Afforestation: The establishment of forest by natural succession or by the planting of trees on land where they did not formerly grow, e.g. establishment of monocultures of pines, eucalyptus, or wattles in primary grasslands in South Africa.

Agenda 21: A global plan of action for sustainable development agreed to by most of United Nations member states at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (also called the Earth Summit or UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2002. The Agenda 21 document contains 40 separate sections of concern and outlines a total of 2500 recommendations. It focuses on partnership involving the public and relevant stakeholders to resolve developmental problems and to plan strategically for the future.

Agrarianization: The movement towards the economic activity of agriculture.

Anthropocentric: The idea that human beings are the central feature of the world; the interpretation of environmental and resource issues solely in terms of human values and standards.

Anthropomorphism: The applying of human emotions to animals.


Benthic: The lowermost region of a freshwater or marine profile in which organisms reside.

Biodiversity hotspot: An area that is identified as a conservation priority because it contains a high number of endemic species and faces extreme threats.

Biodiversity mainstreaming: The incorporation of biodiversity considerations into all human activities including programmes, plans, and policies.

Biodiversity target: A biodiversity objective expressed in a qualitative or quantitative manner, normally to be achieved by a specified date.

Biodiversity/biological diversity: The variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part. The term also includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.

Biomass: The total mass of all living organisms present in an ecosystem, usually expressed as a dry weight.

Biome: One of the world’s major environmental communities classified according to the predominant vegetation and characterized by adaptations of organisms to that particular environment. Major biomes include: aquatic, desert, forest, grassland, and tundra.

Bio-prospecting: Research and development of indigenous biological resources for commercial exploitation.

Biosphere: The envelope around the Earth containing the planet’s life-supporting systems (for example, the atmosphere, soil, inland water, and the sea).

Biosphere reserve: A locality that forms part of an international network of protected areas designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, located in areas of high biodiversity where research into and the monitoring of biodiversity is carried out with the participation of local people.

Biota: The combined flora and fauna of a particular region or period.

Bush encroachment: The conversion of a grassland dominated vegetation type to one that is dominated by woody species; an increasing woody plant density.

Bush meat: Means the wildlife and the meat derived from what is colloquially known as bushveld. This term applies to all wildlife species, including threatened and endangered, used for meat.


Carrying capacity: The maximum population of a given organism that a particular environment can sustain.

Catchment: The area of land drained by a particular stream or river.

Catchment management: A philosophy, process, and implementation strategy to achieve a balance between the utilization and the protection of environmental resources in a particular catchment area.

CITES: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora. https://www.cites.org/

CITES Appendix I: Includes wild animals and plants threatened with extinction which are, or may be, affected by trade. Trade in specimens of these species must be subject to particularly strict regulation in order not to further endanger their survival and must only be authorized in exceptional circumstances.

CITES Appendix II: Includes wild animals and plants which are not immediately threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade in such specimens is subject to strict regulation; also includes lookalike species.

CITES Appendix III: Includes wild animals and plants which any party to CITES identifies as being subject to regulation within its jurisdiction for the purpose of preventing or restricting exploitation, and as needing the co-operation of other parties to CITES in the control of trade.

Class: The taxonomic hierarchical level consisting of a group of orders1. Orders in turn consist of a group of families which are made up of groupings of genera.

Coastal zone: The area of land and sea along a coast. It includes estuaries, onshore areas, and offshore areas, wherever they form an integral part of the coastal system.

Commodity market: Market where raw/primary products are exchanged.

Communal areas: Areas of land that is owned and managed communally, generally by traditional authorities.

Conservation: The maintenance of environmental quality and functioning.

Consumption: The purchase and/or use of goods and services.

Contractual parks: Protected areas established as a result of contracts between government agencies and local communities, where the local communities retain their title to the land in the park.

Convention: An agreement drafted by an international, independent panel, which various governments then sign, to support specific action.

Cooperative governance: In South Africa, government is constituted as national, provincial and local spheres of government which are distinctive, interdependent and interrelated. All spheres of government must observe and adhere to the principles in Section 41 of the Constitution and must conduct their activities within the parameters that the Chapter provides.

Critically Endangered (in terms of section 56 of NEMBA – National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act): Means an indigenous species facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future.

Critically Endangered (in terms of the IUCN Red List): A species is Critically Endangered when the best available evidence indicates that it is considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.


Deforestation: The permanent clearing of an area of forest or woodland.

Degradation: The reduction or loss of the biological or ecological productivity of an area. (See Desertification).

Demersal fish: Fish that live on, or adjacent to, the bottom of the sea.

Development: A process of change that represents planned progress of some kind. For example, developing the economy of a region or country can take place through the expansion of economic activities, the improvement of people’s skills, or job creation.


Ecological Footprint: A measure of the ‘load’ imposed by a given population on nature. It represents the land area of average quality needed to sustain current levels of resource consumption and waste discharge by that population. The bigger the footprint the greater is the impact that it represents.

Economic growth: The increase in a nation’s capacity to produce goods and services, usually expressed as a rate of change in output from one year to the next.

Ecosystem: The dynamic complex of animal, plant, and microorganism communities and their non-living environment (soil, water, climate, and atmosphere) interacting as a functional unit.

Ecosystem services: The beneficial functions provided by ecosystems, such as water quality regulation, nutrient cycling, soil fertility maintenance, regulation of the concentration of atmospheric gases, and cultural and recreational opportunities.

Ecotourism: Tourism in which the natural environment is the main tourist interest, and the exercise of which does not potentially harm the environment.

Endangered (in terms of section 56 of NEMBA): Means an indigenous species facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future, although they are not Critically Endangered.

Endangered (in terms of the IUCN Red List): A species is Endangered when the best available evidence indicates that it is considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

Endangered species: A plant or animal species whose number of individuals or whose population has been reduced to a critical level or whose habitats have been reduced so drastically as to cause an imminent risk of extinction.

Endemic: A plant or animal species that occurs and is restricted to a particular geographical region is said to be ‘endemic’ to that region.

Environment: The surroundings within which humans exist.

Environmental degradation: The reduction of the capacity of the environment to meet social and ecological objectives and needs.

Environmental governance: The processes of decision making involved in the control and management of the environment and natural resources.

Environmental health: Well-being based on the health of the environment, both natural and built.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): The process of identifying, predicting, evaluating, and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals before major decisions are taken or commitments made. The EIA Regulations require that specific procedures be followed, and reports (scoping and/or EIA reports) prepared for those activities listed as potentially having a substantial detrimental effect on the environment.

Environmental Implementation Plan (EIP): A statutory instrument for promoting cooperative governance for environmental management among different spheres of government.

Environmental indicator: Physical, chemical, biological, or socio-economic measures that can be used to objectively assess the quality and quantity of natural resources and of the environment.

Environmental justice: A term used in the social sciences to describe injustices in the way in which natural resources are used. It is often also used in the context of attempts to right the wrongs of past practices that discriminated against the poor and the disadvantaged.

Environmental management: The deliberate and multidisciplinary process of managing environmental resources, which requires the careful preparation, planning, and administration of environmental policies and standards. It aims to ensure that environmental concerns are included in all stages of development, so that development is sustainable and does not exceed the carrying capacity of the environment. (See ISO 14000 series)

Environmental Management System (EMS): Documented procedures drawn up in terms of a South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) code of practice to implement the requirements of ISO 14000. The code is an international standard and provides the basis for uniform EMS, which will conform to wider international standards and requirements.

Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI): An index constructed by Yale University that ranks countries according to their performance based on a range of aspects of environmental sustainability.

Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ): A zone in the sea under a country’s national control, up to 200 nautical miles wide. The coastal country has the right to explore and exploit and the responsibility to conserve and manage all living and non-living resources in its area.


Fauna: All the animal life of a habitat or a region at a given time.

Flora: All the plant species that make up the vegetation of a given habitat or area at a given time.

Food security: The assured availability and access (physical and economic) to adequate food (in terms of quality and quantity) by all people at all times, as required for a healthy, active, and productive life.

Forestry: The practice of growing and managing forest trees for commercial timber production. It includes the management of specifically planted forests and of native or exotic tree species, as well as the commercial use of existing indigenous forests.

Full cost accounting: A method of accounting that aims to identify, quantify, and allocate all costs associated with a product or process, including environmental and social costs.

Fynbos: Afrikaans word for fine-leaved bush, a biome in South Africa’s southern Cape area, comprising shrubs and shrubby woodland with patches of hardwood.


Genetically modified organism (GMO): Is a type of genetically engineered organism through which a gene from one organism is isolated and transferred to cells of another organism, where it is incorporated into the recipient’s chromosomes and expressed. During the 1990s, there was dramatic growth in the commercial applications of this new technology, including the development of genetically modified (GM) crops.

Genus: The taxonomic hierarchical level consisting of a group of two or more species with similar characteristics.

Globalization: The process by which the world’s nations and communities are becoming more closely connected by modern telecommunications and more strongly interdependent economically, socially, and politically. The process carries with it the pressure to conform to global standards and economic approaches.

Governance: The systems of values, policies, and institutions by which society manages its economic, political, and social affairs through interactions within and among the state, civil society, and the private sector.

Grassland: A habitat/ecosystem/biome that has vegetation dominated by grasses.


Habitat: The place where an organism or community occurs. It is characterized by its physical properties and by the other life forms found there.

Habitat fragmentation: The break-up of natural habitat into small non-contiguous parts. This can cause problems because when the portions are too small they cannot function effectively on their own.

Habitat loss: A process of land use change in which one habitat-type is removed and replaced by some other habitat-type. In the process of land-use change, plants and animals that previously used the site are displaced or destroyed. This generally results in alteration or reduction in biodiversity. (See Deforestation and Habitat fragmentation)

Heritage: The sum total of sites of geological, zoological, botanical, archaeological, and historical importance. Heritage is that which we inherit: wildlife and scenic parks; sites of scientific or historic importance; national monuments; historic buildings; works of art; literature and music; oral traditions; and museum collections, together with their documentation.


Indicator: A measure that helps to assess the extent of the success with which goals are being achieved. Based on complex information or data, indicators are often used in State of the Environment Reports to measure how resources are being managed.

Indicator species: A species whose presence or relative well-being in a given environment is indicative of the health of its ecosystem as a whole.

Indigenous species: Plants, animals, or microbes those are native to a particular area.

Infrastructure: The framework of key facilities that supports communities and their industrial and commercial activities and services.

Invasive alien species: Species that are intentionally or unintentionally introduced to an area where they would not naturally occur, which then reproduce and invade areas beyond those into which they were originally introduced.

Invertebrate: A species of animal without a backbone, such as, for example, a butterfly or a lobster.


Karoo: Shrubby, semi-desert landscape covering two-thirds of the area of South Africa.


Land degradation: Reduction or loss, in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, of the biological or economic productivity and complexity of rainfed cropland, irrigated cropland, or range, pasture, forest and woodlands, as a result of land uses or from a process or combination of processes, including processes arising from human activities and habitation patterns such as:
(i) Soil erosion caused by wind and/or water;
(ii) Deterioration of the physical, chemical and biological or economic properties of soil;
(iii) Long-term loss of natural vegetation.
(See Soil degradation)

Land rehabilitation: The process of returning land in a given area to some degree of its former self, after a process, (such as may be conducted by business, industry, or a natural disaster), has damaged it.

Land transformation: The conversion of land, normally from natural habitat to human uses such as agriculture or settlements.

Landscape: The patterns and structure of a specific geographic area or place, including its natural, physical, built, and socio-economic environments.

Land-use change: Changes in the purpose for which land is used, as, for example, where land that was previously used for pasture becomes a human settlement.


Mariculture: The rearing of fish, shell-fish, and certain aquatic plants under controlled and managed conditions either in their natural environment in the sea or on land based sea farms, Also called aquaculture or fish farming.

Marine: An umbrella term for things relating to the ocean, as in the terms ‘marine biology’ and ‘marine geology’. In scientific contexts, the term almost always refers exclusively to saltwater environments.

Marine Protected Area (MPA): An area of marine or estuarine habitat where some types of fish or plants are protected or where an entire ecosystem is set aside as a park or reserve.

Metapopulation: Means "a regional group of connected populations of a species. For a given species, each metapopulation is continually being modified by increases (births and immigrations) and decreases (deaths and emigrations) of individuals, as well as by the emergence and dissolution of local populations contained within it."

Millennium Development Goals: The set of development goals contained in the Millennium Declaration of 2000, which are intended to guide actions for development globally.

Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEA): International environmental treaties that contain measures to prevent the degradation of environmental resources, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).


National park: Land set aside for the protection of plants, animals, and scenery, and for human enjoyment.

Natural environment: The physical environment comprising all living and non-living things that occur naturally on Earth.

Natural heritage: Natural features consisting of physical and biological formations, or groups of such formations, which are of outstanding universal value from an aesthetic or scientific point of view.

Natural resources: The basic minerals and resources that are produced through the Earth’s own inherent natural processes and systems.

Near Threatened (in terms of the IUCN Red List): A species is near threatened when it has been evaluated against the criteria but does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable now, but is close to qualifying for a threatened category in the near future.

Non-governmental organization (NGO): An organization that is not part of a government and was not founded by a state. NGOs are typically independent of governments. Although the definition can technically include for-profit corporations, the term is normally restricted to social, cultural, legal, and environmental advocacy groups having goals that are primarily non-commercial.

Non-renewable resources: Resources that do not renew themselves in a human time-scale and cannot be replenished once exhausted, such as fossil fuels and copper.

Norms and Standards: Means are any national norms and standards issued in terms of section 9 of NEMBA which apply to:
(i) Restricted activities involving listed threatened or protected species; or
(ii) Registered captive breeding operations, registered commercial exhibition facilities, registered game farms, registered nurseries, registered scientific institutions, registered sanctuaries, registered rehabilitation facilities or registered wildlife traders.


Overgrazing: Grazing by livestock or wildlife to the point where grass cover is depleted: leaving bare, unprotected patches of soil, with a corresponding increase in erosion by water and wind.

Over-utilization: Overuse of resources, thereby affecting their future use and the condition of the environment.


Pelagic: Relating to communities of marine organisms that belong to the open sea, living free from direct dependence on the sea bottom or shore.

Policy: A framework or basis of action to overcome identified problems or to achieve stated goals and objectives, which sets out guidelines for decision-making and action.

Population density: The number of organisms, species, or humans found in a prescribed area.

Population dynamics: The study of the changes in the size, age, and gender composition of a population due to major biotic and abiotic factors.

Precautionary principle: : The principle included in policy and laws requiring that where the environmental consequences of a particular project, proposal, or course of action are uncertain, then the project, proposal, or course of action should not be taken.

Productivity: The rate at which plants, animals, and humans produce or have the capacity to produce.

Protected Species (in terms of section 56 of NEMBA): Means any species which is of a high conservation value or national importance or requires regulation in order to ensure that the species is managed in an ecologically sustainable manner.


Ratification: Formal approval of an international agreement by a state’s highest authority. In ratifying a Convention, a country agrees to be bound by the terms of the agreement and indicates to the international community a commitment to meet implementation goals.

Red List: A catalogue of species in danger of extinction and those already extinct, published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Red List species: Species that appear on a Red List.

Regulation: A set of rules of conduct, standards, or procedures, which must be followed in order to comply with legislation, or a governmental or ministerial order that has the force of law.

Renewable resource: A resource produced as part of the functioning of natural systems at rates comparable with its rate of consumption. Under normal conditions these resources are continuously renewing themselves.

Resilience: The capacity to recover from a disturbance, for example, the capacity of a degraded natural area to return to its original state.

Resource: A general term for whatever can be used to provide the means to satisfy human needs and wants.

Resource base: All the resources on which human societies depend, including natural resources such as land, water, and minerals, for example.

Resource management: The control of resources in a planned and responsible way.


Semi-arid: An area in which annual rainfall ranges from about 250-600 mm, rainfall is seasonal and variable, and evaporation is high.

Shoreline access: The ability to move from an existing ‘right-of-way’ such as a road or public parking area, to a public beach.  This is in all likelihood a route that provides direct access to the sea shore and that can be indicated on a map.

Social capital: The collaboration and cooperation within a community or society (through such mechanisms as networks, shared trust, norms, and values) to achieve mutual benefits.

Socio-economic: Linked to human activities, for example social, economic, cultural, and political activities. Themes that form part of the socio-economic environment are the economy, health, education, safety, and security as well as environmental governance.

Species: A population of plants or animals that is able to interbreed to produce fertile offspring.

Species diversity: The range of different species in an area or habitat, expressed as a combination of the number of species and the abundance of each species.

Species richness: The number of species in an area or habitat.

Stakeholders: People and/or organizations involved or interested in an area or an issue, for example, residents, councillors, business people, trade unions, government institutions.

Subsistence: A situation in which people provide for all their own needs from their immediate environment, rather than earning wages to pay for goods and services. Subsistence fishing, for example, refers to the level of fishing where the catch is enough to feed only the person fishing and his or her family.

Sustainability: The ability to meet the needs of present and future generations through the responsible use of resources.

Sustainable agriculture: Agriculture that does not degrade the soil or other resources on which it depends.

Sustainable development: Development that meets the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, in turn.

Sustainable harvesting: The harvesting of natural resources (for example, fish) in such a manner that there is no long term decline in the population or its ability to reproduce.


Taxa: Plural of taxon. (See Taxon)

Taxon / taxonomic group: A group of living organisms with similar characteristics of any taxonomic rank (family, gens, or species), such as, for example, mammals, insects, and flowering plants.

Taxonomy: The science of discovering, identifying, naming, and documenting the life-forms making up the Earth’s biological diversity.

Terrestrial: Of or associated with land.

Threatened species: Plants or animals that are likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.

Total Allowable Catch (TAC): The total amount (in kilograms or tonnes) permitted to be caught by the fisheries as a whole (subdivided into quotas allocated to participating permit holders).

Total Allowable Effort (TAE): The amount of effort (vessels, fishermen or hours) applied to a fishery.

Traffic: The Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network. www.traffic.org

Transboundary Protected Areas/Parks: Areas that straddle international boundaries, but within which all human barriers are removed. Their primary purpose is wildlife conservation and they are managed as a unit under a single management plan.

Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA): Area that straddles international boundaries and are composed of two or more conservation areas, which may have differing conservation status. These areas may also be separated by human barriers, which can prevent the free movement of animals.

Triple bottom line: One of the theories of sustainable development conceptualized by John Elkington, which suggests that true sustainable development in business, must consider not just the financial ‘bottom line’ of prosperity and profit, but also the bottom lines of environmental quality and social equity.


Untransformed: When used in an environmental context, a term describing, land or habitat in its natural state.

Upwelling: Vertical movement of deeper cold water towards the sea surface resulting from strong winds, found along the west and south coasts of South Africa.

Urbanization: The main process driving the creation and ongoing remaking of towns and cities. An area is deemed urban if it has a population of more than 20 000 people. The term is often used with reference to the movement of people from rural to urban areas.


Vegetation: The plant-life of an area or region.

Veld: South African term for natural vegetation, usually grassland or savanna, typically containing scattered shrubs or trees.

Vulnerable (in terms of Section 56 of NEMBA): Means any indigenous species facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future, and which is not a Critically Endangered species or an Endangered species.

Vulnerable (in terms of the IUCN Red List): A species is Vulnerable when it is considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.


Wetland: Land that is transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems, where the water table is usually at or near the surface, or where the land is periodically covered with shallow water; in normal circumstances, such land supports or would support vegetation typically adapted to life in saturated soil.

World Heritage Site: Architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structures of natural or archaeological elements, structures or landscapes, and combinations of features, which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art, or science. The protection of world heritage sites is the duty of the international community as a whole, and is governed by the United Nations World Heritage Convention.


Department of Environmental Affairs. 2012. 2nd South Africa Environment Outlook. A report on the state of the environment. Department of Environmental Affairs, Pretoria.

[1] Storer, T.I., Usinger, R.L., Stebbins, R.C. and Nybakken, J.W.  1979. General Zoology 6th Ed. McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York.