Glossary of terms
Adaptation: Adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or changing environment. Various types of adaptation can be distinguished, including anticipatory and reactive adaptation, private and public adaptation, and autonomous and planned adaptation. (MA, 2005a)
Adaptive capacity: The general ability of institutions, systems, and individuals to adjust to potential damage, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences. (MA, 2005a)
Adaptive management: A systematic process for continually improving management policies and practices by learning from the outcomes of previously employed policies and practices. In active adaptive management, management is treated as a deliberate experiment for purposes of learning. (MA, 2005a)
Altruistic value: The importance which individuals attach to a resource that can be used by others in the current generation, reflecting selfless concern for the welfare of others (intragenerational equity concerns).
Anthropocentric perspectives: Viewing humans as the most important entities.
Anthropogenic impacts: Impacts resulting from human activities.
Appropriation: The process of capturing some or all of the demonstrated and measured values of ecosystem services so as to provide incentives for their sustainable provision.
Assets: Economic resources.
Benefit sharing: Distribution of benefits between stakeholders.
Benefits: positive change in wellbeing from the fulfilment of needs and wants.
Benefits-only approach: An evaluation focusing on the benefits of different alternatives.
Benefits transfer approach: Economic valuation approach in which estimates obtained (by whatever method) in one context are used to estimate values in a different context. (MA, 2005a)
Bequest value: The importance individuals attach to a resource that can be passed on to future generations, reflecting intergenerational equity concerns.
Biocentric perspectives: Recognising the importance of non-human life.
Biodiversity (a contraction of 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. Biodiversity includes diversity within species, between species, and between ecosystems (MA, 2005a). Biodiversity may be described quantitatively, in terms such as richness, rarity, and uniqueness.
Biological control services: The control of pests through biological rather than chemical means.
Biological diversity: see Biodiversity.
Biome: The largest unit of ecological classification that is convenient to recognize below the entire globe. Terrestrial biomes are typically based on dominant vegetation structure (eg. Forest grassland). Ecosystems within a biome function in a broadly similar way, although they may have very different species composition. For example, all forests share certain properties regarding nutrient cycling, disturbance, and biomass that are different from the properties of grasslands. Marine biomes are typically based on biogeochemical properties. TEEB has adopted a typology of twelve main biomes, sub-divided into a larger number of ecosystems.
Biophysical valuation: A method that derives values from measurements of the physical costs (e.g., in terms of labour, surface requirements, energy or material inputs) of producing a given good or service.
Biotope: An ecological area that supports a particular range of biological communities.
Carbon sequestration: The process of increasing the carbon content of a reservoir other than the atmosphere. (MA, 2005a)
Choice-conjoint analysis: A stated-preference technique to determine which combination of attributes are most preferred by consumers.
Choice modelling: A technique that models the decision process of an individual in a given context.
Composite indices: Indicators comprised of a number of measures combined in a particular way to increase their sensitivity, reliability or ease of communication
Consumer surplus: The benefits enjoyed by consumers as a result of being able to purchase a product for a price that is less than the most that they would be willing to pay.
Contingent valuation: Stated preference-based economic valuation technique based on a survey of how much respondents would be willing to pay for specified benefits. (MA, 2005a)
Cost-benefit analysis: A technique designed to determine the feasibility of a project or plan by quantifying its costs and benefits. (MA, 2005a)
Cost-effectiveness approach: Analysis to identify the least cost option that meets a particular goal. (MA, 2005a)
Cross-scale resilience: Response to the same environmental variable at different scales by different species. (MA, 2005a)
Deliberative monetary valuation: The use of formal deliberation concerning an environmental impact to express value in monetary terms for policy purposes (Spash, 2001)
Demand function transfer: The use of demand functions estimated through valuation applications (travel cost, hedonic pricing, contingent valuation, or choice modelling) for a study site, in conjunction with information on parameter values for the policy site, to transfer values
Density compensation: Negative co-variance among species’ abundances (MA, 2005a)
Diminishing returns to scale: Adding an additional unit of area to a large ecosystem increases the total value of ecosystem services less than an additional unit of area to a smaller ecosystem.
Direct driver: A driver that unequivocally influences ecosystem processes and can therefore be identified and measured to differing degrees of accuracy. (MA, 2005a)
Direct use value (of ecosystems): The benefits derived from the services provided by an ecosystem that are used directly by an economic agent. These include consumptive uses (e.g., harvesting goods) and nonconsumptive uses (e.g., enjoyment of scenic beauty). Agents are often physically present in an ecosystem to receive direct use value. (MA, 2005a)
Discount rate: A rate used to determine the present value of future benefits.
Discounted utility: Including the future discounted value of a good in its present value.
Disservices: Undesired negative effects resulting for the generation of ecosystem services.
Disturbed ecosystems: Ecosystems that have been altered as a result of anthropogenic activities or natural disasters.
Double counting of services: Erroneously including the same ecosystem service more than once in an economic analysis.
Driver: Any natural or human-induced factor that directly or indirectly causes a change in an ecosystem. (MA, 2005a)
Ecological equilibrium: see Dynamic equilibrium.
Ecological footprint: An index of the area of productive land and aquatic ecosystems required to produce the resources used and to assimilate the wastes produced by a defined population at a specified material standard of living, wherever on Earth that land may be located. (MA, 2005a)
Ecological infrastructure: Any area which delivers services such as freshwater, micro climate regulation, recreation, etc, to a large proximate population, usually cities. This is sometimes referred to as green infrastructure.
Ecological production function: Relationship between environmental inputs and outputs of goods and services.
Ecological stability: see Ecosystem Health.
Ecological threshold: The point at which the conditions of an ecosystem result in change to a new state.
Ecological threshold of irreversibility: A degree of impairment to an ecosystem, which, when it is surpassed, is too severe to allow recovery of that ecosystem to its former intact state without human intervention.
Ecological value: Non-monetary assessment of ecosystem integrity, health, or resilience, all of which are important indicators to determine critical thresholds and minimum requirements for ecosystem service provision.
Economic behaviour: The way in which economic agents reveal their preferences through economic activity.
Economic growth: An increase in economic prosperity measured, for example, as an increase in per capita gross domestic product (GDP)
Economic valuation: The process of expressing a value for a particular good or service in a certain context (e.g., of decision-making) in monetary terms.
Eco-regional planning: Planning that is undertaken on an eco-regional rather than national basis.
Ecosystem: A dynamic complex of plant, animal, and microorganism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit. (MA, 2005a) For practical purposes it is important to define the spatial dimensions of concern.
Ecosystem accounting: The process of constructing formal accounts for ecosystems.
Ecosystem capital: see Natural capital.
Ecosystem degradation: A persistent reduction in the capacity to provide ecosystem services. (MA, 2005a)
Ecosystem function: a subset of the interactions between ecosystem structure and processes that underpin the capacity of an ecosystem to provide goods and services
Ecosystem health: A state or condition of an ecosystem that expresses attributes of biodiversity within “normal” ranges, relative to its ecological stage of development. Ecosystem health depends inter alia on ecosystem resilience and resistance.
Ecosystem integrity: Implies completeness or wholeness and infers capability in an ecosystem to maintain all its components as well as functional relationships when disturbed.
Ecosystem management: An approach to maintaining or restoring the composition, structure, function, and delivery of services of natural and modified ecosystems for the goal of achieving sustainability. It is based on an adaptive, collaboratively developed vision of desired future conditions that integrates ecological, socioeconomic, and institutional perspectives, applied within a geographic framework, and defined primarily by natural ecological boundaries. (MA, 2005a)
Ecosystem process: Any change or reaction which occurs within ecosystems, either physical, chemical or biological. Ecosystem processes include decomposition, production, nutrient cycling, and fluxes of nutrients and energy. (MA, 2005a)
Ecosystem services: The direct and indirect contributions of ecosystems to human wellbeing. The concept ‘‘ecosystem goods and services’’ is synonymous with ecosystem services.
Ecosystem structure: the biophysical architecture of an ecosystem. The composition of species making up the architecture may vary.
Ecotourism: Travel undertaken to access sites or regions of unique natural or ecologic quality, or the provision of services to facilitate such travel.
Elasticity: A measure of responsiveness of one variable to a change in another, usually defined in terms of percentage change. For example, own-price elasticity of demand is the percentage change in the quantity demanded of a good for a 1% change in the price of that good. Other common elasticity measures include supply and income elasticity. (MA, 2005a)
Endowment effect: An increase in the value that people place on a good or service once their property right has been established.
Environmental envelope: The environmental boundary conditions within which ecosystems exist.
Environmental regulation services: see Regulating services.
Equity: Fairness of rights, distribution, and access. Depending on context, this can refer to resources, services, or power. (MA, 2005a)
Existence value: The value that individuals place on knowing that a resource exists, even if they never use that resource (also sometimes known as conservation value or passive use value). (MA, 2005a)
Externality: A consequence of an action that affects someone other than the agent undertaking that action and for which the agent is neither compensated nor penalized through the markets. Externalities can be positive or negative. (MA, 2005a)
Extinction: The point at which a organisms within a species can no longer reproduce to create subsequent generations and the species dies out.
Factor income: Returns received on factors of production.
Functional diversity: Value, range and abundance of functional traits of organisms in a given ecosystem.
Functional groups: Groups of organisms that respond to the environment or affect ecosystem processes in a similar way. Examples of plant functional types include nitrogen-fixer versus non-fixer, stress-tolerant versus ruderal versus competitor, resprouter versus seeder, deciduous versus evergreen. Examples of animal functional types include granivorous versus fleshy-fruit eater, nocturnal versus diurnal predator, browser versus grazer. (MA, 2005a)
Functional redundancy: A characteristic of ecosystems in which more than one species in the system can carry out a particular process. Redundancy may be total or partial— that is, a species may not be able to completely replace the other species or it may compensate only some of the processes in which the other species are involved. (MA, 2005a)
Functional traits: A feature of an organism, which has demonstrable links to the organism’s function.
Genetic diversity: The value, range, and relative abundance of genes present in the organisms in an ecological community.
Governance (of ecosystems): The process of regulating human behavior in accordance with shared ecosystem objectives. The term includes both governmental and nongovernmental mechanisms.
Group valuation: An approach combining stated preference techniques with elements of deliberative processes from political science.
Habitat service: The importance of ecosystems to provide living space for resident and migratory species (thus maintaining the gene pool and nursery service).
Hedonic pricing: An economic valuation approach that utilizes information about the implicit demand for an environmental attribute of marketed commodities.
Human well-being: A context-and situation-dependent state, comprising basic material for a good life, freedom and choice, health and bodily well-being, good social relations, security, peace of mind, and spiritual experience. (MA, 2005a)
Hyperbolic discounting: A discount rate reflecting the fact that people generally show more impatience in discounting the near future than the distant future.
Indicator: Information based on measured data used to represent a particular attribute, characteristic, or property of a system. (MA, 2005a)
Indirect driver: A driver that operates by altering the level or rate of change of one or more direct drivers. (MA, 2005a)
Indirect use value: The benefits derived from the goods and services provided by an ecosystem that are used indirectly by an economic agent. For example, an agent at some distance from an ecosystem may derive benefits from drinking water that has been purified as it passed through the ecosystem. (MA, 2005a)
Institutional failure: A situation in which institutions create inefficiencies in the use of goods and services.
Institutions: The rules that guide how people within societies live, work, and interact with each other. Formal institutions are written or codified rules. Examples of formal institutions would be the constitution, the judiciary laws, the organized market, and property rights. Informal institutions are rules governed by social and behavioral norms of the society, family, or community. Also referred to as organizations. (MA, 2005a) Instrumental value: Value as a means to acquiring something else.
Interventions: see Responses.
Intrinsic value: The value of someone or something in and for itself, irrespective of its utility for someone else. (MA, 2005a)
Loss aversion: People tend to prefer to avoid losses rather than to acquire gains.
Low-input systems: Agricultural systems with little or no subsidies of energy, fertilizer or pesticides.
Management (of ecosystems): An approach to maintaining or restoring the composition, structure, function, and delivery of services of natural and modified ecosystems for the goal of achieving sustainability. It is based on an adaptive, collaboratively developed vision of desired future conditions that integrates ecological, socioeconomic, and institutional perspectives, applied within a geographic framework, and defined primarily by natural ecological boundaries. (MA, 2005a)
Marginal efficiency of capital: The rate of discount that equates the price of a fixed capital asset with its present discounted value of expected income.
Marginal utility of consumption: The utility gained (or lost) from a small increase (or decrease) in the consumption of a good or service.
Market failure: The inability of a market to capture the correct values of ecosystem services. (MA, 2005a)
Measure (or measurement): Information which refers to the actual measurement of a state, quantity or process derived from observations or monitoring
Meta-analytic function transfer: Using value functions estimated from multiple study results, in conjunction with information on parameter values for the policy site, to estimate values.
Mitigation (or restoration) cost: The cost of mitigating the effects of the loss of ecosystem services or the cost of getting those services restored
Monetary valuation: see Economic valuation.
Natural capital: An economic metaphor for the limited stocks of physical and biological resources found on earth. (MA, 2005b)
Non-economic techniques: Techniques that do not require relationships among economic variables to be measured empirically.
Non-use or passive use: Benefits which do not arise from direct or indirect use.
Open access: Accessible to all.
Opportunity cost: The benefits forgone by undertaking one activity instead of another. (MA, 2005a)
Option price: The largest sure payment that an individual will pay for a policy before uncertainty is resolved.
Over-exploitation: Use in excess of a sustainable use level.
Potential use (of ecosystem services): The use(s) to which ecosystem services may be put in the future.
Poverty: The pronounced deprivation of wellbeing. Income poverty refers to a particular formulation expressed solely in terms of per capita or household income. (MA, 2005a)
Precautionary principle: The management concept stating that in cases ‘‘where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation,’’ as defined in the Rio Declaration. (MA, 2005a) Primary valuation studies: Empirical valuation studies rather than those that rely on the transfer of values or value functions from other studies.
Production, economic: Output of a system. (MA, 2005a)
Production function: A function used to estimate how much a given ecosystem service (e.g., regulating service) contributes to the delivery of another service or commodity which is traded on an existing market.
Productivity: Rate of biomass produced by an ecosystem, generally expressed as biomass produced per unit of time per unit of surface or volume. Net primary productivity is defined as the energy fixed by plants minus their respiration. (MA, 2005a)
Provisioning services: The products obtained from ecosystems, including, for example, genetic resources, food and fiber, and fresh water. (MA, 2005a)
Public goods: A good or service in which the benefit received by any one party does not diminish the availability of the benefits to others, and where access to the good cannot be restricted. (MA, 2005a)
Quasi-option value: The value of preserving options for future use of an environmental resource that may be lost irreversibly given expected growth of knowledge.
Range of tolerance: The range of a given parameter within which an organism can function (e.g. temperature tolerance range).
Regulating services: The benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes, including, for example, the regulation of climate, water, and some human diseases. (MA, 2005a)
Replacement cost: The costs incurred by replacing ecosystem services with artificial technologies.
Resilience: The ability of an ecosystem to recover from disturbance without human intervention.
Resistance: The ability of an ecosystem to withstand or tolerate disturbance and stay within certain boundary conditions, or states, without human intervention.
Resource: Any physical or virtual entity of limited availability that provides a benefit.
Response diversity: Differential response to environmental variables among species. (MA, 2005a)
Responses: Human actions, including policies, strategies, and interventions, to address specific issues, needs, opportunities, or problems. In the context of ecosystem management, responses may be of legal, technical, institutional, economic, and behavioral nature and may operate at various spatial and time scales. (MA, 2005a)
Returns to scale: Changes in outputs from a proportional change in inputs. Returns to scale can be constant (if the outputs change by the same proportion), increasing (if the outputs increases by more than the same proportion), or decreasing (if the outputs increases by less than the same proportion).
Revealed preference: A method to assess possible value options or to define utility (consumer preferences) based on the observation of consumer behavior.
Scale: The measurable dimensions of phenomena or observations. Expressed in physical units, such as meters, years, population size, or quantities moved or exchanged. In observation, scale determines the relative fineness and coarseness of different detail and the selectivity among patterns these data may form. (MA, 2005a)
Services and benefits of ecosystems: see Ecosystem services.
Social costs and benefits: Costs and benefits as seen from the perspective of society as a whole. These differ from private costs and benefits in being more inclusive (all costs and benefits borne by some member of society are taken into account) and in being valued at social opportunity cost rather than market prices, where these differ. Sometimes termed ‘‘economic’’ costs and benefits. (MA, 2005a)
Social value: see Social costs and benefits.
Societal choice: Collective decisions based on individual preferences.
Socioecological system: An ecosystem, the management of this ecosystem by actors and organizations, and the rules, social norms, and conventions underlying this management. (MA, 2005a)
Species diversity: Biodiversity at the species level, often combining aspects of species richness, their relative abundance, and their dissimilarity. (MA, 2005a)
Species richness: The number of species within a given sample, community, or area. (MA, 2005a)
Stakeholder: A person, group or organization that has a stake in the outcome of a particular activity.
Stated preference: Consumer preferences are understood through questions regarding willingness to pay or willingness to accept.
Substitutability: The extent to which human-made capital can be substituted for natural capital (or vice verse).
Supporting services: Ecosystem services that are necessary for the maintenance of all other ecosystem services. Some examples include biomass production, production of atmospheric oxygen, soil formation and retention, nutrient cycling, water cycling, and provisioning of habitat. (MA, 2005a) Sustainability: A characteristic or state whereby the needs of the present and local population can be met without compromising the ability of future generations or populations in other locations to meet their needs. (MA, 2005a)
Sustainable flow (of ecosystem services): The availability of ecosystem services to yield a continuous benefit to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations. (MA, 2005a)
Sustainable use (of ecosystems): Using ecosystems in a way that benefits present generations while maintaining the potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations.
Threshold: A point or level at which new properties emerge in an ecological, economic, or other system, invalidating predictions based on mathematical relationships that apply at lower levels. For example, species diversity of a landscape may decline steadily with increasing habitat degradation to a certain point, then fall sharply after a critical threshold of degradation is reached. Human behavior, especially at group levels, sometimes exhibits threshold effects. Thresholds at which irreversible changes occur are especially of concern to decision-makers. (MA, 2005a)
Total economic value: The value obtained from the various constituents of utilitarian value, including direct use value, indirect use value, option value, quasi-option value, and existence value.
Trade-offs: Management choices that intentionally or otherwise change the type, magnitude, and relative mix of services provided by ecosystems. (MA, 2005a)
Trade-offs of ecosystem services: The way in which one ecosystem service relates to or responds to a change in another ecosystem service.
Travel cost method: A revealed preference valuation method that infers the value of a change in the quality or quantity of a recreational site (e.g., resulting from changes in biodiversity) from estimating the demand function for visiting the site.
Unsustainable use (of ecosystems): Using ecosystems in a way that benefits present generations but negatively impacts on the potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations.
Utility: A measure of satisfaction.
Valuation: The process of expressing a value for a particular good or service in a certain context (e.g., of decision-making) usually in terms of something that can be counted, often money, but also through methods and measures from other disciplines (sociology, ecology, and so on). (MA, 2005a)
Value: The contribution of an action or object to user-specified goals, objectives, or conditions. (MA, 2005a)
Value function transfer: Value functions estimated through valuation applications (travel cost, hedonic pricing, contingent valuation, or choice modelling) for a study site are used in conjunction with information on parameter values for the policy site to transfer values.
Viable populations: Organism populations that can survive in the wild.
Vulnerability: Exposure to contingencies and stress, and the difficulty in coping with them.
Three major dimensions of vulnerability are involved: exposure to stresses, perturbations, and shocks; the sensitivity of people, places, ecosystems, and species to the stress or perturbation, including their capacity to anticipate and cope with the stress; and the resilience of the exposed people, places, ecosystems, and species in terms of their capacity to absorb shocks and perturbations while maintaining function. (MA, 2005a)
Willingness to accept: The minimum amount that a person is willing to receive to give up a good in their possession.
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