A glossary of definitions for terms relating to biodiversity, ecosystems services and conservation.
All definitions are referenced, where possible preference has been given to internationally recognised definitions (for example those defined by international conventions or agreements). The terms have been chosen to support understanding of biodiversity and conservation issues, and terms relating to biodiversity loss are complemented by those relating to conservation responses supported by international conservation organisations, governments, scientists and business sectors.
More detailed explanations are provided for a number of key terms, to provide further background information.
The terms can be filtered by category to aid in the navigation of the many definitions.
“Land degradation can occur either through a loss of biodiversity, ecosystem functions or services. From an ecological perspective, land degradation may include complete transformation in the class or use of the ecosystem, such as the conversion of natural grassland to a crop field, delivering a different spectrum of benefits, but also degradation of the “natural” or “transformed” system. Natural ecosystems are often degraded prior to being transformed. The transformed ecosystem that results from this conversion can, in turn, be degraded and see a reduction in the delivery of its new functions (e.g. an agricultural field where soil degradation and reduced soil fertility leads to reduced crops). The same concepts are applicable to the degradation of marine and freshwater ecosystems. It may take the form of changed trophic structures in a marine community (through fishing pressure and selective removal of species, transformation of the soft and hard benthos (through repetitive sweeps of contacting gears, such as trawls) or artificial reef construction, to cite only a few examples. In the case of aquatic freshwater ecosystems, the construction of dams and reservoirs over river courses or the conversion of natural wetlands into rice paddies are examples of ecosystem transformation”.