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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

Abstration
See Water Abstraction.
Acid rain
Rainfall that is acidic due to contact with various pollutants such as carbon dioxide, sulphate and nitrogen oxides.  Acid rain contaminates soil, plants and water, danages buildings and can effect human health.
Afforestation
The establishment of forest by natural succession or by the planting of trees on land where they did not formerly grow, e.g. establishment of monocultures of pines, eucalypts or wattles in primary grasslands in South Africa.
Agenda 21
A global plan of action for sustainable development agreed to by most of United Nations member states at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (also called the Earth Summit or UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2002.  The Agenda 21 document contains 40 separate sections of concern and outlines a total of 2 500 recommendations.  It focuses on partnerships involving the public and all relevant stakeholders to resolve developmental problems and to plan strategically for the future.
Agrarianization
The movement towards the economic activity of agriculture.
Agriculture

The cultivation of soil and rearing of animals to feed the human population.  As more people move from rural areas to cities, more intensive farming methods and more extensive areas are used for farming to increase food production.

Air pollution
Air containing gases, dust, fumes, or odour in potentially harmful amounts (that is, in amounts that could be harmful to the health or comfort of humans and animals, or that could damage plants and materials).
Algae
Simple plants containing chlorophyll or other photosynthetic pigments, found widely in freshwater and marine environments, and ranging from single cells to plants many metres in length.
Ambient air
All air outside buildings, stacks, and exterior ducts.
Anopheles mosquito
The species of mosquito that is a carrier for the malaria parasite.
Anthropocentric
The idea that human beings are the central feature of the world; the interpretation of environmental and resource issues solely in terms of human values and standards.
Anthropogenic
Human-induced or human-caused changes to the environment.
Aquatic
Growing, living, or found in water.
Aquifer
A body of permeable rock that can store significant amounts of water.
Atmosphere
The thin layer of gases surrounding Earth that sustains life on the planet and composed mainly of nitrogen and oxygen.  It consists of two main layers: the troposphere, which extends from sea level to about 17 kilometres up, and the stratosphere, which extends from 17 kilometres above sea level to about 48 kilometres above the Earth.

B

Basic sanitation
The prescribed minimum standard of services necessary for the safe, hygienic, and adequate collection, removal, disposal, and purification of human excreta, domestic wastewater, and sewage from households, including informal households.
Benthic
The lowermost region of a freshwater or marine profile in which organisms reside.
Biodiversity / biological diversity
The variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part.  The term also includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.
Biodiversity hotspot
An area that is identified as a conservation priority because it contains a high number of endemic species and faces extreme threats.
Biodiversity mainstreaming
The incorporation of biodiversity considerations into all human activities including programmes, plans, and policies.
Biodiversity target
A biodiversity objective expressed in a qualitative or quantitative manner, usually to be achieved by a specified date.
Biomass
The total mass of all living organisms present in an ecosystem, usually expressed as a dry weight.
Biome
One of the world’s major environmental communities, classified according to the predominant vegetation and characterized by adaptations of organisms to that particular environment.  Major biomes include: aquatic, desert, forest, grassland, and tundra.
Bioprospecting
Research and development of indigenous biological resources for commercial exploitation.
Biosphere
The envelope around the Earth containing the planet’s life-supporting systems (for example, the atmosphere, soil, inland water, and the sea).
Biosphere reserve
A locality that forms part of an international network of protected areas designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), located in areas of high biodiversity where research into and the monitoring of biodiversity is carried out with the participation of local people.
Biota
The combined flora and fauna of a particular region or period.
Birth rate
The number of childbirths per 1 000 persons per year.
Bush encroachment
The conversion of a grassland-dominated vegetation type to one that is dominated by woody species; an increasing woody plant density.

C

Carbon dioxide (CO2)
A gas that occurs naturally in the atmosphere. It is produced when animals breathe, when vegetation rots, and when material containing carbon is burnt or broken down.
Carbon sinks
Carbon reservoirs and conditions that take in and store more carbon than they release (for example, forests and oceans).
Carbon tax
A tariff charged by governments on business, industry, and energy sources that emit greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, through the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas). The charge is typically levied per tonne of carbon dioxide.
Carcinogenic
A substance contributing to the development of cancer in animal tissues. 
Carrying capacity
The maximum population of a given organism that a particular environment can sustain.
Catchment
The area of land drained by a particular stream or river.
Catchment management
A philosophy, process, and implementation strategy to achieve a balance between the utilization and the protection of environmental resources in a particular catchment area.
Child mortality
Number of children dying before the age of 5 years, per 1 000 births per year.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
Ozone-destroying chemicals released mainly by cooling systems such as air conditioners and refrigerators.
Clean development mechanism
A proposition according to which industrialized countries or their companies could earn emission credits, while developing countries acquire technology and capital and earn emission credits that can be banked or sold.
Cleaner production
Improvements to an industrial production process in order to use less energy, water, or other inputs, or to reduce the generation of waste.
Climate change
The variation in the Earth's global climate or in regional climates over time. It includes changes in the variability or in the average state of the atmosphere – or average weather – over timescales ranging from decades to millions of years.
Anthropogenic climate change refers to climate change that is attributable directly or indirectly to human activities that alter the composition of the global atmosphere.
Coastal zone
The area of land and sea along a coast. It includes estuaries, onshore areas, and offshore areas, wherever they form an integral part of the coastal system.
Commodity market
Market where raw/primary products are exchanged.
Communal areas
Areas of land that are owned and managed communally, generally by traditional authorities.
Conservation
The maintenance of environmental quality and functioning.
Consumption
The purchase and/or use of goods and services.
Contractual parks
Protected areas established as a result of contracts between government agencies and local communities, where the local communities retain their title to the land in the park.
Convention
An agreement drafted by an international, independent panel, which various governments then sign, to support specific action.
Cooperative governance
In South Africa, government is constituted as national, provincial and local spheres of government which are distinctive, interdependent and interrelated. All spheres of government must observe and adhere to the principles in Section 41 of the Constitution and must conduct their activities within the parameters that the Chapter provides.

D

Deforestation
The permanent clearing of an area of forest or woodland.
Degradation
The reduction or loss of the biological or ecological productivity of an area. (See Desertification.)
Demersal fish
Fish that live on, or adjacent to, the bottom of the sea.
Demography
The study of the structure of populations.
Dependency ratio
A measure of the portion of a population that is composed of dependents (that is, people who are too young or too old to support themselves).
Desalination
The process of removing dissolved salts from salt water or brackish (slightly salt) water, making it fit for consumption by humans or for use for agricultural and other activities.
Desertification
The degradation of land in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas, resulting from various factors including climatic variations and human activities.
Development
A process of change that represents planned progress of some kind. For example, developing the economy of a region or country can take place through the expansion of economic activities, the improvement of people’s skills, or job creation.

E

Eco-efficiency
The ecological efficiency of goods and services, assessed by measuring their economic price and checking it against its production or manufacturing success in reducing environmental impact, improving quality of life, and lessening the overall adverse environmental impact on nature. Being more eco-efficient means creating more goods and services while using fewer resources and creating less waste and pollution.
Ecological footprint
A measure of the 'load' imposed by a given population on nature. It represents the land area of average quality needed to sustain current levels of resource consumption and waste discharge by that population. The bigger the footprint the greater is the impact that it represents.
Economic growth
The increase in a nation’s capacity to produce goods and services, usually expressed as a rate of change in output from one year to the next.
Ecosystem
The dynamic complex of animal, plant, and microorganism communities and their non-living environment (soil, water, climate, and atmosphere) interacting as a functional unit.
Ecosystem services
The beneficial functions provided by ecosystems, such as water quality regulation, nutrient cycling, soil fertility maintenance, regulation of the concentration of atmospheric gases, and cultural and recreational opportunities.
Ecotourism
Tourism in which the natural environment is the main tourist interest, and the exercise of which does not potentially harm the environment.
Effluent
Water (usually wastewater) that flows out of a man-made system into a river or the sea.
El Niño

(Meaning “the Christ Child” in Spanish) is the name of a warm ocean current appearing periodically along the coast of Ecuador and Peru. In contrast to the normal, cold, north-flowing current, El Niño (when it flows) causes warming in the Pacific region, which influences world weather patterns by affecting air and ocean temperatures. A serious El Niño event can cause changes in climate over southern Africa. (See La Niña.)
Emission
A noise or a liquid or gaseous effluent that is discharged into the environment.
Emissions inventory
A listing, by source, of the amounts of air pollutants discharged into the atmosphere. It is used to establish emission standards.
Emissions trading regime
A free market solution to problems caused by the adverse impacts of pollution, in which a country is allocated a ‘pollution quota’ and the freedom to sell the portion of the quota that it does not use. (See Kyoto Protocol.)
Endangered species
A plant or animal species whose number of individuals or whose population has been reduced to a critical level or whose habitats have been reduced so drastically as to cause an imminent risk of extinction.
Endemic
A plant or animal species that occurs and is restricted to a particular geographical region is said to be ‘endemic’ to that region, owing to factors such as isolation or response to soil or climatic conditions.
Energy
The capacity of matter or radiation to do work.
Environment
The surroundings within which humans exist.
Environmental degradation
The reduction of the capacity of the environment to meet social and ecological objectives and needs.
Environmental governance
The processes of decision-making involved in the control and management of the environment and natural resources.
Environmental health
Well-being based on health of the environment, both natural and built. 
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
The process of identifying, predicting, evaluating, and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals before major decisions are taken or commitments made. The EIA Regulations require that specific procedures be followed, and reports (scoping and/or EIA reports) prepared for those activities listed as potentially having a substantial detrimental effect on the environment.
Environmental Implementation Plan (EIP)
A statutory instrument for promoting cooperative governance for environmental management among different spheres of government.
Environmental indicator
Physical, chemical, biological or socio-economic measures that can be used to objectively assess the quality and quantity of natural resources and of the environment.
Environmental justice
A term used in the social sciences to describe injustices in the way in which natural resources are used. It often also refers to attempts to right the wrongs of past practices that discriminated against the poor and the disadvantaged.
Environmental management

The deliberate and multidisciplinary process of managing environmental resources, which requires the careful preparation, planning, and administration of environmental policies and standards. It aims to ensure that environmental concerns are included in all stages of development, so that development is sustainable and does not exceed the carrying capacity of the environment. (See ISO 14000 series.)
Environmental Management System (EMS)
Documented procedures drawn up in terms of a South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) code of practice to implement the requirements of ISO 14000. The code is an international standard and provides the basis for uniform EMS, which will conform to wider international standards and requirements.
Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI)
An index constructed by Yale University that ranks countries according to their performance based on a range of aspects of environmental sustainability.
Estuary
The coastal body of water that has a free connection with the open sea and where fresh water, derived from land drainage, is mixed with sea water.
Eutrophication
A process of nutrient enrichment of aquatic ecosystems, mainly by nitrates and phosphates from agricultural pollution, which stimulates excessive plant growth (algal blooms). This growth in turn reduces dissolved oxygen in the water when dead plant material decomposes and can cause other organisms to die.
Evapotranspiration
A combined term for water lost as vapour from a soil or open water surface (evaporation) and water lost from the surface of a plant, mainly via the stomata (transpiration).
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
A zone in the sea under a country's national control, up to 200 nautical miles wide. The coastal country has the right to explore and exploit and the responsibility to conserve and manage all living and non-living resources in its area.
Externality
Economic activities that cause uncompensated environmental loss or damage to others.
Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI)
An international initiative that aims to ensure that the revenues from extractive industries contribute to sustainable development and poverty reduction.

F

Fauna
All the animal life of a habitat or a region at a given time.
Fertility rate
The number of children born alive to a woman during her lifetime.
Floodplain
An area beside a river that is seasonally flooded when water levels rise because of high rainfall.
Flora
All the plant species that make up the vegetation of a given habitat or area at a given time.
Food security
The assured availability and access (physical and economic) to adequate food (in terms of quality and quantity) by all people at all times, as required for a healthy, active, and productive life.
Forestry
The practice of growing and managing forest trees for commercial timber production. It includes the management of specifically planted forests, of native or exotic tree species, as well as the commercial use of existing indigenous forests.
Fossil fuels
Mined energy sources, such as coal, gas, and petroleum, that are derived from the remains of prehistoric animals and plants.
FTSE4Good
An international Index Series designed to measure the performance of companies that meet globally recognized corporate responsibility standards and to facilitate investment in those companies.
Full cost accounting
A method of accounting that aims to identify, quantify, and allocate all costs associated with a product or process, including environmental and social costs.
Fynbos
Afrikaans word for fine-leaved bush, a biome in South Africa’s southern Cape area, comprising shrubs and shrubby woodland with patches of hardwood.

G

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)
A type of genetic engineering through which a gene from one organism is isolated and transferred to cells of another organism, where it is incorporated into the recipient’s chromosomes and expressed. During the 1990s there was dramatic growth in the commercial applications of this new technology, including the development of generically modified (GM) crops.
Gini-coefficient
A measure of inequality. It is normally used to measure income inequality, but can be used to measure any form of uneven distribution. The Gini coefficient is a number between 0 and 1, where 0 corresponds with perfect equality (where everyone has the same income, for example) and 1 corresponds with perfect inequality (where one person has all the income, and everyone else has zero income).
Global Environmental Facility (GEF)
Established in 1991 by World Bank resolution, GEF helps developing countries to fund projects and programmes that protect the global environment.
Global Stewardship Corruption Perception Index
An annual measure compiled by a German group (called Transparency International), designed to measure the performance of governments against set criteria of bribery and corruption.
Global warming
A gradual warming of the air temperature in the Earth's lower atmosphere as a result of the build-up of greenhouse gases (for example, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, methane, and ozone). (See Greenhouse effect.)
Globalization
The process by which the world’s nations and communities are becoming more closely connected by modern telecommunications and more strongly interdependent economically, socially, and politically. The process carries with it the pressure to conform to global standards and economic approaches.
Governance
The systems of values, policies, and institutions by which society manages its economic, political, and social affairs through interactions within and among the state, civil society, and the private sector.
Grassland:
A habitat/ecosystem/biome that has vegetation dominated by grasses.
Green Scorpions
The popular name of a South African enforcement unit empowered by the National Environmental Management Act to ensure statutory compliance with environmental legislation.
Greenfields site
A site on which no development has yet taken place.
Greenhouse effect
A warming effect of the Earth’s lower atmosphere resulting when greenhouse gases trap heat from the sun and prevent that heat from escaping back into space. (See Global warming.)
Greenhouse gas
Any gas that absorbs infrared radiation in the atmosphere, thus allowing heat to enter the Earth's atmosphere but not to leave it.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
The value of all goods and services produced by all factors of production in an economy by both residents and non-residents over a period of a year.
Groundwater
Water that is stored within the air spaces of soil and in rock formations.
Groundwater recharge
Replacement of water, normally through rainwater percolating into the ground to replenish water lost from the groundwater store by abstraction, evaporation, or transpiration.

H

Habitat
The place where an organism or community occurs. It is characterized by its physical properties and by the other life forms found there.
Habitat fragmentation
The break-up of natural habitat into small non-contiguous parts. This can cause problems because when the portions are too small they cannot function effectively on their own.
Habitat loss
A process of land use change in which one habitat-type is removed and replaced by some other habitat-type. In the process of land-use change, plants and animals that previously used the site are displaced or destroyed. This generally results in alteration or reduction in biodiversity. (See Deforestation and Habitat fragmentation.)
Hazardous waste
Waste that poses substantial or potential threats to public health or the environment.
Heritage
The sum total of sites of geological, zoological, botanical, archaeological, and historical importance. Heritage is that which we inherit: wildlife and scenic parks; sites of scientific or historic importance; national monuments; historic buildings; works of art; literature and music; oral traditions; and museum collections, together with their documentation.
Holism
The term comes from the Greek holos, meaning ‘complete, integrated’. This is a philosophy based on the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, that is, that a system may have properties over and above those of the parts and the way in which they are organized.
Homelands
Areas designated for black people according to their ethnic group, under the former apartheid government.
Human Development Index (HDI)
A summary composite index that measures a country’s average achievements in three aspects of human development: longevity, knowledge, and standard of living. It was created by the United Nations Development Programme and first presented in its Human Development Report in 1990.
Hydrocarbons
Any chemical compound that consists only of the elements carbon (C) and hydrogen (H). All hydrocarbons contain a carbon backbone, called a carbon skeleton, and have hydrogen atoms attached to that backbone. Examples of hydrocarbons include petroleum, coal and gas, and the fossilised remains of plants.
Hydrological cycle
The flow of water through the terrestrial and atmospheric environments.
Hydropower
Electricity generated by means of flowing water.

I

Immunosuppression
A state in which the ability of the body's immune system to respond to disease is decreased.
Indicator
A measure that helps to assess the extent of the success with which goals are being achieved. Based on complex information or data, indicators are often used in State of the Environment Reports to measure how resources are being managed.
Indicator species
A species whose presence, or relative well-being in a given environment is indicative of the health of its ecosystem as a whole.
Indigenous species
Plants, animals, or microbes that are native to a particular area. (See Fynbos.)
Industrialization
A process of social and economic change, associated with technological innovation, through which a human society is transformed from pre-industrial to an industrial state.
Inflation rate
The percentage increase in the price of goods and services, normally measured year on year.
Infrastructure
The framework of key facilities that supports communities and their industrial and commercial activities and services.
Integrated Environmental Management (IEM)
A code of practice to ensure that environmental considerations are fully integrated into the management of all activities, so as to achieve a desirable balance between conservation and development.
Integrated Pollution and Waste Management
An integrated approach adopted by the South African government to deal with the current problems relating to waste management and pollution.
Integrated resource management
see Integrated Environmental Management (IEM).
Inter-basin transfer
The transfer of water from one river system to another, in places where water would not naturally be transferred between the two systems.
Intergovernmental
This term refers to the relations among spheres of government and to relations among government agencies in the same sphere of government.
Intertidal zone
The area of the beach between the high and low tide watermarks.
Invasive alien species
Species that are intentionally or unintentionally introduced to an area where they would not naturally occur, which then reproduce and invade areas beyond those into which they were originally introduced.
Invertebrate
A species of animal without a backbone, such as, for example, a butterfly or a lobster.
ISO 14000 series
An international standard for environmental management systems developed by the International Standards Organisation (ISO), which ensures that actions and processes are carried out in a uniform manner. ISO 14000 sets out guidelines on how to manage environmental matters in different companies in different countries, and is often used to certify organisations as environmentally sound. (See Environmental Management System (EMS))

J

Johannesburg Plan of Implementation
A key outcome of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, which constitutes a plan of action for more sustainable global development.

K

Karoo
Shrubby, semi-desert landscape covering two-thirds of the area of South Africa. 
Kyoto Protocol
The international protocol named for the city in Japan where it was adopted on 11 December 1997 at the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It sets individual emissions limitations and reduction targets on six greenhouse gases through three flexible mechanisms: Joint Implementation, Emissions Trading, and Cleaner Development Mechanism (CDM). 

L

La Niña
(From the Spanish for ‘female child’) unusually cold sea surface temperatures found in the eastern tropical Pacific ocean. La Niña occurs approximately half as often as El Niño.
Land administration
The act or process of authoritative control over land.
Land degradation
Reduction or loss, in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, of the biological or economic productivity and complexity of rainfed cropland, irrigated cropland, or range, pasture, forest and woodlands, as a result of land uses or from a process or combination of processes, including processes arising from human activities and habitation patterns such as:
(i) soil erosion caused by wind and/or water;
(ii) deterioration of the physical, chemical and biological or economic properties of soil; and
(iii) long-term loss of natural vegetation. (See Soil degradation.)
Land reform
Redistribution of land to recognise the rights of all citizens.
Land rehabilitation
The process of returning land in a given area to some degree of its former self, after a process (such as may be conducted by business, industry, or a natural disaster) has damaged it.
Land tenure
A type of land ownership.
Land transformation
The conversion of land, normally from natural habitat to human uses such as agriculture or settlements.
Landfill
Places, such as quarries, used for disposing household and industrial waste. Normally, land is excavated and sealed to prevent the contamination of adjacent land or underground water.
Landscape
The patterns and structure of a specific geographic area or place, including its natural, physical, built, and socio-economic environments.
Land-use change
Changes in the purpose for which land is used, as, for example, where land that was previously used for pasture becomes a human settlement.
Legislation
Is statutory law that is enacted (or ‘promulgated’) by a legislature or other governing body. The term may refer to a single law or to the collective body of enacted law. Before legislation becomes law it may be known as a bill. In South Africa, legislation must be confirmed by the executive branch of government before it enters into force as law. Under the Westminster system, an item of legislation is known as an Act of Parliament.

M

Macroeconomics
A study of national economic aggregates.
Mariculture
The rearing of fish, shell-fish, and certain aquatic plants under controlled and managed conditions either in their natural environment in the sea or on landbased sea farms.Also called aquaculture or fish farming.
Marine
An umbrella term for things relating to the ocean, as in the terms ‘marine biology’ and ‘marine geology’.  In scientific contexts, the term almost always refers exclusively to saltwater environments.
Marine Protected Area (MPA)
An area of marine or estuarine habitat where some types of fish or plants are protected or where an entire ecosystem is set aside as a park or reserve.
Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF)
A detailed three-year rolling expenditure and revenue plan for national and provincial departments in South Africa.
Methane
An odourless and colourless hydrocarbon gas produced either by natural or artificial decomposition of organic material. (See Greenhouse gas and Hydrocarbon).
Microbial contamination
Contamination with bacteria, fungi, or other microbes that can cause disease.
Migration
Movement of all or part of a population to and from a geographical area.
Millennium Development Goals
The set of development goals contained in the Millennium Declaration of 2000, which are intended to guide actions for development globally.
Mitigation
measures taken to reduce adverse effects on the environment and humans.
Morbidity
The frequency of a sickness in a population.
Mortality
The frequency of death in a population or community.
Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEA)
International environmental treaties that contain measures to prevent the degradation of evironmental resources, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

N

National park
Land set aside for the protection of plants,animals, and scenery, and for human enjoyment.
Natural environment
The physical environment comprising all living and non-living things that occur naturally on Earth.
Natural heritage
Natural features consisting of physical and biological formations, or groups of such formations,which are of outstanding universal value from an aesthetic or scientific point of view.
Natural resources
The basic minerals and resources that are produced through the Earth’s own inherent natural processes and systems.
Non-governmental organization (NGO)
An organization that is not part of a government and was not founded by a state. NGOs are typically independent of governments. Although the definition can technically include for-profit corporations, the term is normally restricted to social,cultural, legal, and environmental advocacy groups having goals that are primarily non-commercial.
Non-renewable resources
Resources that do not renew themselves in a human time-scale and cannot be
replenished once exhausted, such as fossil fuels and copper.
Nuclear power
Energy created by the process of fission from atomic nuclei, as generated by nuclear power stations.

Nutrient loading
The release of excessive nutrients into a water body from the catchment area, often through the use of fertilizers or other pollutants. (See Eutrophication.)

O

Overgrazing
Grazing by livestock or wildlife to the point where grass cover is depleted, leaving bare, unprotected patches of soil, with a corresponding increase in erosion by water and wind.
Over-utilization
Overuse of resources, thereby affecting their future use and the condition of the environment.
Ozone
A gas molecule composed of three oxygen molecules, which occurs naturally in the stratosphere where it protects Earth’s surface from harmful ultraviolet radiation.In the troposphere it acts as a greenhouse gas.
Ozone depletion
The destruction or thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer that shields the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation.

P

Particulates
A term used to describe either particles of solid matter (for example,  dust, soil, soot, and ash) or droplets of liquid (for example, sulphuric acid, salts, dioxins, and pesticides) that are small or light enough to remain suspended in the atmosphere for short periods of time.(See PM10).
Pelagic
Relating to communities of marine organisms that belong to the open sea, living free from direct dependence on the sea bottom or shore.
Perennial
(In reference to a water body) flowing or occuring throughout the year.
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
Chemical substances that are toxic, persist in the environment for long periods of time, and bioaccumulate as they move up through the food chain. 
Pesticides
Can be categorized as a diverse group of chemicals that kills insects or weeds, which can harm humans and the natural environment. Pesticides can migrate by wind or water to areas that they were not intended to reach, thus causing unintended damage to insect ecological systems that are essential for pollination.
Petrochemical industry
Broadly defined as that industrial activity which uses petroleum or natural gas as a source of raw materials, and whose products are neither fuels nor fertilizer.
PM10
Any particulate matter with a diameter less than or equal to 10 micrometers.
Policy
A framework or basis of action to overcome identified problems or to achieve stated goals and objectives, which sets out guidelines for decision-making and action.
Pollution
The concentration of substances that are beyond the environment’s capacity to handle.  It refers to any substance released to air, water, or soil by any process, which is capable of causing harm to humans or other living organisms supported by the environment.  Pollution comes in many forms, including liquid effluent, solid waste, air emissions, noise, and smells.(See Air Pollution, Solid waste, and Wastewater.)
Population density
The number of organisms, species, or humans found in a prescribed area.
Population dynamics
The study of the changes in the size, age,and gender composition of a population due to major biotic and abiotic factors.
Population growth
An increase in the number of organisms or species.In human demography, the population growth rate refers to the annual growth rate of the population calculated from mid-year.
Poverty
A certain level of material deprivation below which a person suffers physically, emotionally, and socially.
Poverty gap
The total income shortfall (expressed in proportion to the poverty line) of families with income below the poverty threshold ,divided by the number of families.
Poverty line
A poverty threshold that takes into account household size and age composition and that is intended to indicate an income level below which subsistence needs are not met.
Precauctionary principle
The principle included in policy and laws requiring that where the environmental consequences of a particular project, proposal, or course of action are uncertain, then the project,proposal, or course of action should not be taken.
Precipitation
All the forms in which water falls to the ground such as rain,sleet,snow,hail,and drizzle.It also refers to the deposition of dust or other substances.
Precipitation
All the forms in which water falls to the ground such as rain, sleet, snow, hail, and drizzle. It also refers to the deposition of dust or other substances.
Productivity
The rate at which plants,animals, and humans produce or have the capacity to produce.
Promulgation
The act of formally proclaimimng new legislation to the public. This occurs when the law receives final formal approval. It is generally performed by the head of state who acts according to constitutional rules or convention.

Q

Quaternary catchment
A catchment on the fourth level of subdivision of catchments into subcatchments; often used as a management unit.

R

Rainfall variability
the term used to describe a pattern of rainfall in which the amount of rain differs over a period of time, such as from year to year.
Ratification
Formal approval of an international agreement by a state's highest authority. In ratifying a Convention, a country agrees to be bound by the terms of the agreement and indicates to the international community a commitment to meet implementation goals.
Recharge
water added to underground water - for instance, rainfall that seeps into the ground.
Recycling
The process of collecting, cleaning and re-using waste materials that would otherwise be thrown away.
Red data list/book
A catalogue of species in danger of extinction and those already extinct, published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Red Data species
Species that appear on a Red Data list.
Red tide
A proliferation of marine plankton that is toxic and often fatal to fish and other organisms, including humans.
Regulation
A set of of conduct , standards, or procedures,which must be followed inorder to comply with legislation, or governmental or ministerial order that has the force of law.
Rehabilitation
see Land rehabilitation
Rehabilitation
repair or reconstruction of damaged habitats.
Renewable energy
is energy derived from an energy source produced by natural processes at rates equal to or faster than its consumption.  Renewable energy sources include sunshine, wind, wave power , flowing water (hydropower), biological processes such as anaerobic digestion, and geothermal heat flow.
Renewable energy
Energy obtained from sources that are essentially inexhaustable (for an example, wind energy, solar energy hydropower). (see Renewable resource)
Resource
A general term for whatever can be used to provide the means to satisfy human needs and wants.
Resource base
All the resources on which human societies depend, including natural resources such as land, water and minerals, for an example.
Resource management
The control of resources in a planned and responsible way.
Riparian vegetation
Vegetation on or immediately adjacent to a river bank.
River catchment
All the land from mountain- top to see shaw that is drained by a single river and its tributaries. Ctachment areas vary in size. A big river may have a catchment area of several thousand square kilometres, whereas a small tributary could have a catchment area of only a few hectors.
Runoff
The flow of water over the ground surface.

S

Salinity
The measure of the total quantity of dissolved solids in water, in parts per thousands by weight.
Scenario
a story, told in words and numbers, about the manner in which future events could unfold, and offering lessons on how to direct the flow of events towards sustainable paths and away from unsustainable ones. 
Sea level
The position of the air-sea-level interface to which all terrestrial elevations and sea depths are referred.
Sediment
Finely divided solid matter suspended in or falling to the bottom of a liquid or gas.Materials such as rocks and sands deposited by glaciers,wind or water.
Semi-arid
An area in which annual rainfall ranges from about 250-600mm, rainfall is seasonal and variable, and evaporation is high.
Siltation
The deposition of soil or fine rock particles on the bottom of river beds or other water bodies, often as a result of soil erosion in the surrounding area.
 
Social capital
the collaboration and cooperation within a community or society (through such mechanisms as networks, shared trust, norms, and values) to achieve mutual benefits.
Socio-economic
Linked to human activities, for example social, economic, cultural, and political activities.Themes that form part of the socio-economic environment are the economy, health, education, safety, and security as well as environmental governance.
Soil conservation
An intervention to stop soil degradation and even reverse it, through physical structures such as contours and terraces, or through biological means such as intercropping and grass strips.
Soil degradation
The declining productivity of soils through physical, chemical, or biological deterioration resulting from a combination of physical factors such as drought, management factors such as cultivation of marginal land or overstocking, and historical and socio-economic factors such as inequitable distribution of land. (See Land degradation.)
Soil erosion
The loss or movement of soil by agents such as running water, wind, and gravity.
Solid waste
Any solid, semi-solid, liquid, or contained gaseous materials discarded from industrial, commercial, mining, or agricultural operations, and from community activities.Solid waste includes garbage, construction debris, commercial refuse, sludge from water supply or waste treatment plants or air pollution control facilities, and from other discarded materials.
Species
a population of plants or animals that is able to interbreed to produce fertile offspring
Species diversity
The range of different species in an area or habitat, expressed as a combination of the number of species and the abundance of each species.
Species richness
The number of species in an area or habitat.
Stakeholders
People and/or organizations invloved or interested in an area or an issue, for example, residents, councillors, business people, trade unions, government institutions.
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)
an environmental assessment that is carried out in connection with one or more strategic actions, policies, plans, or programmes.  It is an important tool for helping planners and decision-makers to understand what will happen to an area if it were to accommodate different land uses.
Stratospheric ozone
The ozone in the layer of the Earth's atmosphere, which extends from 15 to 35 kilometres above the surface and protects life on the planet from harmful ultraviolet rays.
Subsistence
A situation in which people provide for all their own needs from their immediate environment, rather than earning wages to pay for goods and services.Subsistence fishing, for example, refers to the level of fishing where the catch is enough to feed only the person and his or her own family.
Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
A colourless, acrid gas formed by the combustion of sulphur.It is an oxidizing and reducing agent and is used as a refrigerant, disinfectant, preservative, and bleach.It reacts with water to make sulphuric acid. 
Surface water
Water found on the surface of the land, for example in rivers and dams.
Sustainability
The ability to meet the needs of present and future generations through the responsible use of resources.
Sustainable agriculture
Agriculture that does not degrade the soil or other resources in which it depends.
Sustainable development
development that meets the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, in turn. 
Sustainable harvesting
The harvesting of natural resources (for example, fish) in such a manner that there is no long-term decline in the population or its ability to reproduce.

T

Taxa
Plural of taxon. (see Taxon)
Taxon/taxonomic group
A group of living organisms with similar characteristics of any taxonomic rank (family,genus or species), such as, for example, mammals, insects, and flowering plants.
Taxonomy
The science of discovering, indentifying, naming, and documenting the life-forms making up the Earth's biological diversity.
Terrestrial
Of or associated with land.
Thermal efficiencies
The efficiency with which a power source transforms the potential heat of its fuel into work or output, expressed as a ratio of the useful work done by the power source in a given time interval to the total heat energy contained in the fuel burned during the same time interval, both work and heat being expressed in the same units.
Threatened species
Plants or animals that are likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.
Total allowable catch (TAC)
Is a catch limit set for a particular fishery, generally for a year or a fishing season.
Tradable emissions
Emissions that fall under a tradable emissions permit, which allows the holder to release a certain quantity of a specific emission. Should the permit-holder reduce his or her emissions, he or she can sell the quantity that remains on the permit.
Trade liberalization
The reduction of tariffs and other measures that restrict trade.
Tragedy of the commons
The idea that if there is no clear ownership of the rights to use a natural resource, this resource tends to be over exploited.
transboundary protected areas/Parks
Areas that straddle international boundaries, but within which all human barries are removed. Their primary purpose is wildlife conservation and they are managed as a unit under a single management plan.
Transfrontier Conservation Area(TFCA)
Area that straddle international boundaries and are composed of two or more conservation areas, which may have differing conservation status. these areas may also be separated by human barriers, which can prevent the free movement of animals.
Transparency International
An organisation dedicated to fighting corruption.
Trickle Down Effect
An economic theory that an increase in in wealth in societywill eventually increase the standard of living of all the people in that society.
Triple bottom line
One of the theories of sustainable development conceptualized by John Elkington, which suggests that true sustainable development in business must consider not just the financial 'bottom line' of prosperity, but also the bottom lines of environmental quality and social equity.  

U

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation
The light between visible light and X-rays on the light spectrum, further divided by wavelength into A,B, and C bands.Most UV radiation is absorbed by the ozone layer before it reaches the lower reaches of the atmosphere.Excessive exposure to UV radiation results in skin cancer.
Unemployed
People who are unable to find a job but will accept work if given the opportunity.
Untransformed
When used in an environmental context, a term describing land or habitat in its natural state.
Urbanization
the main process driving the creation and ongoing remaking of towns and cities.  An area is deemed urban if it has a population of more than 20 000 people.   The term is often used with reference to the movement of people from rural to urban areas.

V

Vector-borne diseases
Diseases that are commonly transmitted through vectors.'Vector' is a term used broadly to refer to any animal that transmits human disease or plays an essential role in a parasite's life cycle (for example, anopheles mosquitoes transmitting malaria,snail hosts of schistosomiasis, or rodent reservoirs of leshmaniasis).
Vegetation
The plant-life of an area or region.
Veld
South African term for natural vegetation, usually grassland or savanna, typically containing scattered shrubs or trees.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's)
Primarily the lighter 'fractions' of oil or hydrocarbons, that is, the parts that evaporate easily because they have a low boiling point.

W

Waste
Something which nobody wants at a particular time and which needs to be disposed of. (See Solid waste.)
Waste management
A control system to limit, collect, and dispose of waste, through policies and environmental standards.
Waste treatment
The treatment of industrial or municipal waste with chemicals or natural organisms to reduce the amount of nutrients and other contaminants in the water before it is released to the environment.
Waste water
Water left over after it has been used. for example in homes, gardens, and factories.
Water abstraction
The removal of water from a body of water.
Water balance
The balance between incoming water and the loss or use of water in a given area or system.
Water erosion
A process of soil erosion beginning when raindrops bombard bare soil, loosening and washing away soil particles and culminating eventually in gully formation.
Water table
A more or less horizontal layer in the soil below which all spaces between soil particles are saturated with water.
Water-borne-diseases
Diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, gastroenteritis, hepatitis, and schistosomiasis, which are commonly transmitted through contaminated water.
Wetland
land that is transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems, where the water table is usually at or near the surface, or where the land is periodically covered with shallow water; in normal circumstances, such land supports or would support vegetation typically adapted to life in saturated soil.
Wind erosion
A process of soil erosion, most severe in dry flat areas where vegetative cover is poor and winds blow strongly.
World Heritage Site
Architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structures of natural or archaeological elements, structures or landscapes, and combinations of features, which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art, or science.The protection of world heritage sites is the duty of the international community as a whole, and is governed by the United Nations World Heritage Convention.
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This page was last updated 22/05/2008