Glossary - A

Air Pollution

Air Pollution is the introduction into the atmosphere of chemicals, particulates, or biological materials that cause discomfort, disease, or death to humans, damage other living organisms such as food crops, or damage the natural environment.

Ambient Air

Outdoor air in the troposphere, excluding workplace air

Acid Rain

The precipitation of dilute solutions of strong mineral acids, formed by the mixing in the atmosphere of various industrial pollutants -- primarily sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides -- with naturally occurring oxygen and water vapor.

Air Quality

A measure of the level of pollution in the air.

Air Quality Index (AQI)

A numerical index used for reporting severity of air pollution levels to the public. It replaces the formerly used Pollutant Standards Index (PSI).

Air Quality Standard

The concentration of a pollutant, and associated averaging period, which is without significant effect on human health at a population level.


Non-living chemical and physical factors of the environment


The process of an organism adjusting to chronic change in its environment.


Requiring air or oxygen; used in reference to decomposition processes that occur in the presence of oxygen.


Solid or liquid particles suspended within the atmosphere.


Planting new forests on lands that have not been recently forested.

Algal bloom 
The rapid and excessive growth of algae; generally caused by high nutrient levels combined with other favourable conditions. Blooms can deoxygenate the water leading to the loss of wildlife.


(Sustainability) an ecologically based farming system, that, through the integration of trees in farms, increases social, environmental and economic benefits to land users.


The invisible gaseous substance surrounding the earth, a mixture mainly of oxygen and nitrogen.

Ambient Air

The air directly in our surrounding environment.


Grouping, following establishment of scattered colonizing invaders as a result of propagation.

Reducing the degree of intensity of, or eliminating, pollution

Age Gradation 

An age class with one year as the interval. Loosely used sometimes as synonymous with age class.

Age Classification 

The division of a crop according to differences in age; or the allotment of woods to age classes.

Age Class Distribution 

The local occurrence, or proportionate representation, of different age classes in a forest.

Age Class 

One of the intervals into which the range of age of trees growing in a forest is divided for classification or use; also the trees falling into such an interval


Conforming to fact and therefore worthy of belief


Glossary - B


The absorption of toxic chemicals in plants and animals; some time referred to as bioconcentration.


An agent that kills many organisms in the environment.


Able to be broken into simpler chemical compounds by microorganisms. Organic materials are biodegradable.


Able to be broken down into simpler substances (elements and compounds) by naturally occurring decomposers. Essentially, anything that can be ingested by an organism without causing that organism harm.


Decomposition or breakdown of a substance through the action of microorganisms (such as bacteria or fungi) or other natural physical processes (such as sunlight).

Biodegradable material

Materials that can be broken down by micro organisms into simple stable compounds such as carbon dioxide and water. Most organic material such as food scraps and paper are biodegradable


Biodiesel is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as a pure fuel or as a fuel additive and is a legal fuel in commerce. It is typically produced through the reaction of a vegetable oil or animal fat with methanol in the presence of a catalyst to yield glycerin and biodiesel (chemically called methyl esters). It is an alternative fuel that can be used by itself or blended with petroleum diesel for use in diesel engines. Its use can result in substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter.


It refers to the variety and the variability among living organisms. These include diversity within species, between species, ecosystems etc.

Blue water scarcity

The ratio of blue water footprint to blue water availability. Blue water scarcity varies within the year and from year to year.


A branch of geography that deals with the geographical distribution of animals and plants.


A rule made by a local authority to govern activities within the area it controls. Examples include bye-laws covering waste disposal, traffic or public events or signs.


Brainstorming is a way to generate ideas within a group setting. It is usually used in the beginning stages of a project, where the possibilities for the project are not clearly understood or defined. It provides a quick means for tapping the creativity of a limited number of people for a large number of ideas.

Glossary - C


When two or more organisms compete to use the same resource; may be inter- or intra-specific.

A relationship between two organisms of different species in which one organisms benefits, while the other is generally neither helped nor harmed.
Coastal plain

Large, nearly level areas of land near ocean shores.


When animals group together in an area.


An organism that obtains energy by feeding on other organisms and their remains.

A pre-mating behavior where the male tries to woo or court the female in order to mate.


Convention on Biological Diversity.






Whether of the earth as a whole or of a single location, Climate is often described as the synthesis of prevailing weather recorded over a long period of time.

Coastal Plain

Large, nearly level areas of land near ocean shores.

Case study 

A medical or epidemiologic evaluation of one person or a small group of people to gather information about specific health conditions and past exposures.

Carbon sink

Carbon sink is a natural or artificial reservoir that accumulates and stores somecarbon-containing chemical compound for an indefinite period. The process by whichcarbon sinks remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere is known as carbon sequestration.

Carbon sequestration

Carbon sequestration means capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere or capturing anthropogenic (human) CO2 from large-scale stationary sources like power plants before it is released to the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

A naturally occurring greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, concentrations of which have increased (from 280 parts per million in preindustrial times to over 350 parts per million today) as a result of humans' burning of coal, oil, natural gas and organic matter (e.g., wood and crop wastes).


Glossary - D

 Domestic waste

Waste produced within the home, including garden waste. See also household waste.


Non-living particulate organic material (as opposed to dissolved organic material).


Any one of a number of chemical compounds that are persistent organic pollutants and are carcinogenic.


A condition in trees or woody plants in which peripheral parts are killed, either by parasites or due to conditions such as acid rain.

Diversion rate

The proportion of a potentially recyclable material that has been diverted out of the waste disposal stream and therefore not directed to landfill.


Consumers, mostly microbial, that change dead organic matter into minerals and heat.


The biochemical decomposition of organic matter using anaerobic bacteria, which results in the formation of simpler and less offensive compounds.


These are usually the smaller pipes that serve a single property, and they join up to form a Drainage System. There may be foul water, and surface water drains, which are usually in separate systems.


It is the ratio of persons, households or volume of building or development to some unit of land area.


The act of sending off something.



Inequality or difference in some respect.


Glossary - E


A community of organisms that depend on each other and the environment they inhabit.


A property of all systems which can be turned into heat and measured in heat units.


In the environmental sense, the planned dispersement of toxic or waste facilities in regions throughout the socioeconomic strata.


A prefix now added to many words indicating a general consideration for the environment e.g. ecohousing, ecolabel, ecomaterial.

Ecologically sustainable development -

Using, conserving and enhancing the human community's resources so that ecological processes, on which all life depends, can be maintained and enriched into the future.


A study of the relation of organisms to their environment, or in more simple terms, environmental biology.


Effluent means liquid discharged as waste. Industries discharge effluents into water and air, causing pollution. So does sewage disposal.


The surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates.

Glossary - F

Fossil fuel

Coal, oil and natural gas. A fuel that’s been made by the decomposition of fossilised plants and animals.


Water containing no significant amounts of salt; potable water suitable for all normal uses cf. potable water.


Term referring collectively to all animals in an area. The zoological counterpart of flora.


Term collectively applied to all of the plants in an area. The botanical counterpart of fauna.

Food Chain

A succession of organisms in an ecological community that constitutes a continuation of food energy from one organism to another as each consumes a lower member and in turn is preyed upon by a higher member.

Food web

A network of food chains or feeding relationships by which energy and nutrients are passed on from one species of living organisms to another.

Glossary - G


Means animal and vegetable wastes and residue from preparation, cooking and dispensing of food and from the handling, processing, storage and sale of food products and produce.

Genetic diversity

One of the three levels of biodiversity that refers to the total number of genetic characteristics.

Global warming potential

A system of multipliers devised to enable warming effects of different gases to be compared.

Green architecture

Building design that moves towards self-sufficiency sustainability by adopting circular metabolism.

Green Revolution

The ongoing transformation of agriculture that led in some places to significant increases in agricultural production between the 1940s and 1960s.

Greenhouse effect

The insulating effect of atmospheric greenhouse gases (e.g., water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, etc.) that keeps the Earth's temperature about 60 °F (16 °C) warmer than it would be otherwise cf. enhanced greenhouse effect.

Greenhouse gas

Components of the atmosphere that contribute to the greenhouse effect.


Dramatic changes in the structure and dynamic behaviour of ecosystems.


Household waste water that has not come into contact with toilet waste; includes water from baths, showers, bathrooms, washing machines, laundry and kitchen sinks.


Water that collects or flows underground in the small spaces in soil and rock. It might be a source of water for springs and wells and then used for drinking water. 

Glossary - H


A number scale used to standardize measurements so they can be more easily compared across locations and time.


Industrial waste

Waste resulting from any process of industry, manufacturing, trade or business; from development of any natural resource; from any mixture of the waste with water or normal wastewater; and wastewater containing pollutants in higher concentrations than normal domestic sewage as defined in this section.


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The IPCC was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the UN Environment Programme to provide the scientific and technical foundation for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), primarily through the publication of periodic assessment reports.



Regularized patterns of interaction by which society organizes itself: the rules, practices and conventions that structure human interaction.

Glossary - I



Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite(TCP/IP) to link several billion devices worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks, of local to global scope, that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies.

Glossary - J


Juvenile water

Juvenile water is water that exists within, and in equilibrium with, a magma or water-rich volatile fluids that are derived from a magma. It is also called as Magmatic water.

Glossary - K

Kyoto Protocol

A protocol to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted at the Third Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. It contains legally binding commitments, in addition to those included in the UNFCCC.


Kinetic Energy 

The energy possessed by a body because of its motion.



Glossary - L


Land use

The human use of land for a certain purpose. Influenced by, but not synonymous with, land cover.


A landslide or landslip is a geological phenomenon which includes a wide range of ground movement, such as rockfalls, deep failure of slopes and shallow debris flows, which can occur in offshore, coastal and onshore environments. Although the action of gravity is the primary driving force for a landslide to occur, there are other contributing factors affecting the original slope stability. Typically, pre-conditional factors build up specific sub-surface conditions that make the area/slope prone to failure, whereas the actual landslide often requires a trigger before being released.


Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE). Mission LiFE will focus on nudging individuals, communities and institutions to practice simple environment-friendly actions (LiFE actions) in their daily lives and 75 such individual LiFE actions across 7 categories have been identified in view of Mission LiFE being launched in the 75th year of India’s independence.

Glossary - M



A class of animals that have backbones, are warm-blooded, breath air, and whose females have milk-secreting glands for feeding their young. There are 19 orders and over 5,000 species of mammals, ranging from the 2 inch shrew to the 100 foot whale.


Medical wastes

Isolation wastes, infectious agents, human blood and blood products, pathological wastes, sharps, body parts, contaminated bedding, surgical wastes, potentially contaminated laboratory wastes, and dialysis wastes.


Management information system (MIS)

An automated system designed to provide progress and status information to management as an aid to decision making.



Mainstreaming the environment into development policy making means that environmental considerations are considered in the design of policies for development.

Glossary - N



The approximately 20 chemical elements known to be essential for the growth of living organisms, including nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorous and carbon.


Nutrient pollution

Contamination of water resources by excessive inputs of nutrients.



Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural, physical, or material world or universe. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. It ranges in scale from the subatomicto to the cosmic.

Glossary - O



Organization is an entity, such as an institution or an association, that has a collective goal and is linked to an external environment.


Ozone layer

Ozone layer refers to a region of Earth's stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun's UV radiation. 


Ozone hole

Ozone hole is an annual thinning of the ozone layer or Antarctica, caused by stratospheric chlorine.

Glossary - P



Pesticides are substances meant for attracting, seducing, destroying, or mitigating any pest. They are a class of biocide.


Phytoremediation, meaning "plant", and Latin remedium, meaning "restoring balance") describes the treatment of environmental  problems (bioremediation) through the use of plants that mitigate the environmental problem without the need to excavate the contaminant material and dispose of it elsewhere.



Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change.



Poverty is general scarcity or dearth, or the state of one who lacks a certain amount of material possessions or money.


A premise used for recreational leisure activity. It may have on it related landscaping, parking facility, public toilet, fencing etc. It will include synonyms like lawn, open space, green etc.

Glossary - Q



In general, a query is a form of questioning, in a line of inquiry.



Quantity is a property that can exist as a magnitude or multitude. Quantities can be compared in terms of "more", "less" or "equal", or, by assigning a numerical value in terms of a unit of measurement. 

Glossary - R


Raw materials

Meaning of abbrevation : Materials that are extracted from the ground and processed e.g. bauxite is processed into aluminium.


Remote sensing

The acquisition and processing of information about a distant object or phenomenon without any physical contact; often done from satellites.


Rainwater harvesting

It is the process of collecting and storing rainwater in a from electrodialysis, where the salts are extracted from the feedwater by using a membrane with an electrical current to separate the ions. The positive ions go through one membrane, while the negative ions flow through a different membrane, leaving the end product of freshwater.

Glossary - S

Glossary - T



Tsunami is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, generally an ocean or a large lake.



It is a large receptacle or storage chamber, especially for liquid or gas.



A systematic method of classifying plants and animals. Classification of organisms based on degrees of similarity purportedly representing evolutionary (phylogenetic) relatedness.


Glossary - U



Urbanization is the increasing number of people that live in urban areas. It predominantly results in the physical growth of urban areas, be it horizontal or vertical. 


Ultraviolet (UV) radiation

It is a major risk factor for most skin cancers. Sunlight is the main source of UV rays. Tanning lamps and beds are also sources of UV rays. People who get a lot of UV exposure from these sources are at greater risk for skin cancer.

Glossary - V


Vermicomposting is the process of having redworms and other decomposer organisms process our organic waste and turn it into a great natural fertilizer.


Vulnerable species

Naturally rare organisms or species whose numbers have been so reduced by human activities that they are susceptible to actions that could push them into threatened or endangered status.


Volatile organic compounds: (VOC) 

Non-methane hydrocarbon gases. Released during combustion or evaporation of fuel.


vascular bundle 

Groups of xylem, phloem and cambium cells in stems of plants descended from the procambium embryonic tissue layer.


vascular system 

Specialized tissues for transporting þuids and nutrients in plants; also plays a role in supporting the plant; one of the four main tissue systems in plants.



Glossary - W



A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire in an area of combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or a wilderness area


Water quality

Water quality refers to the chemical, physical, biological, and radiological characteristics of water. It is a measure of the condition of water relative to the requirements of one or more biotic species and or to any human need or purpose.



It is a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, such that it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem.


Waste management

it is the "generation, prevention, characterization, monitoring, treatment, handling, reuse and residual disposition of solid wastes.


Glossary - Z

 Zero Emission

An engine, motor or other energy source that does not produce any gas or release any harmful gases directly into the environment.

Zero Population Growth (ZPG)

The number of births at which people are just replacing themselves; also called the replacement level of fertility.


Zero tillage

Zero tillage (No-tillage) is a minimum tillage practice in which the crop is sown directly into soil not tilled since the harvest of the previous crop. Weed control is achieved by the use of herbicides and stubble is retained for erosion control. It is typically practiced in arable areas where fallowing is important.


Zone of aeration

Upper soil layers that hold both air and water.


Zone of saturation

Lower soil layers where all spaces are filled with water.


A hybrid animal that results from breeding zebras and horses.