Glossary (Version 8.4)

A functioning unit of nature defined by a complex set of relationships among its living organisms (such as microorganisms, plants, animals, humans) and its non-living components (such as water, minerals, soil, air), where all organisms and components are interdependent through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Every unit can be explored at macro levels (such as the planet) or as specific limited areas.

Services provided by ecosystems, which support life without requiring human action or payment, for example, climatic stability, hydrological regulation, nutrient cycling, pollination, pest control, soil formation and protection from ultraviolet radiation.

Management based on improving health of an ecosystem producing commodities rather than on maximising production of individual commodities, for example, by increasing biodiversity, restoring hydrological systems, protecting marine breeding areas or rebuilding soil structure and fertility.

A flow of energy through a biological food chain; a movement of energy around an ecosystem through biotic and abiotic means. Also referred to as ecology.

A setting and conditions of an area in which activity occurs, and where features may be natural, managed or constructed.

Functions of the environment that support human life and economic activity, which are:

  • production of raw materials from the natural resources of soil, water, forests, minerals and marine life (the earth’s source function).
  • safe absorption (through breakdown, recycling or storage) of wastes and pollution produced by production and human life (the earth’s sink function).
  • provision of environmental or ecosystem services that support life without requiring human action, for example, climatic stability, biodiversity, ecosystem integrity and protection from ultraviolet radiation (the earth’s service function).
  • intrinsic recreational, psychological, aesthetic and spiritual value of environments (the earth’s spiritual function).

Characteristics of a local environment that affect human physical and mental health and quality of life, for example, an extent of air and water pollution, noise, access to open space, traffic volumes, and visual effects of buildings and roads.

Resources sourced from an environment, which can be classified as renewable, non-renewable and continuous.

A person’s view of the relationship between humans and nature. This ranges from human-centred (in which humans are separate from nature, and any environmental problems can be solved by technology) to earth-centred (in which humans are a part of and dependent on nature and have to work with nature).

Involves an application of fundamental ethical principles when undertaking research and collecting information from primarysources and secondarysources, for example, confidentiality, informed consent, citation and integrity of data.

Industries that sell a service to customers who come from other places to obtain the service, as in tourism and education of students from overseas. Both industries bring income into a place.