Knowledge Hub: Glossary

Glossary

 

Biodiversity

Biodiversity refers to the number and types of species that exist in the world.

Biodiversity Hotspots

A habitat with a high number of different species threatened with up to 70% destruction and degradation.

Bioindicators

Species that can be used as a measure of some aspects of an ecosystem's health.

Blue Carbon Sinks

Coastal ecosystems such as seagrass, mangroves, and saltmarshes  transfer and store carbon in their sediments and plant parts at rates far greater than those of land forests.

Camouflage

To hide by disguising.

Climate Change

A significant change in climate over long-lasting periods (decades to millions of years). The climate change we are currently experiencing is caused, to a large extent, by human-made (anthropogenic) or natural alterations of the natural world.

Conservation

The protection, restoration and preservation of the natural environment, its inhabitants and its resources

Coral Reefs

An environmental setting constructed by reef-building activities of coral and associated organisms beneath the surface of sea water

Denning

The habitat or retreat of a lion or similar wild animal; lair. a small or secluded room in a home, often used for carrying on a hobby. a squalid or wretched room or retreat. (source: dictionary.com)

Ecosystem

The combination of living and non-living things and their interactions that make up an environment. Living things include plants, bacteria and animals, while non-living elements include minerals, water, and sunlight.

Ecosystem Services

Benefits humans gain from a natural and healthy ecosystem: 1) provisions such as food and water 2) regulation such as pollination, air purification or carbon sequestration 3) support such as soil formation and nutrient cycling and 4culture such as ecotourism or the use of nature in religious, spiritual and therapeutic activities. 

Endemic Species

A native species that is only found in a particular area. The Bent-winged Firefly (Pteroptyx maipo) is a species that is endemic to Hong Kong, for example.

Environmental Impact/Environmental Disturbances

Impact that occurs to the environment as a result of a project (i.e. construction).

Extinction

The process in which groups of organisms die out.

Fauna

All life present in a particular region, habitat or time.

Flagship Species

A symbolic species of a habitat. The Chinese white dolphin (Sousa chinensis) is a flagship species for the Pearl River Estuary in Hong Kong. Flagship species may or may not be keystone species and may or may not be good indicators of biological process.

Flora

All plants present in a particular region, habitat or time.

Greenhouse Gases (GHG)

Gases trapped in the atmosphere that produce heat generated by fossil fuel- burning, industrial processes, agricultural activity, and the clearing of forests.  Examples include water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4), and ozone (O3).

Habitat

The natural environment a species lives in with living elements such as food provisions and a presence of predators or a lack thereof as well as non-living elements such as soil and temperature.

Habitat Loss

The deterioration of a natural habitat to a point where it can no longer sustain or provide the resources to support species as it once could. An example of this is the clear-cutting of forests.

Habitat Degradation

A decline in the quality of natural habitat through pollution, extreme weather and invasive species, reducing the survival of species population.

Habitat Fragmentation

A habitat that splits into smaller, isolated patches due to natural causes or human activity. Examples include volcanic activities, urbanisation and roads crisscrossing a forest environment.

Indicator Species

A species' presence, absence or abundance measure of the quality of the environment it lives in. A decrease means its community or ecosystem is threatened and an increase/stability indicates it is doing well with/tolerating the current conditions.

Indigenous Species

Indigenous species, or native species, refers to species present in an ecosystem as a result of natural processes, without human interruption.

Intertidal Zone/Littoral Zone

The foreshore and seashore exposed to air at low tide and water at high tide

Invasive Species

Foreign (non-indigenous) species introduced accidentally or purposefully to a new environment. These introduced species can have a negative impact on ecosystems because they dominate or compete with native species.  An example of an alien invasive species in Hong Kong is the Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus),  a fish from Africa which preys on native animals and quickly dominates aquatic ecosystems it is introduced to.

IUCN Red List

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) established the Red List of Threatened Species in 1964, an inventory for the conservation status and extinction risk of all biological species. It provides information on the current status, population trends (whether stable, increasing or decreasing), and the threats to the species to raise awareness on threatened biodiversity, influence decision making, and guide action plans to tackle the threats to biodiversity and biodiversity loss as a whole.

Keystone Species

The presence of a particular species crucial to an ecosystem - an absence of it would affect the existence of the ecosystem

Mangroves

Salt-tolerant trees that grow in the shallow tidal waters of some coastal areas. The naturally-occurring species of mangrove (Avicennia marina) found in Hong Kong, which grows in tidal coastal estuaries, is an example of this.

Marine Debris

Marine debris or marine litter has long been a problem and threat to marine life. Marine mammals, seabirds, and fish die each year from being entangled in or eating marine debris.

Marshes

Soft, wet, low-lying land with grassy vegetation, covered with water.

Migrating

The act of moving from one place to another.

Migratory Species

A significant proportion of a population predictably cross one or more national jurisdictional boundaries. For example, Black-faced Spoonbills (Platalea minor) migrate to Hong Kong from Northern China and Korea in the winter months to escape the cold.

Mitigation

Actions that minimise impact on natural ecosystems.

Mudflat

Flat unvegetated wetlands subject to periodic flooding and minor wave action.

Natural Resources

Elements that occur in nature which can be used or consumed by humans.

Nocturnal

The condition of being active or occurring during the night OR the active behavior of an animal or plant during the night (and then inactive during the day).

Overharvesting

Refers to harvesting a renewable or natural resource to the point of diminishing returns or at a rate that is unsustainable, given their natural rates of mortality and capacities for reproduction.

Pollution

The change in the environment caused by natural or artificial input of harmful contaminants into the environment, and may cause instability, disruption or harmful effects to the ecosystem.

Predator

An organism that lives by eating other organisms.

Protected Areas

A recognised geographical space managed through legal means to aid rehabilitation and the protection of habitats and species.

Relocation

To remove a habitat type or individuals of a species from one place to another location.

Renewable Energy

Energy that comes from natural resources that are replenished over a short time frame such as sunlight, wind, water streams, waves and tides, geothermal heat and biomass.

Reptile

Any of a class (Reptilia) of cold-blooded, air-breathing, usually egg-laying vertebrates that include the alligators and crocodiles, lizards, snakes and turtles, which is characterized by having lungs, a bony skeleton, scales or horny plates on the body and a heart with a single ventricle and two atria.

Reserves

Fossil fuel and minerals available for extraction.

Salt marsh

Intertidal areas populated by vegetation and shrubs.

Sandy Coastline

Sediment beaches which consist of carbonate sand.

Scrub Area

Area with low trees of inferior quality.

Seagrass

Subtidal areas characterized by greater than 10% cover of rooted vascular seagrass species.

Species

A basic unit of biological classification. Species can be loosely defined as a group of individual organisms similar in appearance, anatomy, physiology, and genetics.

Swamp

Wet, spongy land; soft, low ground filled with water; marshy ground away from the seashore.

Terrestrial

Relating to Earth or land; on or in.

Threatened species

Species vulnerable to endangerment in the near future.

Threats

An activity or process that has caused, is causing or may cause the destruction, degradation and/or impairment of biodiversity and natural processes. 

Vegetation

All plants and trees collectively, typically those in a specific region..

Webbed

Toes that are united by a membrane/web.

Wetland

A wetland is a place where the land is covered by water, either salt, fresh or somewhere in between. Marshes and ponds, the edge of a lake or ocean, the delta at the mouth of a river, low-lying areas that frequently flood are all wetlands.