Drinking rainwater from banana leaf, Nigeria. (c) I. Uwanaka/UNEP peopleandplanet.net
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Drinking rainwater from banana leaf, Nigeria. (c) I. Uwanaka/UNEP
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forests > glossary

Glossary

Agroforestry: The treatment of trees as an agricultural crop to provide for the planned production of fuelwood, timber, animal fodder and food. Agroforestry may also involve the integration of tree cultivation into existing or planned agricultural activities.
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Biocultural Reserves: Term coined by Daniel Janzen to describe national parks and protected areas that fully involve local people in the management and education activities conducted within them.
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Biodiversity: The term biological diversity, or biodiversity, refers collectively to the full range of species, genes and ecosystems in a given place.
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Boreal forests: This refers to the belt of northern forests which stretch across North America and from Scandanavia to far eastern Siberia, mainly comprised of coniferous trees, such as spruce, fir and larch.
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CFC’s (Chlorofluorocarbons): A group of chemicals containing chlorine (Cl), fluorine (F) and carbon (C), sometimes referred to by their trade name Freon. These synthetic compounds were used extensively for refrigeration and aerosol sprays until it was realized that they destroy ozone (they are also very powerful greenhouse gases) and have a very long lifetime once in the atmosphere (more than 100 years). The Montreal Protocol agreement of 1987 has resulted in the scaling down of CFC production and use in industrialised countries.
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Clear-felling: The removal of an entire stand of trees from an area of forest: also known as clear-cutting.
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Conservation (nature): Protection against irreversible destruction and other undesirable changes, including the management of human use of organisms or ecosystems to ensure such use is sustainable.
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Deforestation: The conversion of forest lands to alternative uses such as cropland or human settlement.
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Development: A process of economic and social transformation that defies simple definition. Though often viewed as a strictly economic process involving growth and diversification of a country's economy, development is a qualitative concept that entails complex social, cultural, and environmental changes. There are many models of what 'development' should look like and many different standards of what constitutes 'success'.
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Ecological balance: Stability in an ecosystem achieved through the development of equilibrium among its various components. This does not imply that the community is static. It is subject to natural variations associated with ecological succession and other influences such as fire, disease and climate change, but the system is normally sufficiently elastic to make the necessary adjustments without major displacement of the balance. Human intervention that includes the introduction or removal of plants and animals, pollution of the environment and destruction of habitat is now a main cause of imbalance in many ecosystems.
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Ecology: Originally defined by Ernst Haeckel in 1866, ecology is the study of the relationships that develop among living organisms and between these organisms and the environment.
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Ecosystem: A complex of living organisms and their surrounding environment.
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Endangered species: Species of plants or animals threatened with extinction because their numbers have declined to a critical level as a result of overharvesting or because their habitat has drastically changed. That critical level is the minimum viable population (MVP), and represents the smallest number of breeding pairs required to maintain the viability of species.
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Endemic: The word endemic describes organisms native to a certain region, with restricted distributions. In other words - they are found no where else on earth.
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Environment: A combination of the various physical and biological elements that affect the life of an organism. Although it is common to refer to ‘the’ environment, there are in fact many environments eg, aquatic or terrestrial, microscopic to global, all capable of change in time and place, but all intimately linked and in combination constituting the whole earth/atmosphere system.
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Environmentally-sound: The maintenance of a healthy environment and the protection of life-sustaining ecological processes. It is based on thorough knowledge and requires or will result in products, manufacturing processes, developments, etc. which are in harmony with essential ecological processes and human health.
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Fauna: The animal life characteristic of a particular biome. The savanna biome, for example, supports large populations of herbivores, such as wildebeest, antelope and kangaroo, and predators in the form of lions, cheetahs, hyenas and dingoes that prey on them. Any change in a biome, whether natural or human-induced, has the potential to alter the associated fauna.
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Flora: The combination of plants in a particular area. Each biome has a characteristic flora.
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Forest biomass: The above-ground organic matter contained in trees.
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Forest certification: A means to assure consumers that wood products originate from sustainably managed forests. The certfication process involves the evaluation of a landowner's forestry practices by an independent third party according to strict environmental and socio-economic standards. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has received broad support from environmental organisations for the certification standards they have developed. Wood products meeting these criteria bear the FSC-certified logo.
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Forest concession: A lease or contract for the extraction and use of forest resources within a specified time period.
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Forest decline: A term encompassing both deforestation and degradation.
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Forest degradation: The deterioration of the health, quality and productive capacity of a forest.
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Forest-to-people ratio: The amount of forest area within a country available to each of its inhabitants (i.e. on a per capita basis) to supply the broad array of forest goods and services. The term is used here interchangeably with per capita forest cover and per capita forest area. The forest-to-people ratios represented in any articles on this site are based on a country's total forest area, including natural and plantation forests.
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Global warming: The idea that increased greenhouse gases cause the Earth’s temperature to rise globally.
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Greenhouse effect: The cause of global warming. Incoming solar radiation is transmitted by the atmosphere to the Earth’s surface, which it warms. The energy is retransmitted as thermal radiation, but some of it is absorbed by molecules of greenhouse gases instead of being retransmitted out to space, causing the temperature of the atmosphere to rise. The name comes from the ability of greenhouse glass to transmit incoming solar radiation but retain some of the outgoing thermal radiation to warm the interior of the greenhouse. The ‘natural’ greenhouse effect is due to the greenhouse gases present for natural reasons, and is also observed for the neighbouring planets in the solar system. The ‘enhanced’ greenhouse effect is the added effect caused by the greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere due to human activities, such as burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.
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Greenhouse gases: Molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere such a carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and CFCs which warm the atmosphere because they absorb some of the thermal radiation emitted from the earth's surface.
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Habitat: The place or type of site (e.g. tropical moist forest) where an organism naturally lives.
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Logging: The felling and extraction of trees from forest areas for uses such as lumbar and plywood.
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National conservation strategies: Plans that highlight country-level environmental priorities and opportunities for sustainable management of natural resources, following the example of the World Conservation Strategy published by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) in 1980. Though governments may support preparation for the strategies, they are not bound to follow IUCN's recommendations.
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Natural forest: Forest composed of indigenous tree species that is considered undisturbed by human influence (also known as old-growth forest).
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Plantation forests: Forest established artifically on lands that did not previously contain forests (afforestation) or on lands that were previously forested (reforestation).
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Proper resource pricing: The pricing of natural resources at levels which reflect their combined economic and environmental values.
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Sustainable development: Sustainable development has as many definitions as subscribers. In essence, it refers to economic development that meets the needs of all without leaving future generations with fewer natural resources than those we enjoy today. It is widely accepted that achieving sustainable development requires balance between three dimensions of complementary change:
  • Economic (towards sustainable patterns of production and consumption)
  • Ecological (towards maintenance and restoration of healthy ecosystems)
  • Social (towards poverty eradication and sustainable livelihoods)

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Sustainable forest management: An ecosystem orientated approach that allows the utlisation of the forests for multiple purposes (e.g. biodiversity preservation, timber harvesting, non-wood products, soil and water conservation, tourism and recreation) without undermining their availability and quality for present and future generations).
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Tropical forests: Tropical rainforests (also known as equatorial rainforests) are located in a zone 10°N and S of the equator, mainly in Amazonia, equatorial west and central Africa and southeast Asia, all of which experience heavy precipitation (1750-2500mm) and high, fairly constant temperatures (25-28°C) through the year. Such hot, moist conditions encourage rapid and abundant plant growth, with the tallest trees exceeding 30 metres in height, and suuporting a canopy sufficiently thick that it allows little light to reach gound level.
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Watershed: A watershed is an area of land that is drained by a river system and its tributaries. Watersheds can be visualised as physical basins, the "rims" of which are ridges of high land that separate adjacent watersheds).
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Woodfuel: Fuelwood and charcoal - collectively known as woodfuel - are defined as the name suggests, as wood harvested as fuel for domestic and industrial uses. Fuelwood is predominantly used in rural areas, while charcoal, being more expensive and easier to transport, is more prevalent in urban centres.
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World Commission on Environment and Development: Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1983 to examine international and global environmental problems and to propose strategies for sustainable development. Chaired by Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, the independent commission held meetings and public hearing around the world and submitted a report on its inquiry to the General Assembly in 1987.
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World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD): The World Summit on Sustainable Development takes place from 26 August - 4 September 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Governments, UN agencies, and civil society organisations will come together to assess progress since the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio in 1992 (hence the title 'Rio + 10' for the Johannesburg meeting). Sustainable development is defined in the report from the Rio meeting as being 'economic progress which meets all of our needs without leaving future generations with fewer resources than those we enjoy'.
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