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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.

Calibration (of models)

The use of observations, or in some cases a reference model, during model development to ensure that the model output compares favourably with the properties of the system being modelled.


An economic policy instrument in which the State sets an overall environmental target (the cap) and assigns environmental impact allowances (or quotas) to actors that they can trade among each other.

Capacity-building (or development)

Defined by the United Nations Development Programme as “the process through which individuals, organisations and societies obtain, strengthen and maintain their capabilities to set and achieve their own development objectives over time”. IPBES promotes and facilitates capacity-building, to improve the capacity of countries to make informed policy decisions on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Carbon cycle

The carbon cycle is the process by which carbon is exchanged among the ecosystems of the Earth.

Carbon footprint

A measure of the total amount of carbon dioxide emissions, including carbon dioxide equivalents, that is directly and indirectly caused by an activity or is accumulated over the life stages of a product.

Carbon sequestration

The long-term storage of carbon in plants, soils, geologic formations, and the ocean. Carbon sequestration occurs both naturally and as a result of anthropogenic activities and typically refers to the storage of carbon that has the immediate potential to become carbon dioxide gas.

Carbon storage

The biological process by which carbon in the form carbon dioxide is taken up from the atmosphere and incorporated through photosynthesis into different compartments of ecosystems, such as biomass, wood, or soil organic carbon. Also, the technological process of capturing waste carbon dioxide from industry or power generation, and storing it so that it will not enter the atmosphere.

Carbon-lock-in phase

Refers to the tendency for certain carbon-intensive technological systems to persist over time, ‘locking out’ lower-carbon alternatives, and owing to a combination of linked technical, economic, and institutional factors.

Carrying capacity

In ecology, the carrying capacity of a species in an environment is the maximum population size of the species that the environment can sustain indefinitely. The term is also used more generally to refer to the upper limit of habitats, ecosystems, landscapes, waterscapes or seascapes to provide tangible and intangible goods and services (including aesthetic and spiritual services) in a sustainable way.

Catalogue of policy support tools and methodologies

The IPBES catalogue of policy support tools and methodologies is an evolving online resource with two main goals. The first goal is to enable decision makers to gain easy access to information on policy support tools and methodologies to better inform and assist the different phases of policy-making and implementation. The second goal is to allow a range of users to provide input to the catalogue and assess the usability of tools and methodologies in their specific contexts, including resources required and types of outputs that can be obtained, thus helping to identify and bridge gaps with respect to available tools and methodologies.


In the context of IPBES, the summary terms to describe the state of knowledge are the following:

  • Well established (Certainty term (q.v.)): comprehensive meta-analysis or other synthesis or multiple independent studies that agree.
  • Established but incomplete (Certainty term (q.v.)): general agreement although only a limited number of studies exist but no comprehensive synthesis and, or the studies that exist imprecisely address the question.
  • Unresolved (Certainty term (q.v.)):  multiple independent studies exist but conclusions do not agree.
  • Inconclusive (Certainty term (q.v.)): limited evidence, recognising major knowledge gaps.

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Synthesis of organic compounds (as in living cells) by energy derived from inorganic chemical reactions.

Climate change

As defined in Article 1 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, "a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods".


Process of management in which government shares power with resource users, with each given specific rights and responsibilities relating to information and decision-making.


In the context of the IPBES conceptual framework, this is the joint contribution by nature and anthropogenic assets in generating nature’s contributions to people.

Community-based natural resource management

Community-based natural resource management: an approach to natural resource management that involves the full participation of indigenous peoples’ and local communities and resource users in decision-making activities, and the incorporation of local institutions, customary practices, and knowledge systems in management, regulatory, and enforcement processes. Under this approach, community-based monitoring and information systems are initiatives by indigenous peoples and local community organisations to monitor their community’s well-being and the state of their territories and natural resources, applying a mix of traditional knowledge and innovative tools and approaches.

Conservation agriculture

Approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment. It is characterized by three linked principles, namely: 1) continuous minimum mechanical soil disturbance; 2) permanent organic soil cover; and 3) diversification of crop species grown in sequences and/or associations. This covers a wide range of approaches from minimum till to permaculture/”mimicking nature”.

Consumer surplus

The difference between the total amount that consumers are willing and able to pay for a good or service (indicated by the demand curve) and the total amount that they actually do pay (i.e. the market price), or the difference between the consumers' willingness to pay for a commodity and the actual price (equilibrium price) they pay.

Correlative model

See "models".


A geographically defined area which allows species to move between landscapes, ecosystems and habitats, natural or modified, and ensures the maintenance of biodiversity and ecological and evolutionary processes.


A vision of reality that places the highest importance or emphasis in the universe or nature, as opposite to an anthropocentric vision, which strongly focuses on humankind as the most important element of existence.


A land cover/use category that includes areas used for the production of crops for harvest.

Cross-scale analysis

Cross-scale effects are the result of spatial and/or temporal processes interacting with other processes at another scale. These interactions create emergent effects that can be difficult to predict.


Relating to interactions between sectors (that is, the distinct parts of society, or of a nation's economy), such as how one sector affects another sector, or how a factor affects two or more sectors.

Customary law

Law consisting of commonly repeated customs, practices and beliefs that are accepted as legal requirements or obligatory rules of conduct.