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UNEP-WCMC - Glossary of Biodiversity Terms
Category: Earth and Environment > Biodiversity terms
Date & country: 17/01/2008, UK
Words: 143


Accession
A sample of a crop variety collected at a specific location and time; may be of any size.

Alien species
A species occurring in an area outside of its historically known natural range as a result of intentional or accidental dispersal by human activities (also known as an exotic or introduced species).

Assemblage
An integrated group of species inhabiting a given area; the organisms within a community influence one another's distribution, abundance, and evolution. (A Human Community is a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality.)

Biodiversity
The variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

Biogeography
A branch of geography that deals with the geographical distribution of animals and plants.

Biological diversity
See Biodiversity.

Biological resources
Includes genetic resources, organisms or parts thereof, populations, or any other biotic component of ecosystems with actual or potential use or value for humanity.

Biologically unique species
A species that is the only representative of an entire genus or family.

Biome
A major portion of the living environment of a particular region (such as a fir forest or grassland), characterised by its distinctive vegetation and maintained by local climatic conditions.

Bioregion (bioregional planning)
A territory defined by a combination of biological, social, and geographic criteria, rather than geopolitical considerations; generally, a system of related, interconnected ecosystems.

Biosphere reserves
Established under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program, biosphere reserves are a series of protected areas linked through a global network, intended to demonstrate the relationship between conservation and development.

Biota
The living organisms of a region.

Biotic
Pertaining to any aspect of life, especially to characteristics of entire populations or ecosystems.

Breed
A group of animals or plants related by descent from common ancestors and visibly similar in most characteristics. Taxonomically, a species can have numerous breeds.

Breeding line
Genetic lines of particular significance to plant or animal breeders that provide the basis for modern varieties.

Buffer zone
The region near the border of a protected area; a transition zone between areas managed for different objectives.

Buffer zones
Areas on the edge of protected areas that have land use controls and allow only activities compatible with protection of the core area, such as research, environmental education, recreation, and tourism.

Captive breeding
The propagation or preservation of animals outside their natural habitat, involving control by humans of the animals chosen to constitute a population and of mating choices within that population.

Carrying Capacity
The maximum number of people, or individuals of a particular species, that a given part of the environment can maintain indefinitely.

Centres of diversity
The regions where most of the major crop species were originally domesticated and developed. These regions may coincide with centres of origin.

Climax community
The end of a successional sequence; a community that has reached stability under a particular set of environmental conditions.

Co-management
The sharing of authority, responsibility, and benefits between government and local communities in the management of natural resources.

Common property resource management
The management of a specific resource (such as a forest or pasture) by a well-defined group of resource users with the authority to regulate its use by members and outsiders.

Community
An integrated group of species inhabiting a given area; the organisms within a community influence one another's distribution, abundance, and evolution. (A Human Community is a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality.)

Community
A group of ecologically related populations of various species of organisms occurring in a particular place and time.

Complementarity
The concept of achieving conservation efficiently by ensuring that a set of areas is assembled with due regard to the additional species that each brings into the network. This is the basis of a critical faunas analysis.

Conservation
The management of human use of the biosphere so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefit to current generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations: Thus conservation is positive, embracing preservation, maintenance, sustainable utilisation, restoration, and enhancement of the natural environment.

Conservation of biodiversity
The management of human interactions with genes, species, and ecosystems so as to provide the maximum benefit to the present generation while maintaining their potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations; encompasses elements of saving, studying, and using biodiversity.

Country providing genetic resources
The country supplying genetic resources collected from in-situ sources, including populations of both wild and domesticated species, or taken from ex-situ sources, which may or may not have originated in that country

Critical faunas analysis
A methodology to identify the minimum set of areas which would contain at least one viable population of every species in a given animal or plant group.

Critical habitat
A technical classification of areas in the United States that refers to habitats essential for the conservation of endangered or threatened species. The term may be used to designate portions of habitat areas, the entire area, or even areas outside the current range of the species.

Cultivar
A cultivated variety (genetic strain) of a domesticated crop plant.

Cultivar
International term denoting certain cultivated plants that are clearly distinguishable from others by one or more characteristics and that when reproduced retain their distinguishing characteristics. In the United States, 'variety' is considered to be synonymous with cultivar (derived from 'cultivated variety').

Cultural diversity
Variety or multiformity of human social structures, belief systems, and strategies for adapting to situations in different parts of the world.

Cutting
Plant piece (stem, leaf, or root) removed from a parent plant that is capable of developing into a new plant.

Cycad
Any of an order of gymnosperms of the family cycadaceae. Cycads are tropical plants that resemble palms but reproduce by means of spermatozoids.

Domesticated or cultivated species
Species in which the evolutionary process has been influenced by humans to meet their needs.

Domestication
The adaptation of an animal or plant to life in intimate association with and to the advantage of man.

Ecology
A branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environment.

Ecosystem
A dynamic complex of plant, animal, fungal, and microorganism communities and their associated non- living environment interacting as an ecological unit.

Ecosystem diversity
The variety of ecosystems that occurs within a larger landscape, ranging from biome (the largest ecological unit) to microhabitat.

Ecotourism
Travel undertaken to witness sites or regions of unique natural or ecologic quality, or the provision of services to facilitate such travel.

Endangered species
A technical definition used for classification in the United States referring to a species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. IUCN The World Conservation Union (1994) definition, defines species as endangered if the factors causing their vulnerability or decline continue to operate.

Endemic
Restricted to a specified region or locality.

Endemic Bird Area (EBA)
A term used by BirdLife International to describe areas with two or more restricted- range bird species entirely confined to them

Endemism
The occurrence of a species in a particular locality or region.

Equilibrium theory
A theory of island biogeography maintaining that greater numbers of species are found on larger islands because the populations on smaller islands are more vulnerable to extinction. This theory can also be applied to terrestrial analogues such as forest patches in agricultural or suburban areas or nature reserves where it has become known as 'insular ecology.'

Ex-situ
Pertaining to study or maintenance of an organism or groups of organisms away from the place where they naturally occur. Commonly associated with collections of plants and animals in storage facilities, botanic gardens or zoos

Ex-situ conservation
The conservation of components of biological diversity outside their natural habitats.

Exotic species
An organism that exists in the free state in an area but is not native to that area. Also refers to animals from outside the country in which they are held in captive or free-ranging populations.

Extant
Species are those whose members are living at the present time.

Extinct
As defined by the IUCN, extinct taxa are species or other taxa that are no longer known to exist in the wild after repeated search of their type of locality and other locations where they were known or likely to have occurred.

Extinction
Disappearance of a taxonomic group of organisms from existence in all regions.

Fauna
Organisms of the animal kingdom.

Feral
A domesticated species that has adapted to existence in the wild state but remains distinct from other wild species. Examples are the wild horses and burros of the West and the wild goats and pigs of Hawaii.

Flora
Organisms of the plant kingdom

Forest Resource Accounting (FRA)
Methodologies for forest resource accounting, aimed at encouraging improved forest information management systems for conservation and sustainable utilisation.

Gamete
The sperm or unfertilised egg of animals that transmit the parental genetic information to offspring. In plants, functionally equivalent structures are found in pollen and ovules.

Gene
A chemical unit of hereditary information that can be passed from one generation to another.

Gene bank
A facility established for the ex situ conservation of individuals (seeds), tissues, or reproductive cells of plants or animals.

Gene pool
The collection of genes in an interbreeding population.

Genetic diversity
The variety of genes within a particular species, variety, or breed.

Genetic drift
A cumulative process involving the chance loss of some genes and the disproportion ate replication of others over successive generations in a small population, so that the frequencies of genes in the population is altered. The process can lead to a population that differs genetically and in appearance from the original population.

Genetic material
Any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity.

Genetic resources
Genetic material of actual or potential value.

Genotype
The genetic constitution of an organism as distinguished from its physical appearance.

Genus
A category of biological classification ranking between the family and the species, comprising structurally or phylogenetically related species or an isolated species exhibiting unusual differentiation.

Germplasm
The genetic material, especially its specific molecular and chemical constitution, that compromises the inherited qualities of an organism.

Grow-out (growing-out)
The process of growing a plant for the purpose of producing fresh viable seed to evaluate its varietal characteristics.

Habitat
The environment in which an animal or plant lives, generally defined in terms of vegetation and physical features.

Hotspot
An area on earth with an unusual concentration of species, many of which are often endemic to the area.

Hybrid
An offspring of a cross between two genetically unlike individuals.

Hybridisation
Crossing of individuals from genetically different strains, populations, or species.

Important Bird Area (IBA)
Sites of importance to birds, identified by Birdlife International and International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau. The sites are identified for four groups of birds: regularly occurring migratory species which concentrate at and are dependent on particular sites either when breeding, or migration, or during the winter; globally threatened species (ie species at risk of total extinction); species and sub-species threatened throughout all or parts of their range but not globally; species that have relatively small total world ranges with important populations in specific areas.

In vitro
(Literally 'in glass'). The growing of cells, tissues, or organs in plastic vessels under sterile conditions on an artificially prepared medium.

In-situ
Maintenance or study of organisms within an organism's native environment.

In-situ conservation
The conservation of biodiversity within the evolutionary dynamic ecosystems of the original habitat or natural environment.

Inbreeding
Mating of close relatives resulting in increased genetic uniformity in the offspring.

Indicator species
A species whose status provides information on the overall condition of the ecosystem and of other species in that ecosystem.

Indigenous peoples
People whose ancestors inhabited a place or country when persons from another culture or ethnic background arrived on the scene and dominated them through conquest, settlement, or other means and who today live more in conformity with their own social, economic, and cultural customs and traditions than with those of the country of which they now form a part. (also: 'native peoples' or 'tribal peoples')

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
Rights enabling an inventor to exclude imitators from the market for a certain period of time.

Interspecies
Between different species

Intrinsic value
The value of creatures and plants independent of human recognition and estimation of their worth.

Introduced species
See 'Alien species'.

Inventory
On-site collection of data on natural resources and their properties.

Island biogeography
The study of the relationship between island area and species number. This idea has also been applied to isolated areas of habitat in continental areas which are effectively islands for many species. The extent to which habitat fragmentation may lead to extinction of species can be predicted from the relationship between number of species and island area.

Keystone species
A species whose loss from an ecosystem would cause a greater than average change in other species populations or ecosystem processes.

Land Mapping Unit (LMU)
The smallest area of land that can be delineated on a map of a particular scale. Used in land evaluation as the basis of spatial variation.

Land Quality (LQ)
A complex attribute of land, which acts in a manner distinct from the actions of other land qualities in its influence on the suitability of land for a specified kind of use.

Land Use Requirements (LUR)
The requirements are related to growth and yield of crops and trees, animal husbandry, land management and conservation. The expression of the conditions for successful implementation are described for each LUT, eg growth requirements of certain tree species.

Land Utilisation Type (LUT)
Described in terms of necessary inputs and expected results, based on a number of key attributes obtained from land use data; produce, capital input, labour input, farm size, land tenure, technical know how, level of mechanism etc. LUTs relate to the physical social and economic conditions of the area and according to the development of objectives; description of the key attributes, reflecting biological, socio-economic and technical aspects of the production environment and which are relevant to the productive capacity of a LMU.

Landrace
Primitive or antique variety usually associated with traditional agriculture. Often highly adapted to local conditions.

Living collections
A management system involving the use of off-site methods such as zoological parks, botanic gardens, arboretums, and captive breeding programs to protect and maintain biological diversity in plants, animals, and microorganisms

Marine Protected Area (MPA)
An area of sea (or coast) especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means.

Megadiversity countries
The small number of countries, located largely in the tropics, which account for a high percentage of the world's biodiversity by virtue of containing very large numbers of species.

Micro-organisms
In practice, a diverse classification of all those organisms not classed as plants or animals, usually minute microscopic or submicroscopic and found in nearly all environments. Examples are bacteria, cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), mycoplasma, protozoa, fungi (including yeasts), and viruses.

Minimum Viable Population (MVP)
The smallest isolated population having a good chance of surviving for a given number of years despite the foreseeable effects of demographic, environmental, and genetic events and natural catastrophes.

Multiple use
An on-site management strategy that encourages an optimum mix of several uses on a parcel of land or water or by creating a mosaic of land or water parcels, each with a designated use within a larger geographic area.

Native
A plant or animal indigenous to a particular locality.

Native species
Plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms that occur naturally in a given area or region.