The IPBES core glossary provides a standard definition for important terms of broad applicability to IPBES outputs. This core glossary does not replace the assessment-specific glossaries, but is complementary to them. It was developed by a glossary committee established for this purpose.

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Term Definition
Participatory governance

A variant or subset of governance which puts emphasis on democratic engagement, in particular through deliberative practices.

Participatory scenario development (and planning)

Approaches characterised by more interactive, and inclusive, involvement of stakeholders in the formulation and evaluation of scenarios. Aimed at improving the transparency and relevance of decision making, by incorporating demands and information of each stakeholder, and negotiating outcomes between stakeholders.

Particulate matter

A mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets (dust, dirt, soot, or smoke).


Wetlands which accumulate organic plant matter in situ because waterlogging prevents aerobic decomposition and the much slower rate of the resulting anaerobic decay is exceeded by the rate of accumulation.

Joosten and Clark, 2002

Organisms that live in the water column.

Brown, C. 2010. Nutrients in Estuaries

See "annual".


Perennially frozen ground that occurs wherever the temperature remains below 0°C for several years.

Aquatic organisms that drift or swim weakly. Phytoplankton are the plant forms of plankton (e.g., diatoms), and are the dominant plants in the sea. Zooplankton are the animal forms of plankton.


Within the context of IPBES – the decision-making body comprising all of the members of IPBES.

Policy instrument

Set of means or mechanisms to achieve a policy goal.

Policy support tools

Approaches and techniques based on science and other knowledge systems that can inform, assist and enhance relevant decisions, policy making and implementation at local, national, regional and global levels to protect nature, thereby promoting nature’s contributions to people and a good quality of life.

Adapted from IPBES/4/INF/14

Poverty is a state of economic deprivation. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services. Other corollaries of poverty are social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making.

Precautionary principle

Pertains to risk management and states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is not harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action. The principle is used to justify discretionary decisions when the possibility of harm from making a certain decision (e.g., taking a particular course of action) is not, or has not been, established through extensive scientific knowledge. The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk or if a potential plausible risk has been identified.

Preventive responses

Refer to conservation measures that maintain land and its environmental and productive functions.

Principle of compatibility

This principle limits the level of restoration of polluted sites to the quality required for the next use that would have been planned by industrial companies, in accordance to land planning documents.

Prior informed consent (PIC), or free prior and informed consent (FPIC)

Consent given before access to knowledge or genetic resources takes place, based on truthful information about the use that will be made of the resources, which is adequate for the stakeholders or rights holders giving consent to understand the implications.

Process-based model

See "models".

Protected area

A protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.

Lopoukhine, N. and de Souza Dias, F. 2012. What does Target 11 really mean? PARKS 18: 5-8