The IPBES core glossary provides a standard definition for important terms of broad applicability to IPBES outputs. This core glossary does not replace the assessment-specific glossaries, but is complementary to them. It was developed by a glossary committee established for this purpose.

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Term Definition
Abundance (ecological)

The size of a population of a particular life form in a given area.


Acceptance of the Platform’s outputs at a session of the Plenary signifies that the material has not been subjected to line-by-line discussion and agreement, but nevertheless presents a comprehensive and balanced view of the subject matter.


Ongoing decrease in pH away from neutral value of 7. Often used in reference to oceans, freshwater or soils, as a result of uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


Adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or changing environment, whether through genetic or behavioural change.

Adaptive capacity

The general ability of institutions, systems, and individuals to adjust to potential damage, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences.

Adaptive management

A systematic process for continually improving management policies and practices by learning from the outcomes of previously employed policies and practices. In active adaptive management, management is treated as a deliberate experiment for purposes of learning.


Adoption of an IPBES report is a process of section-by-section (and not line-by-line) endorsement, as described in section 3.9, at a session of the Plenary.


Converting grasslands or shrublands into tree plantations. Afforestation is sometimes suggested as a tool to sequester carbon, but it can have negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem function.

Agenda setting

One of four phases in the policy cycle. Agenda setting motivates and sets the direction for policy design and implementation. Usually, adoption is carried out for a Summary for Policymakers, rather than for a full assessment (which would be subject to acceptance).

Agri-environmental schemes

Schemes that provide funding to farmers and land managers to farm in ways that supports biodiversity, enhance the landscape, and improve the quality of water, air and soil (see also agroecology as integral to such schemes).

Agricultural extension

A service whereby knowledge about agricultural practices, technologies, tools, and innovations is conveyed to farmers and rural people.

Agricultural intensification

An increase in agricultural production per unit of inputs (which may be labour, land, time, fertilizer, seed, feed or cash).

FAO, 2004. The ethics of sustainable agricultural intensification.
Agro-ecological zones

Geographic areas with homogeneous sets of climatic parameters and natural resource characteristics, such as rainfall, solar radiation, soil types and soil qualities, which correspond to a level of agricultural potential.

Vosti and Reardon 2007

Agricultural biodiversity is the biological diversity that sustains key functions, structures and processes of agricultural ecosystems. It includes the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms, at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels.

Adapted from CBD COP decision V/5, appendix

The science and practice of applying ecological concepts, principles and knowledge (i.e., the interactions of, and explanations for, the diversity, abundance and activities of organisms) to the study, design and management of sustainable agroecosystems. It includes the roles of human beings as a central organism in agroecology by way of social and economic processes in farming systems. Agroecology examines the roles and interactions among all relevant biophysical, technical and socioeconomic components of farming systems and their surrounding landscapes.


An ecosystem, dominated by agriculture, containing assets and functions such as biodiversity, ecological succession and food webs. An agroecosystem is not restricted to the immediate site of agricultural activity (e.g. the farm), but rather includes the region that is impacted by this activity, usually by changes to the complexity of species assemblages and energy flows, as well as to the net nutrient balance.


Agroforestry is a collective name for land-use systems and technologies where woody perennials (trees, shrubs, palms, bamboos, etc.) are deliberately used on the same land-management units as agricultural crops and animals, in some form of spatial arrangement or temporal sequence.

Aichi (Biodiversity) Targets

The 20 targets set by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD) at its tenth meeting, under the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.
Alien species

See "invasive alien species".


The attribution of a living soul to living beings, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena.


In Botany, refers to plants that grow from seed to maturity, reproduction and death in one year. Related terms are biennial (plants that take two years to complete their life cycles), and perennial (plants that take several or many years to complete their life cycles).

Anthropocentric value

See "values".

Anthropogenic assets

Built-up infrastructure, health facilities, or knowledge - including indigenous and local knowledge systems and technical or scientific knowledge - as well as formal and non-formal education, work, technology (both physical objects and procedures), and financial assets. Anthropogenic assets have been highlighted to emphasize that a good quality of life is achieved by a co-production of benefits between nature and people.


Approval of the Platform’s outputs signifies that the material has been subject to detailed, line-by-line discussion and agreement by consensus at a session of the Plenary.


The farming of aquatic organisms, including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants, involving interventions such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, to enhance production. (In contrast, aquatic organisms which are exploitable by the public as a common property resource, are classed as fisheries, not aquaculture).


In the context of scenarios, an over-arching scenario that embodies common characteristics of a number of more specific scenarios.

Arid ecosystems

Those in which water availability severely constrains ecological activity.

Huenneke, L. F., & Noble, I. (1996). Ecosystem function of biodiversity in arid ecosystems. Scope-Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment International Council of Scientific Unions, 55, pp. 99-128

A chronic reduction in soil moisture caused by an increase of mean annual temperature or a decrease in yearly precipitation.

Assessment reports

Assessment reports are published outputs of scientific, technical and socioeconomic issues that take into account different approaches, visions and knowledge systems, including global assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services with a defined geographical scope, and thematic or methodological assessments based on the standard or the fast-track approach. They are to be composed of two or more sections including a summary for policymakers, an optional technical summary and individual chapters and their executive summaries. Assessments are the major output of IPBES, and they contain syntheses of findings on topics that have been selected by the IPBES Plenary.


An analytical technique used to search for target-seeking scenarios that fulfil a predefined goal, or set of goals.


A minimum or starting point with which to compare other information (e.g. for comparisons between past and present or before and after an intervention).

Benchmarking (of models)

See "models".

Benefit sharing

Distribution of benefits between stakeholders.


Advantage that contributes to wellbeing from the fulfilment of needs and wants. In the context of nature’s contributions to people (see “Nature’s contributions to people”), a benefit is a positive contribution. (There may also be negative contributions, dis-benefits, or costs, from Nature, such as diseases).


Occurring at the bottom of a body of water; related to benthos.


A group of organisms, other invertebrates, that live in or on the bottom in aquatic habitats.

Brown, C. 2010. Nutrients in Estuaries

See "annual".

Bio-technical stabilization

A method for mitigating land degradation using mechanical (structures) and biological elements to prevent severe erosion.


Charcoal made from biomass via pyrolysis and used for soil improvement.

Biocultural diversity

The diversity exhibited by interacting natural systems and human cultures. The concept rests on three propositions: firstly, that the diversity of life includes human cultures and languages; secondly, that links exist between biodiversity and human cultural diversity; and finally, that these links have developed over time through mutual adaptation and possibly co-evolution between humans, plants and animals.

Biocultural refugia

Places where relict (formerly more widespread or abundant) species have found shelter during periods of stress, and that also contain a diversity of human knowledge and experiences, value and belief systems.

Adapted from Barthel et al. 2013

The variability among living organisms from all sources including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part. This includes variation in genetic, phenotypic, phylogenetic, and functional attributes, as well as changes in abundance and distribution over time and space within and among species, biological communities and ecosystems.

Diaz et al. 2015. “The IPBES Conceptual Framework — Connecting Nature and People.” Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 14: 1–16. doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2014.11.002
Biodiversity hotspot

A generic term for an area high in such biodiversity attributes as species richness or endemism. It may also be used in assessments as a precise term applied to geographic areas defined according to two criteria: (i) containing at least 1,500 species of the world's 300,000 vascular plant species as endemics, and (ii) being under threat, in having lost 70% of its primary vegetation.

Myers et al 2000
Biodiversity loss

The reduction of any aspect of biological diversity (i.e. diversity at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels) is lost in a particular area through death (including extinction), destruction or manual removal; it can refer to many scales, from global extinctions to population extinctions, resulting in decreased total diversity at the same scale.

Biodiversity offset

A biodiversity offset is a tool proposed by developers and planners for compensating for the loss of biodiversity in one place by biodiversity gains in another.


Fuel made from biomass.


The mass of non-fossilized and biodegradable organic material originating from plants, animals and micro-organisms in a given area or volume.


Biomes are global-scale zones, generally defined by the type of plant life that they support in response to average rainfall and temperature patterns. For example, tundra, coral reefs or savannas.


The sum of all the ecosystems of the world. It is both the collection of organisms living on the Earth and the space that they occupy on part of the Earth’s crust (the lithosphere), in the oceans (the hydrosphere) and in the atmosphere. The biosphere is all the planet’s ecosystems.

Diaz et al. 2015. “The IPBES Conceptual Framework — Connecting Nature and People.” Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 14: 1–16. doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2014.11.002

All living organisms of an area; the flora and fauna considered as a unit .