Environmental glossary

Information on this page is intended to assist people in developing a common understanding of the technical and scientific terms, abbreviations and acronyms used in environmental reports, plans and strategies.

By increasing our common understanding we avoid confusion and misrepresentation of meaning.

The environmental glossary is a valuable aid to students and people involved with preparing reports and submissions.

The environmental glossary provides a recent history of terminology used  as well as opportunities for maintaining an awareness of new and emerging  language in conservation and environmental management.

SWIFFT welcomes additions or refinements to the glossary. Contact SWIFFT.

Terms used in relation to biodiversity

Arboreal fauna a term used to describe tree dwelling fauna, (also see terrestrial fauna)
Biota the total assemblage of plants and animals in an area
Biodiversity the variety of all life forms, the different plants, animals and micro-organisms, the genes they contain and the ecosystem of which they form a part. Victoria’s Biodiversity Strategy or Australian Government biodiversity conservation
Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) a previously used structured approach to mapping and summarising significant native biodiversity assets, identifying actions, priorities and tools which can be used at the bioregional and landscape level. Biodiversity Action Planning was phased out around 2010 and since replaced by Biodiversity Response Planning.
Biodiversity Landscape Plan a high resolution plan over several to tens of kilometres which comprises part of the Biodiversity Action Plan within a particular bioregion. Phased out.
Biodiversity Response Planning (BRP)

a long term, area-based planning approach to biodiversity conservation is rolling out across Victoria. It is designed to strengthen alignment, engagement and participation between government, Traditional Owners, non-government agencies (NGOs) and the community.Working together for biodiversity 

Bioregion biogeographic areas that capture the patterns of ecological characteristics in the landscape or seascape and form part of the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia. Victoria's bioregions.
Bioregional Network Analysis (BNA) bioregional analysis of threatened species abundance, threats (risks) and land tenure provided a ranking system for the allocation of threatened species priorities within each bioregion, eg. full commitment, substantive participation, planning awareness/opportunistic action or planning awareness/watching brief. Phased out.
BioSite an area containing one or more biological assets
BioSites a former DSE database which housed spatial information on sites of biological significance (BioSite)
Broad Vegetation Type (BVT) simplified classification of vegetation based on land systems or biophysical attributes (geology, rainfall, elevation, soil type and landform).
Buffer Zone a designated area which is used to reduce impact on a core area or biodiversity value to be protected.
CAMBA China Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (also see JAMBA)
Community an assemblage of plants and animals that exist together to make up a particular type of ecosystem.
Connectivity the capacity for biodiversity to move between disjunct landscape elements such as habitat patches, lakes and streams. (also see corridors and links).
Conservation covenant a covenant which is a voluntary agreement made between the landowner and an authorised body with the aim of permanently protecting the natural, cultural and/or scientific values of the land. In Victoria, the Trust for Nature is the organisation that deals with conservation covenants.
Conservation status a systems of rating the level of threat for a species, some variations exist according to jurisdiction eg. ICUN (world), EPBC (Australia), FFG (Victoria), IUCN Criteria 3.1
Conservation status Australia categories under EPBC Act, (EX) Extinct, (CR) Critically Endangered, (EN) Endangered, (VU) Vulnerable EPBC list of threatened species.
Corridor a liner strip of habitat that facilitates the movement of biodiversity between separated habitats, thereby increasing ‘connectivity.’
Coupe a term used in forestry operations which describes a delineated area on either private or State Forest land.
Distribution the known limits or geographic extent of an area where a species is known to occur (this does not imply the species occurs in all parts of its distribution but rather it may occur at suitable habitats within its distribution).
Ecological Vegetation Class (EVC) a native vegetation classification system that incorporates vegetation structure, floristic and ecological characteristics together with environmental attributes such as aspect, slope, elevation, rainfall and soils. EVC mapping on VVB   or EVC maps from DSE biodiversity interactive map
Ecosystem the organisms of a community, together with the atmosphere, soil, water and light which form a functioning system.
Ecotone transitional zone or area between ecological communities.
Endemic having a natural occurrence to a specified area.
Environment incorporates all living and non-living surroundings of a plant or animal.
EPBC Act Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, Commonwealth of Australia more about EPBC Act
Extant vegetation vegetation still remaining, often referred to in EVC mapping.
Exotic species a species not native to Australia.
Flagship species also referred to as ‘icon species’, they are species which have public appeal, promotional and publicity value which can be harnessed to increase support for their conservation as well as other taxa.
Focal species referred to in Biodiversity Action Plans, it is a species identified as having requirements that reflect many other associated species or communities. Therefore action for one focal species will also favour wider biodiversity conservation.
Habitat all the physical and biological things which collectively make up ‘the place’ where a plant or animal lives.
Habitat hectare a site based measure of native vegetation in terms of quality and quantity of vegetation in relation to EVC’s Vegetation Quality Assessment Manual. pdf.
Home range the area utilised by an individual animal to facilitate its normal life functions such as feeding and breeding.
Indigenous species belonging to, or found naturally in a particular environment and forms part of the natural biodiversity of a place.
JAMBA Japan Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (also see CAMBA).
Native Vegetation an indigenous plant community either natural or regenerated but excludes vegetation established for commercial purposes eg. plantations
Net Gain where over a specified area and time losses of native vegetation are more than off-set by gains in habitat hectare.
Old growth forest an ecologically mature forest that contains significant amounts of vegetation in its oldest growth stage, including senescent trees and where the effects of disturbances are now negligible.
Potentially threatening process a process which could pose a significant threat to the survival, abundance an evolutionary development of any taxon or community of flora or fauna, these can be listed under schedule 3 of the FFG Act. FFG Act, listed potentially threatening processes
Protected flora Victorian flora which is published in the Victorian Government Gazette under Section 46 of the FFG Act, which may include threatened species or communities, or those that are not threatened but require protection. The definition protected applies to all living and non- living parts of the plant and can include deliberate and incidental take, damage to habitat, trading, keeping, moving or processing.
Protected wildlife referrs to all wildlife under the meaning of the Wildlife Act 1975 and includes any animal of a vertebrate taxon indigenous to Australia other than mankind, non-indigenous deer, quail, pheasants and partridges, any taxon of terrestrial invertebrate animal listed under the FFG Act and any other taxon of animal all which is published by order in the Victorian Government Gazette.
Rare used where there are relatively few known populations or the taxon is restricted to a relatively small area (see conservation status, threatened species).
Remnant vegetation the remains of native vegetation uncleared since European settlement. (for planning purposes it can include areas of native revegetation/regeneration greater than 10 years old.
Species individuals of the same type which are able to interbreed to produce fertile offspring under natural conditions contributing to a common gene pool.
Subspecies a discrete geographical or independent breeding group of a species which can be consistently characterised by given features and DNA.
Taxon generally refers to a species but it may sometimes be a unique form of a species or a closely related group of species. Taxa is used when referring to more than one taxon.
Terrestrial fauna fauna that is ground dwelling (also see arboreal fauna).
Threatened species a species that is assigned a conservation status of vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered or extinct in the wild. See Threatened species
Victoria’s Biodiversity Strategy a Victorian State Government strategy 1997, to conserve and maintain Victoria’s biodiversity. It comprises three documents, Victoria’s biodiversity – Our living Wealth, Victoria’s biodiversity – Sustaining Our Living Wealth, Victoria’s biodiversity – Directions in Management Victoria’s Biodiversity Strategy 1997 (word doc). New  Protecting Victoria's Environment - Biodiversity 2037
Visualising Victoria's Biodiversity (VVB) discover and share spatial information on Victoria's environmental values, conservation activities and research VVB

Terms use in relation to aquatic systems (lakes, wetlands and streams)

Algal bloom the rapid development of algae in aquatic systems resulting from nutrient enrichment. Algal blooms can be highly detrimental to the functioning of aquatic ecosystems, fish kills being the most visible result.
AUSRIVAS Australian River Assessment System, a rapid prediction system used to assess the biological health of Australian rivers using bioassessment and physical assessment methodologies.
Baseflow the component of streamflow supplied by groundwater discharge.
Benthic organisms inhabiting the bottom substrate of aquatic habitats.
Bulk Entitlement (BE) relates to property rights for water by authorities defined in the Water Act 1989 and considers the allocation and sharing of water resources, more about bulk entitlements.
Cap an upper limit for the diversion of water.
Diversion artifical removal of water from a stream through pumping or gravity.
EC a measure of salinity using electrical conductivity in water, higher EC = higher salinity
Environmental flow assessment determins water regimes needed to sustain water dependent biodiversity values at a low level of risk, environmental flow assessment using FLOWS method pdf
Environmental flow flow regimes that are provided through the allocation of water which are intended to deliver a measured level of security for the ecological requirements of instream biota.
Environmental Water Reserve (EWR) established in all river and groundwater systems in Victoria, it is the share of water set aside for the environment.
Flow regulation Changes to the timing and volume of flow brought about by dams, diversions, drainage and control structures.
Index of estuarine condition (IEC) a method to evaluate the environmental condition, or health, of Victorian estuaries Report 2009 
Index of stream condition (ISC) uses sub-indices such as hydrology, physical form, streamside zone, water quality and aquatic life to rate stream condition, Third Index of Stream Condition Report, see also Water Measurement Information System
Index of Wetland Condition (IWC) includes a measure to assess the quality of wetland vegetation. For the Index of Wetland Condition, wetland vegetation is considered to be that of depressional wetlands that retain water either permanently or temporarily after filling.
Macroinvertebrate a small sized animal without a backbone (invertebrate) that is visible to the naked eye.
Macrophyte a floating or rooted water plant that is not an algae.
Permissible Annual Volume (PAV) maximum volume of water to be taken from a stream or aquifer.
Ramsar wetland a wetland listed as a Wetland of International Importance stemming from the Ramsar convention, held at an Iranian town named Ramsar where the international convention treaty was first signed in 1971. more Ramsar information.
Regulated stream a stream where flows are controlled by releases from a dam or weir.
Riparian zone relates to the stream bank and adjacent area which influences, or is influenced by the stream.
Streamflow Management Plan (SFMP) a plan which considers the practical allocation of water share between the environment, agricultural, rural and urban users of water within the stream.
Stream order describes the position of a stream in a drainage network, the lower the number the smaller the stream and its catchment.
Unregulated system a stream or number of streams where no major dams or weir structures have been built to aid in the supply or extraction of water.
Wetland natural or artificial areas that contain water, which may be permanent or temporary, fresh or saline, inland or intertidal, wetland ecology

Terms used in relation to Environmental Legislation, Policy, Plans & Strategies

BE Bulk Entitlement, relates to property rights for water by authorities defined in the Water Act and considers the allocation and sharing of water resources.
Biodiversity 2036  New Protecting Victoria's Environment - Biodiversity 2036
Caring for Our Country previous program administered by the Australian Government to support sustainability and protection of the natural environment  now called National Landcare Programme 
Catchment & Land Protection Act 1994 for integrated management and protection of catchments, land and water resources. Provides for a system of controls on noxious weeds and pest animals Victorian Legislation & Parliamentary docs.
Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) a policy of development that improves the total quality of life, both now and into the future, in a way that maintains the integrity of ecological processes.
Environmental Effects Statement (EES) is a document prepared under the Victorian Environment Effects Act 1978, which describes the likely environmental effects of a proposed development, EES process in Victoria.
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is prepared under the Commonwealth’s EPBC Act 1999 where a significant impact on a specified matter of national environmental significance could occur.new processes apply under the EPBC Act more information.
Environmental Management System (EMS) a structured approach to improve environmental outcomes on farms through identification of issues, determining and measuring environmental objectives and targets, Australian Govt. EMSVictorian EMS.
Environment Protection Act 1970 established the Environment Protection Authority, Victoria (EPA) and relates to improving the air, land and water environments by managing waters, control of noise and control of pollution.
Environmental Significance Overlay (ESO) forms part of the VPP and is used by Local Government in planning schemes where identified environmental attributes require special planning consideration, eg waterways, threatened species habitat etc. ESO in Victoria pdf
EPBC Act Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
Flora & Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG Act) provides for the conservation and management objectives for all Victoria’s flora and fauna. Listing of species, potentially threatening processes, Action Statements and management of protected flora are features of the Flora & Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. 
Forest Management Area (FMA) a geographic area used for planning State Forest management.
Local Government Act 1989 provides for local council by-laws and regulations which can be used to manage conservation issues such as dogs on beaches, land management permits etc.
Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS) prepared by each Local Government to describe future planning for a municipality and is a requirement of the VPP.
Native Vegetation Retention (NVR) describes a policy to protect Victoria’s native vegetation from indiscrimanent clearing through the implementation of planning and assessment procedures, Reforms to NVR May 2013 pdf see also  Habitat hectares approach  also Habitat Hectare fact sheet.docx
National Action Plan for Salinity & Water quality (NAP) a Commonwealth Government initiative to address degradation of Australia’s land and water resources, which ceased in 2008, replaced by National Landcare Programme
Planning & Environment Act 1997 provides for planning the use, development and protection of land in Victoria. Guide to the Planning System also see (also see NVR and VPP’s) Law Handbook
Regional Catchment Strategy (RCS) a strategy prepared by each CMA to plan for future investment and confirm the natural resource management (NRM) priorities for each CMA, they are in effect a blue-print for investment, implementation of actions, programs and partnerships. CMA's 
Special Protection Zone (SPZ) a term used in management of State Forests where an identified value is to be protected (threatened species site, rare EVC etc).
State Environment Protection Policy (Groundwaters of Victoria) this policy requires groundwater resources to be protected from activities potentially detrimental to its quality, as well as hydrological testing and assessment
State Environment Protection Policy (Waters of Victoria) a policy which maintains water quality at a sufficient level for public benefit, welfare, health or safety and provides a basis for planning and licensing functions. It sets emission limits for waste discharges to water, requires that waste be discharged to land where practical and environmentally beneficial, and that waste generation be minimised.
Streamflow Management Plan (SFMP) a plan which considers the practical allocation of water share between the environment, agricultural, rural and urban users of water within the stream, also see River Basin Local Management Plans Southern Rural Water 
Vegetation Protection Overlay (VPO) forms part of the VPP and is used by Local Government in local planning schemes where native vegetation requires special planning considerations.
Victoria’s Biodiversity Strategy a 1997 Victorian State Government strategy to conserve and maintain Victoria’s biodiversity. It comprises three documents, Victoria’s biodiversity – Our living Wealth, Victoria’s biodiversity – Sustaining Our Living Wealth, Victoria’s biodiversity – Directions in Management, Directions in Management Victoria’s Biodiversity Strategy. New  Protecting Victoria's Environment - Biodiversity 2037
Victorian Planning Provisions (VPP’s) established under the Victorian Planning & Environment Act 1987, they provide for Local Government to develop and implement local policies and planning overlays, Guide to Victorian Planning System
Water Act 1989 provides for the protection and enhancement of the environmental qualities of waterways and their in-stream uses; and the protection of catchment conditions, Water Victoria
Waterway Health Strategy prepared by CMA’s to plan for waterway protection and enhancement. Waterway Management Strategy.



Back to Top