As interpreted and implemented by the World Land Trust
AONBs (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) are areas of high scenic quality that have statutory protection in order to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of their landscapes. For example, the Cotswolds is the largest of the UK’s 49 AONBs and includes the WLT Kites Hill Reserve.
Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on earth. As defined by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity it includes the diversity of ecosystems in the biosphere, the number and variety of species within an ecosystem, the genetic variation within these species, and the ecological processes that support them.
Biodiversity hotspots are areas which contain an exceptionally high number of different species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. Facing extreme threat, over 70% of original vegetation has been lost and their combined area of remaining habitat covers only 2.3% of the earth’s land surface. The 34 hotspots hold 50% of the world’s endemic plant species and 42% of endemic terrestrial vertebrate species The Atlantic Rainforest, which is one of WLT’s priority areas, is one of the world’s top five biodiversity hotspots. See Conservation international's website on biodiversity hotspots for more information.
Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)
A Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) is an internationally recognized programme designed to protect and restore biological systems. The original impetus derives from the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). UK BAPs are the UK Government’s response to the CBD and provide plans for the protection of the UK's biological resources at both national and local levels. For example, there is a local Biodiversity Action Plan for amphibians in Gloucestershire, the location of WLT’s Kites Hill Reserve.
CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments aimed at regulating and preventing illegal trade in threatened species.
Conservation is the preservation of threatened wildlife habitats and WLT does this by funding the purchase of vulnerable land and working with local project partners to protect it as private nature reserves. WLT also assists conservation by restoring habitats which have been lost in the past, as far as possible back to the natural habitat.
Deforestation is the process of clearing naturally occurring forests by logging or burning for purposes such as agriculture, fuel or urban development. Deforestation also occurs naturally or unintentionally though wildfires and overgrazing. This results in loss of habitat and biodiversity and is a significant contributor to soil erosion.
Environments can be degraded through both natural and human processes resulting in the destruction of natural habitats, species extinction and the depletion of natural resources such as air, soil or water.
The word Ecology relates to the scientific study of living organisms and how they interact with their environment and each other.
An ecoregion is an ecologically and geographically defined area that covers large areas of land or water sharing similar environmental conditions, species and ecological dynamics which interact ecologically in ways that are critical to their long-term survival. For example, the terrestrial ecoregions of Borneo’s lowland and montane rain forests are classed as a Global Ecoregion. Madagascar is considered the world’s most threatened ecoregion, with the Atlantic Rainforest coming second.
An ecosystem is a community of living organisms interacting with each other and their physical environment within a particular area. A coral reef and a rainforest are both good examples.
Ecosystem services are the benefits humans derive from natural ecosystems. The UN 2004 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment defines four broad categories: provisioning, regulating, supporting and cultural. Find out more about Ecosystem Services.
A plant which grows using the support of another host plant or object is called an epiphyte. Unlike a parasite, epiphytes do not take any nutrients from the host. Instead they collect water and nutrients directly from the humid atmosphere around them. Many orchid species are epiphytes.
Ex situ Conservation
This term is used for conservation which does not take place directly "on site". For example, the work of zoos' captive breeding programmes is ex situ conservation. WLT's Wild Spaces programme provides an opportunity for zoos and aquariums to become more involved with in situ conservation.
Species representative of an environmental cause, such as a whole ecosystem in need of conservation are referred to as flagship species. For example, the Eco Club in the Chaco-Pantanal in Paraguay use the Jaguar as their flagship species to represent the need of conservation in Paraguay.
Fragmentation is the separation of areas of wildlife habitat into smaller parts, surrounded by land unsuitable for wildlife. Habitat destruction such as deforestation can cause ‘islands’ of suitable land, which may no longer be large enough to support a viable population of animals or plants. Fragmentation is one of the main causes of extinction.
Habitat is the area where an individual or species lives. For example, a tree, a riverbed or whole grasslands can be classed as habitats.
In situ conservation
Conservation work carried out "on site", for example through protected reserves. The work of the World Land Trust's partners is in situ conservation.
IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) is the largest global environmental network and in its own words is "working to help societies across the world find pragmatic solutions to the most pressing environment and development challenges”. The World Land Trust is a member of IUCN.
The IUCN Red List provides information on the classification, range and conservation status of a species, with an aim of identifying those at most risk of extinction. Species on the list have been scientifically assessed and assigned a category according to their threat of extinction.
Categories range from ‘not evaluated’ to ‘extinct’. The criteria for the categories are detailed but a simple summary is provided below, for further information about the Red List and the criteria see the IUCN Red List.
Categories used to describe IUCN Red List species:
- Least Concern – After its risk of extinction has been assessed, the species is found to have a low risk of extinction. These species are usually widespread and abundant.
- Near Threatened – A species is close to or likely to qualify in the threatened categories in the future.
- Threatened Categories: Vulnerable, Endangered and Critically Endangered. Vulnerable – A species is categorised as Vulnerable if the reduction in population size is 50% or more over the last 10 years and/or there is a population size of fewer than 10,000 mature individuals.
- Endangered – A species is categorised as Endangered if the reduction in population size is 70% or more over the last 10 years and/or there are fewer than 2500 mature individuals.
- Critically Endangered – A species is categorised as Critically Endangered if the reduction in population size is 90% or more over the last 10 years and/or there are fewer than 250 mature individuals
A keystone species is an animal or plant on which other species in an ecosystem largely depend. A keystone species may not be a predator, or even large in number, but its presence affects many other organisms in an ecosystem by helping determine the types and numbers of other species in the community. If a keystone species is removed the delicate balance of an ecosystem would be dramatically changed, or may even collapse.
Important pollinators, such as hummingbirds, bats or butterflies, can be keystone species, as so many other species are reliant on them for survival. If certain species of tree or cacti are not pollinated consider how the ecosystem would change. The jaguar is an example of a keystone species. Jaguars, which are considered near threatened, are present in very small numbers in Central and South America. Nonetheless with their varied diet of many different species of prey, they play a critical role in keeping populations of other mammals in check in areas where other big cats do not occur.
Because they may be low in number, comparative to the effect they can have on the ecosystem once they are removed, keystone species are often vulnerable to extinction and so it is important that they are recognised and protected. It can be the case that a species is not recognised as keystone until it is gone, and the effects on the ecosystem are seen.
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
Generally referred to as an MoU, this is a document of agreement between two or more parties, without the binding power of a contract. When WLT initiates on a formal relationship with a new partner organisation, a joint MOU will be drawn up to outline the basis of the relationship and the expectations. WLT also has an MoU with most of its corporate supporters.
A monoculture is the planting of a single crop species over a large area for intensive agriculture. This leads to large areas with little biodiversity. For example, oil palm plantations are monocultures.
A species which is not originally found in an area or country is non-native. The term "introduced species" tends to refer to those deliberately brought into a country, for example, foreign plants introduced for gardens, or crop plants, while others arrive by accident, such as rats transported by ships. Some non-native species can pose a threat to natives, for example the non-native Grey Squirrel competes with Red Squirrels and spreads the squirrel pox virus.
A Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) is an organisation, which operates independently from any government. World Land Trust is an example of an NGO.
Although native to West Africa the oil palm is now farmed for the production of palm oil across the world. The oil is used in many household foods and products and is currently a threat to forests with trees being cut down and replaced by oil palm plantations.
Intentional planting of a crop on a large scale, usually applied to trees or shrubs. The result is a large area with usually just one major plant species growing. Examples include tea and coffee plantations, and pine forests grown for timber.
Pollution is the release of harmful substances into the environment.
The population is the number of individuals of a species in an identified area.
WLT always works with local project partners. In WLT's case these are NGOs within the country of the project, who usually own and carry out the protection and management of the land.
An area of land which is protected because of its importance for wildlife and/or habitat is generally referred to as a Reserve. Together with its project partners, WLT has helped to fund and create reserves in many areas, for instance, the Jorupe Reserve in Ecuador and the Ranch of Hopes Reserve in Patagonia.
Slash and burn
Slash and burn is a method of clearing the forest for agriculture. The trees are first cut then left to dry out and then burnt to clear the area of forest. The land is then used for agriculture for a few years until there are not enough nutrients left in the soil to grow crops. Although it is a destructive process, over time and if left alone the forest can begin to re-grow.
A species is a group of organisms, which look and behave alike. Individuals of a species can also produce offspring that themselves are capable of reproduction. A species is genetically different from other groups of individuals (species).
The term SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) denotes a protected area in the United Kingdom which is important for its wildlife, geology or overall biodiversity. An example is the beech woodland on WLT’s Kites Hill Reserve which is designated as a SSSI.
Being sustainable means using natural resources in a way in which they can continue to survive and be used in the future, rather than becoming depleted. Sustainable methods also less damaging to the environment.
Transpiration is the process of water evaporating through the leaves of plants.
WLT uses this term to denote a corridor of land which connects larger areas of protected or natural habitat. Wildlife corridors between protected areas allow species to move safely over larger distances and larger habitats mean that more animals can live safely; they prevent isolated populations of species also. Find out more about Wildlife Corridors by reading about our project in India.
Information about carbon and restoration ecology terms used on our website can be found on the WLT Ecosystem Services website