphere
C
Stratosphere, Troposphere, Thermosphere, Mesosphere
D
Troposphere, Thermosphere, Mesosphere, Stratosphere
E
Mesosphere, Thermosphere, Troposphere, Stratosphere
Question 13 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). The troposphere is the lowest portion of the atmosphere and contains approximately 75% of the atmosphere's mass. The average depth of the troposphere is about 17 km. The stratosphere is the second layer of the atmosphere and contains the ozone layer. The mesosphere is the third layer, and is where most meteors burn up when entering the atmosphere. The Thermosphere is the fourth layer, and is where the International Space Station orbits.
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