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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.


Any situation in which the current state of knowledge is such that:

  1. the order or nature of things is unknown, 
  2. the consequences, extent, or magnitude of circumstances, conditions, or events is unpredictable, and 
  3. credible probabilities to possible outcomes cannot be assigned. 

Uncertainty can result from lack of information or from disagreement about what is known or even knowable. Uncertainty can be represented by quantitative measures (e.g., a range of values calculated by various models) or by qualitative statements (e.g., reflecting the judgment of a team of experts).

Units of analysis

The IPBES Units of Analysis result from subdividing the Earth’s surface into units solely for the purposes of analysis. The following have been identified as IPBES units of analysis globally:


  • Tropical and subtropical dry and humid forests
  • Temperate and boreal forests and woodlands
  • Mediterranean forests, woodlands and scrub
  • Tundra and High Mountain habitats
  • Tropical and subtropical savannas and grasslands
  • Temperate Grasslands
  • Deserts and xeric shrublands
  • Wetlands – peatlands, mires, bogs
  • Urban/Semi-urban
  • Cultivated areas (incl. cropping, intensive livestock farming etc.)

Aquatic, including both marine and freshwater:

  • Cryosphere
  • Aquaculture areas
  • Inland surface waters and water bodies/freshwater
  • Shelf ecosystems (neritic and intertidal/littoral zone)
  • Open ocean pelagic systems (euphotic zone)
  • Deep-Sea
  • Coastal areas intensively used for multiple purposes by humans

These IPBES terrestrial and aquatic units of analysis serve as a framework for comparison within and across assessments and represent a pragmatic solution. The IPBES terrestrial and aquatic units of analysis are not intended to be prescriptive for other purposes than those of IPBES assessments. They are likely to evolve as the work of IPBES develops.


The process of scaling information from local, fine-grained resolution to global, coarse-grained resolution.