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A voluntary method of certification of environmental quality (of a product) and/or environmental performance of a process based on life cycle considerations and agreed sets of criteria and standards.



The study of the interactions of organisms with their physical environment (abiotic) and with one another (biotic).

Ecological footprint


An index of the area of productive land and aquatic ecosystems required to produce the resources used and to assimilate the wastes produced by a defined population at a specified material standard of living, wherever on Earth that land may be located.

Ecological security


A condition of ecological safety that ensures access to a sustainable flow of provisioning, regulating and cultural services needed by local communities to meet their basic capabilities.



A dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment, interacting as a functional unit.

Ecosystem approach


A strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. An ecosystem approach is based on the application of appropriate scientific methods, focused on levels of biological organization, which encompass the essential structure, processes, functions and interactions among organisms and their environment. It recognizes that humans, with their cultural diversity, are an integral component of many ecosystems.

Ecosystem assessment


A social process through which the findings of science concerning the causes of ecosystem change, their consequences for human well-being, and management and policy options are used to advise decision-makers. See also environmental assessment and Strategic environmental assessment.

Ecosystem resilience


The level of disturbance that an ecosystem can undergo without crossing a threshold into a different structure or with different outputs. Resilience depends on ecological dynamics as well as human organizational and institutional capacity to understand, manage and respond to these dynamics.

Ecosystem services


In issues of water quality, refers to liquid waste (treated or untreated) discharged to the environment from sources such as industrial process and sewage treatment plants.



Planning and managing tourism in a way that is sensitive to the natural environment. Ecotourism also involves helping the natural environment to be sustained by the economic benefits of tourist activities, e.g. camping facilities, hiking, horse trails, and game-watching.

Endangered species


A species is endangered when the best available evidence indicates that it meets any of the criteria A to E specified for the endangered category of the IUCN Red List, and is therefore considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

Endemic species


Species native to, and restricted to, a particular geographical region.



The fraction of species that is endemic relative to the total number of species found in a specific area.



The complex of physical, chemical, and biotic factors (as climate, soil, and living things) that act upon an organism (a living thing) or an ecological community (a collection of living things) and ultimately determine its form and survival. The circumstances, objects, and conditions that surround each of us.

Environmental assessment (EA)


An environmental assessment is the entire process of undertaking a critical and objective evaluation and analysis of information designed to support decision making. It applies the judgment of experts to existing knowledge to provide scientifically credible answers to policy relevant questions, quantifying where possible the level of confidence. It reduces complexity but adds value by summarizing, synthesizing and building scenarios, and identifies consensus by sorting out what is known and widely accepted from what is not known or not agreed. It sensitizes the scientific community to policy needs and the policy community to the scientific basis for action.

Environmental development


Taking steps to develop and improve the environment by carrying out responsible environmental policies.

Environmental equity


Equal protection of people, groups and communities from environmental hazards.

Environmental ‘grain’


The scale of spatial patchiness of an environment from the point of view of a particular, specified species.

Environmental ‘noise’


Extraneous background signals that tend to mask biotic processes.

Environmental governance


Government’s present and future duty to protect the environment through things like monitoring, control, management and making laws.

Environmental health


Those aspects of human health and disease that are determined by factors in the environment. It also refers to the theory and practice of assessing and controlling factors in the environment that can potentially affect health. Environmental health includes both the direct pathological effects of chemicals, radiation and some biological agents, and the effects (often indirect) on health and well-being of the broad physical, psychological, social and aesthetic environment. This includes housing, urban development, land use and transport.
Environmental impact assessment (EIA)


An environmental impact assessment (EIA) is an analytical process or procedure that systematically examines the possible environmental consequences of the implementation of a given activity (project). The aim is to ensure that the environmental implications of decisions related to a given activity are taken into account before the decisions are made.

Environmental policy


A policy initiative aimed at addressing environmental problems and challenges.

Environmental policy


A policy initiative aimed at addressing environmental problems and challenges.

Environmental problems


Environmental problems are human and/or natural influences on ecosystems that lead to a constraint, cutback or even a cessation of their functioning. They may be broadly categorized into environmental problems with proven solutions, and problems with emerging solutions. See also conventional environmental problems and persistent environmental problems.

Environmental sustainability


Maintaining the environment in a responsible way to keep it healthy for future generations.

E-waste (electronic waste)


A generic term encompassing various forms of electrical and electronic equipment that has ceased to be of value and is disposed of. A practical definition of e-waste is “any electrically powered appliance that fails to satisfy the current owner for its originally intended purpose”.



The physical removal of soil or rock material by water, ice or wind.



The widening channels of rivers as they near the sea.



Where there is no doubt that when the last individual of a species had died. A species may also be extinct in the wind but still exists in capacity, cultivation, etc.