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  • Glossary
| Last Updated:04/01/2017

GLOSSARY

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A
Aesthetic

Sensitivity to or appreciation of beauty through recognition of its unique and varied components or through its orderly appearance.

Anaerobic

An organism, like bacteria, that lives without the presence of oxygen

aerate, aeration

 To supply with air or oxygen; to loosen the soil to add air space to it; to supply running water with additional oxygen, as when a stream runs over falls or rapids or when wind creates waves on a lake.

Abiotic

Non-living factor in an environment; for example, light, water, temperature, or rocks.

Acid

 Rain, snow, or other forms of water that are made more acid by the waste gases that come mainly from the burning of coal and oil products. The gases (usually sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen) mix with water and other materials in the air. Acid rain falls on the land and water, and can affect wildlife, plants, soil, and building materials

Adapted, Adaptation

 The process of making adjustments to the environment. For example, plants grow only where soil types, moisture, and sunlight are balanced to the proper degree. Desert plants have adapted so they live under intense sunlight, on poor quality soils, and with a much reduced water supply.

Alloy

Composite blend of materials made under special conditions. Metal alloys like brass and bronze are well known but there are also many plastic alloys.
 

Algal bloom

The rapid and excessive growth of algae; generally caused by high nutrient levels combined with other favourable conditions. Blooms can deoxygenate the water leading to the loss of wildlife.
 

Air pollution

The modification of the natural characteristics of the atmosphere by a chemical, particulate matter, or biological agent.
 

Agroforestry

(Sustainability) An ecologically based farming system, that, through the integration of trees in farms, increases social, environmental and economic benefits to land users.
 

Afforestation

Planting new forests on lands that have not been recently forested.
 

Aerosols

Solid or liquid particles suspended within the atmosphere.
 

Aerobic

Requiring air or oxygen; used in reference to decomposition processes that occur in the presence of oxygen.
 

Adsorption

One substance taking up another at its surface.
 

Adaptive radiation

Closely related species that look very different, as a result of having adapted to widely different ecological niches.
 

Adaptation

A characteristic of an organism that has been favoured by natural selection.
 

Acid mine drainage

coal mines
 

Acclimation

The process of an organism adjusting to chronic change in its environment.
 

Absorption

substance taking in another, either physically or chemically
 

Abiotic

on-living chemical and physical factors of the environment
 

Autotroph

An organism that produces complex organic compounds from simple inorganic molecules using energy from light or inorganic chemical reactions.

 

Atmosphere

General name for the layer of gases around a material body; the Earth's atmosphere consists, from the ground up, of the troposphere (which includes the planetary boundary layer or peplosphere, the lowest layer), stratosphere, mesosphere, ionosphere (or thermosphere), exosphere and magnetosphere.

Arable land

Land that can be used for growing crops.

 

Aquifer

A bed or layer yielding water for wells and springs etc.; an underground geological formation capable of receiving, storing and transmitting large quantities of water. Aquifer types include: confined (sealed and possibly containing “fossil” water); unconfined (capable of receiving inflow); and Artesian (an aquifer in which the hydraulic pressure will cause the water to rise above the upper confining layer).

Aquaculture

The cultivation of aquatic organisms under controlled conditions.

Anthropogenic

Man-made, not natural.

Anoxic

With abnormally low levels of oxygen.

Anaerobic

Not requiring air or oxygen; used in reference to decomposition processes that occur in the absence of oxygen.

Anaerobic digestion

The biological degradation of organic materials in the absence of oxygen to yield methane gas (that may be combusted to produce energy) and stabilized organic residues (that may be used as a soil additive).

 

Alternative fuels

Fuels like ethanol and compressed natural gas that produce fewer emissions than the traditional fossil fuels.

 

Adaptation

Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.

ACEC

Area of Critical Environmental Concern

Alternative energy sources

Energy that does not come from fossil fuels (such as coal, oil, gas), for example wind, flowing water, solar energy and biomass.

Auditing

See environmental managment system audit. 

 

Ancillary Material

 Material that is not used directly in the formation of a product or service

Aerobic composting

A controlled process involving microbial decomposition of organic matter in the presence of oxygen

albedo

 A description of a surface's reflective properties.

Active solar system

A mechanical system that actively collects, concentrates, and stores solar energy.

Acid Rain

The precipitation of dilute solutions of strong mineral acids, formed by the mixing in the atmosphere of various industrial pollutants -- primarily sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides -- with naturally occurring oxygen and water vapor.

Assimilative Capacity

The ability of a natural body of water to receive wastewaters or toxic materials without harmful effects and without damage to aquatic life. 

Acceptable intake

Numbers which describe how toxic a chemical is.   The numbers are derived from animal studies of the relationship between dose and non-cancer effects.  There are two types of acceptable exposure values: one for acute (relatively short-term) and one for chronic (longer-term) exposure.

active transport

 The opposite of passive transport, active transport involves the input of energy (usually in the form of ATP), the building of concentration gradients, and the action of a membrane pump to create high concentrations of molecules.

absolute zero

The theoretical lowest temperature possible at which all molecular motion ceases. Absolute zero, 0 K or -273.15°C, has never been reached. 

Ambient Air Quality Objectives or Standards

Air quality levels for specific pollutants that are determined to be necessary to protect human health and/or the environment. They typically consist of a numeric pollutant concentration, averaging time, and rules or guidance on sampling methodology and how the objectives or standards are to be applied. They may also be referred to as "Ambient Air Quality Criteria" or "Guidelines."  

Ambient Air

Outside air, surrounding air, air occurring at a particular time and place outside of structures.  All living beings are exposed to the ambient air. 

Air Toxics

Air pollutants that are toxic to humans, fish, wildlife and marine animals.  

Air Mass

A large volume of air with with similar temperature and moisture characteristics. Air masses cover many hundreds or thousands of square miles, and slowly change in accordance with the surface below them 

Air Quality Index (AQI)

The Air Quality Index (AQI) reports current air quality based on a specific level of an individual air pollutant. 

Air Quality Health Index (AQHI)

The Air Quality Health Index reports on the current state of the air and identifies the related health risk associated it.  

Air Quality

The state of the air within a specific area. “Air quality” is a neutral term: it can be good or bad (in or between). 

Adaptation (Climate Change)

IPCC Definition "Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderate harm or exploits beneficial opportunities." The definition recognizes that humans can adjust to past ("actual") climate change and its impacts, or prepare for projected future ("expected") climate change and its impacts. Adaptation can include changes in behaviour, technology, institutions, policies, and other aspects of human systems.  

Annual Crops

Crops which complete their life cycle from seed to seed within one year.  

Alkaline Soil

Any soil having pH greater than 7 

Alkali Soil

A soil that contains sufficient exchangable sodium to interfere with thegrowth of most of crop plants.  The ESP is generally more than 15 and ECF less than 4 decisiemens per metre.  The soil pH is higher than 8'2 except in systems with chloride and sulphate anions.