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
Sustainable use (of biodiversity and its components)

The use of components of biological diversity in a way and at a rate that does not lead to the long-term decline of biological diversity, thereby maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of present and future generations.

Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992

See "trade-off".

Synthesis reports

Synthesis reports further distil and integrate materials drawing from assessment reports, are written in a non‑technical style suitable for policymakers and address a broad range of policy-relevant questions. They are to be composed of two sections: a summary for policymakers, and a full report.

Target-seeking scenarios

See "scenarios".


A category applied to a group in a formal system of nomenclature, e.g., species, genus, family etc. (plural: taxa).

Technical papers

Technical papers are based on the material contained in the assessment reports and are prepared on topics deemed important by the Plenary.

Technical summary

A Technical Summary is a longer detailed and specialized version of the material contained in the summary for policymakers.


Telecoupling refers to socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances. It involves distant exchanges of information, energy and matter (e.g., people, goods, products, capital) at multiple spatial, temporal and organizational scales.

Tenure security

An agreement between an individual or group to land and residential property, which is governed and regulated by a legal and administrative framework includes both customary and statutory systems.

Territorial Use Rights in Fisheries (TURFs)

Give a specific harvester exclusive access to ocean areas

J. E. Wilen, Cancino, & Uchida, 2012
Threatened species

In the IUCN Red List terminology, a threatened species is any species listed in the Red List categories Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable.

Tipping point

A set of conditions of an ecological or social system where further perturbation will cause rapid change and prevent the system from returning to its former state.


A trade-off is a situation where an improvement in the status of one aspect of the environment or of human well-being is necessarily associated with a decline in or loss of a different aspect. Trade-offs characterize most complex systems, and are important to consider when making decisions that aim to improve environmental and/or socio-economic outcomes. Trade-offs are distinct from synergies (the latter are also referred to as “win-win” scenarios): synergies arise when the enhancement of one desirable outcome leads to enhancement of another.

Adapted from Raudsepp-Hearne et al. 2010 and Daw et al. 2015

Form of pastoralism or nomadism organized around the migration of livestock between mountain pastures in warm seasons and lower altitudes the rest of the year. The seasonal migration may also occur between lower and upper latitudes. A traditional farming practice based on indigenous and local knowledge .
Transitional Pathways

A course of actions and strategies that aim to achieve the vision. They are closely related to “policy or target-seeking scenarios".

Trophic cascades

The chain of knock - on extintions observed or predicted to occur following the loss of one or a few species that play a critical role (e.g. as a pollinator) in ecosystem functioning .
Trophic level

The level in the food chain in which one group of organisms serves as a source of nutrition for another group of organisms (e.g. primary producers, primary or secondary consumers, decomposers).

Brown, C. 2010. Nutrients in Estuaries

Any situation in which the current state of knowledge is such that:

  1. the order or nature of things is unknown, 
  2. the consequences, extent, or magnitude of circumstances, conditions, or events is unpredictable, and 
  3. credible probabilities to possible outcomes cannot be assigned. 

Uncertainty can result from lack of information or from disagreement about what is known or even knowable. Uncertainty can be represented by quantitative measures (e.g., a range of values calculated by various models) or by qualitative statements (e.g., reflecting the judgment of a team of experts).

Units of analysis

The IPBES Units of Analysis result from subdividing the Earth’s surface into units solely for the purposes of analysis. The following have been identified as IPBES units of analysis globally:


  • Tropical and subtropical dry and humid forests
  • Temperate and boreal forests and woodlands
  • Mediterranean forests, woodlands and scrub
  • Tundra and High Mountain habitats
  • Tropical and subtropical savannas and grasslands
  • Temperate Grasslands
  • Deserts and xeric shrublands
  • Wetlands – peatlands, mires, bogs
  • Urban/Semi-urban
  • Cultivated areas (incl. cropping, intensive livestock farming etc.)

Aquatic, including both marine and freshwater:

  • Cryosphere
  • Aquaculture areas
  • Inland surface waters and water bodies/freshwater
  • Shelf ecosystems (neritic and intertidal/littoral zone)
  • Open ocean pelagic systems (euphotic zone)
  • Deep-Sea
  • Coastal areas intensively used for multiple purposes by humans

These IPBES terrestrial and aquatic units of analysis serve as a framework for comparison within and across assessments and represent a pragmatic solution. The IPBES terrestrial and aquatic units of analysis are not intended to be prescriptive for other purposes than those of IPBES assessments. They are likely to evolve as the work of IPBES develops.


The process of scaling information from local, fine-grained resolution to global, coarse-grained resolution.

Validation (of models)

See "models".

  • Value systems: Set of values according to which people, societies and organizations regulate their behaviour. Value systems can be identified in both individuals and social groups (Pascual et al., 2017).
  •  Value (as principle): A value can be a principle or core belief underpinning rules and moral judgments. Values as principles vary from one culture to another and also between individuals and groups (IPBES/4/INF/13).
  • Value (as preference): A value can be the preference someone has for something or for a particular state of the world. Preference involves the act of making comparisons, either explicitly or implicitly. Preference refers to the importance attributed to one entity relative to another one (IPBES/4/INF/13).
  •  Value (as importance): A value can be the importance of something for itself or for others, now or in the future, close by or at a distance. This importance can be considered in three broad classes. 1. The importance that something has subjectively, and may be based on experience. 2. The importance that something has in meeting objective needs. 3. The intrinsic value of something (IPBES/4/INF/13).
  • Value (as measure): A value can be a measure. In the biophysical sciences, any quantified measure can be seen as a value (IPBES/4/INF/13).
  • Non-anthropocentric value: A non-anthropocentric value is a value centered on something other than human beings. These values can be non-instrumental or instrumental to non-human ends (IPBES/4/INF/13).
  • Intrinsic value: This concept refers to inherent value, that is the value something has independent of any human experience or evaluation. Such a value is viewed as an inherent property of the entity and not ascribed or generated by external valuing agents (Pascual et al., 2017).
  • Anthropocentric value: The value that something has for human beings and human purposes (Pascual et al., 2017).
  • Instrumental value: The value attributed to something as a means to achieving a particular end (Pascual et al., 2017).
  • Non-instrumental value: The value attributed to something as an end in itself, regardless of its utility for other ends.
  • Relational value: The values that contribute to desirable relationships, such as those among people or societies, and between people and nature, as in “Living in harmony with nature” (IPBES/4/INF/13).
  • Integrated valuation: The process of collecting, synthesizing, and communicating knowledge about the ways in which people ascribe importance and meaning of NCP to humans, to facilitate deliberation and agreement for decision making and planning (Pascual et al., 2017).
"Pascual, Unai, Patricia Balvanera, Sandra Díaz et al. 2017. “Valuing Nature’s Contributions to People: The IPBES Approach.” Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 26–27: 7–16. doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2016.12.006.
Water security

The capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of and acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability.
Water stress

Water stress occurs in an organism when the demand for water exceeds the available amount during a certain period or when poor quality restricts its use.


A perspective on a good life that comprises access to basic resources, freedom and choice, health and physical well-being, good social relationships, security, peace of mind and spiritual experience. Well-being is achieved when individuals and communities can act meaningfully to pursue their goals and can enjoy a good quality of life. The concept of human well-being is used in many western societies and its variants, together with living in harmony with nature, and living well in balance and harmony with Mother Earth. All these are different perspectives on a good quality of life.

Western science

(Also called modern science) Western scientific knowledge or international science is used in the context of the IPBES conceptual framework as a broad term to refer to knowledge typically generated in universities, research institutions and private firms following paradigms and methods typically associated with the ‘scientific method’ consolidated in Post-Renaissance Europe on the basis of wider and more ancient roots. It is typically transmitted through scientific journals and scholarly books. Some of its central tenets are observer independence, replicable findings, systematic scepticism, and transparent research methodologies with standard units and categories.

Diaz et al. 2015. “The IPBES Conceptual Framework — Connecting Nature and People.” Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 14: 1–16. doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2014.11.002

Areas that are subject to inundation or soil saturation at a frequency and duration, such that the plant communities present are dominated by species adapted to growing in saturated soil conditions, and/or that the soils of the area are chemically and physically modified due to saturation and indicate a lack of oxygen; such areas are frequently termed peatlands, marshes, swamps, sloughs, fens, bogs, wet meadows, etc.


Worldviews defined by the connections between networks of concepts and systems of knowledge, values, norms and beliefs. Individual person’s worldviews are moulded by the community the person belongs to. Practices are embedded in worldviews and are intrinsically part of them (e.g. through rituals, institutional regimes, social organization, but also in environmental policies, in development choices, etc.).

Zoonotic diseases

Zoonotic disease or zoonoses are directly transmitted from animals to humans via various routes of transmission (e.g. air - influenza; bites and saliva - rabies).