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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.


In the context of IPBES, an intervention to reduce negative or unsustainable uses of biodiversity and ecosystems.


Qualitative or quantitative representations of key components of a system and of relationships between these components. Benchmarking (of models) is the process of systematically comparing sets of model predictions against measured data in order to evaluate model performance. Validation (of models) typically refers to checking model outputs for consistency with observations. However, since models cannot be validated in the formal sense of the term (i.e. proven to be true), some scientists prefer to use the words "benchmarking" or “evaluation".

  • A dynamic model is a model that describes changes through time of a specific process.
  • A process-based model (also known as “mechanistic model”) is a model in which relationships are described in terms of explicitly stated processes or mechanisms based on established scientific understanding, and model parameters therefore have clear ecological interpretation, defined beforehand.
  • Hybrid models are models that combine correlative and process-based modelling approaches.
  • A correlative model (also known as “statistical model”) is a model in which available empirical data are used to estimate values for parameters that do not have predefined ecological meaning, and for which processes are implicit rather than explicit.
  • Integrated assessment models are interdisciplinary models that aim to describe the complex relationships between environmental, social, and economic drivers that determine current and future state of the ecosystem and the effects of global change, in order to derive policy-relevant insights. One of the essential characteristics of integrated assessments is the simultaneous consideration of the multiple dimensions of environmental problems.

Monitoring is the repeated observation of a system in order to detect signs of change.


The agricultural practice of producing or growing a single crop, plant, or livestock species, variety, or breed in a field or farming system at a time.

Mother Earth

An expression used in a number of countries and regions to refer to the planet Earth and the entity that sustains all living things found in nature with which humans have an indivisible, interdependent physical and spiritual relationship (see "nature").

Multidisciplinary Expert Panel

The IPBES Multidiscplinary Expert Panel is a subsidiary body established by the IPBES Plenary which oversees the scientific and technical functions ofthe Platform, a key role being to select experts to carry out assessments.

Native species

Indigenous species of animals or plants that naturally occur in a given region or ecosystem.

Naturalized species

A species that, once it is introduced outside its native distributional range, establishes self-sustaining populations.


In the context of IPBES, refers to the natural world with an emphasis on its living components. Within the context of western science, it includes categories such as biodiversity, ecosystems (both structure and functioning), evolution, the biosphere, humankind’s shared evolutionary heritage, and biocultural diversity. Within the context of other knowledge systems, it includes categories such as Mother Earth and systems of life, and it is often viewed as inextricably linked to humans, not as a separate entity (see "Mother Earth").

Nature's contributions to people

Nature's contributions to people (NCP) are all the contributions, both positive and negative, of living nature (i.e. diversity of organisms, ecosystems, and their associated ecological and evolutionary processes) to the quality of life for people. Beneficial contributions from nature include such things as food provision, water purification, flood control, and artistic inspiration, whereas detrimental contributions include disease transmission and predation that damages people or their assets. Many NCP may be perceived as benefits or detriments depending on the cultural, temporal or spatial context.

Non-anthropocentric value

See "values".

Non-Indigenous Species or Non-native species or Alien species

See “invasive alien species”.

Non-instrumental value

See "values".

Ocean acidification

See "acidification".

Organic agriculture

Any system that emphasises the use of techniques such as crop rotation, compost or manure application, and biological pest control in preference to synthetic inputs. Most certified organic farming schemes prohibit all genetically modified organisms and almost all synthetic inputs. Its origins are in a holistic management system that avoids off-farm inputs, but some organic agriculture now uses relatively high levels of off-farm inputs.


Overexploitation means harvesting species from the wild at rates faster than natural populations can recover. Includes overfishing, and overgrazing.

Participatory governance

A variant or subset of governance which puts emphasis on democratic engagement, in particular through deliberative practices.

Participatory scenario development (and planning)

Approaches characterised by more interactive, and inclusive, involvement of stakeholders in the formulation and evaluation of scenarios. Aimed at improving the transparency and relevance of decision making, by incorporating demands and information of each stakeholder, and negotiating outcomes between stakeholders.

Particulate matter

A mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets (dust, dirt, soot, or smoke).


Wetlands which accumulate organic plant matter in situ because waterlogging prevents aerobic decomposition and the much slower rate of the resulting anaerobic decay is exceeded by the rate of accumulation.


Organisms that live in the water column.


See "annual".


Perennially frozen ground that occurs wherever the temperature remains below 0°C for several years.


Aquatic organisms that drift or swim weakly. Phytoplankton are the plant forms of plankton (e.g., diatoms), and are the dominant plants in the sea. Zooplankton are the animal forms of plankton.


Within the context of IPBES – the decision-making body comprising all of the members of IPBES.

Policy instrument

Set of means or mechanisms to achieve a policy goal.

Policy support tools

Approaches and techniques based on science and other knowledge systems that can inform, assist and enhance relevant decisions, policy making and implementation at local, national, regional and global levels to protect nature, thereby promoting nature’s contributions to people and a good quality of life.


Poverty is a state of economic deprivation. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services. Other corollaries of poverty are social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making.

Precautionary principle

Pertains to risk management and states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is not harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action. The principle is used to justify discretionary decisions when the possibility of harm from making a certain decision (e.g., taking a particular course of action) is not, or has not been, established through extensive scientific knowledge. The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk or if a potential plausible risk has been identified.

Preventive responses

Refer to conservation measures that maintain land and its environmental and productive functions.

Principle of compatibility

This principle limits the level of restoration of polluted sites to the quality required for the next use that would have been planned by industrial companies, in accordance to land planning documents.

Prior informed consent (PIC), or free prior and informed consent (FPIC)

Consent given before access to knowledge or genetic resources takes place, based on truthful information about the use that will be made of the resources, which is adequate for the stakeholders or rights holders giving consent to understand the implications.

Process-based model

See "models".

Protected area

A protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.

Ramsar site(s)

A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated of international importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat under the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental environment treaty established in 1975 by UNESCO, coming into force in 1975.
Ramsar site refers to wetland of international significance in terms of ecology, botany, zoology, limnology or hydrology. Such site meets at least one of the criteria of Identifying Wetlands of International Importance set by Ramsar Convention and is designated by appropriate national authority to be added to Ramsar list.


Natural grasslands used for livestock grazing.