Adaptation: (1) genetic changes driven by natural selection that increase individual fitness in a given environment; (2) physical or behavioural changes to accommodate changing conditions

Adaptive management: reducing decision-making uncertainties by monitoring and analyzing the outcomes of alternative management actions; learning by doing.

Alien species: a species living outside of its native range; also known as exotic species

Alleles: different forms of the same gene resulting from mutations of the DNA sequence

Allee effect: the positive relationship between the number of individuals in a population and the reproduction and survival of individuals

Alpha diversity: the species diversity that exists at a specific site (local-scale diversity)

Anthropocentric: an ethical perspective holding that humans are the most important elements of the world

Anthropogenic: originating from human activity

Assisted migration (or colonization): a climate adaptation measure that entails directly facilitating the movement of a species into suitable habitat outside of its historical range

Augmentation: the release of new individuals into an existing population to increase its size or genetic diversity


Beta diversity: a measure of the difference in species composition among sites

Bioamplification: the concentration of toxins in animals at the top of the food chain.

Biocentric: an ethical perspective holding that all life deserves equal moral consideration or has equal moral standing

Bioclimatic envelope model: a statistical model that describes the range of a species or the spatial distribution of an ecosystem as a function of the prevailing climatic conditions

Biodiversity: the variety of life in all its forms and at all levels of organization

Biological control: the release of a species, usually a predator or pathogen, to control a pest population

Biome: a major biological community that has formed in response to particular climatic conditions over a large geographic area


Carrying capacity: the number of individuals or biomass of a species that an ecosystem can support over the long term

Climate adaptation: adjusting to the effects of climate change

Climate mitigation: efforts to reduce the amount of future climate change, mostly through limits on the release of greenhouse gases

Climate refugia: areas where climatic conditions are expected to remain relatively stable or change very slowly despite progressive global warming

Climate velocity: the distance a climate envelope shifts per unit of time

Coarse-filter approach: (1) an approach to reserve design that entails protecting a representative sample of major ecosystem types; (2) a synonym for ecosystem-level conservation efforts

Community: an interacting group of species in a given location; the living members of an ecosystem

Competition: the interaction between individuals, groups, and species related to the acquisition of a limited resource

Connectivity: the degree to which a landscape facilitates or impedes the movement of animals and plants

Conservation easement: an approach to conservation in which a private landowner gives up certain legal rights concerning development, typically in exchange for tax benefits

Conservation practitioner: an individual with some form of conservation expertise working on applied conservation issues

Conservation triage: see optimal resource allocation

Contiguous: sharing a common border

Corridor: a special management zone intended to facilitate movement across barriers or to connect fragmented landscapes

COSEWIC: Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada; a body that oversees the assessment of species and makes recommendations regarding their listing as species at risk

Cost-benefit analysis: a component of decision making in which the positive and negative aspects of a proposed management action are tallied and compared, often in dollar terms.

Critical habitat: under the Species at Risk Act, the habitat necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species


Demography: the study of population traits such as abundance, density, sex ratio, and rates of birth and death which together determine the dynamics of populations

Demographic stochasticity: random variations in the sex ratio and the rates of reproduction and death that can contribute to the decline of small populations

Density dependence: the regulation of population growth rates by factors related to population density, such as competition for food

Density independence: the regulation of population growth rates by factors unrelated to population density, such as catastrophic disturbances

Designatable units: a population, subspecies, or species that COSEWIC considers to be a discrete, evolutionarily significant unit for the purpose of assessment and listing

Dispersal: the movement of young plants and animals away from their parents


Easement: See conservation easement.

Ecological integrity: the degree to which an assemblage of organisms maintains its composition, structure, and function over time relative to a comparable assemblage that has been unaltered by human actions

Ecological niche: (1) the range of biotic and abiotic conditions necessary for species persistence; (2) the ecological role and position a species in an ecosystem

Ecological threshold: the point where an ecological indicator transitions from showing little response to increasing levels of a driver to a disproportionately large response

Ecosystem: a group of interacting organisms and the physical environment they inhabit

Ecosystem structure: the spatial arrangement of ecosystem components across multiple scales

Ecosystem composition: the variety and abundance of species in a given system

Ecosystem function: the ecological processes characteristic of living systems, such as succession, nutrient cycling, predation, and dispersal

Ecological reference state: the state of selected ecosystem indicators used as a target for management; often derived from the reconstructed preindustrial condition

Ecosystem management: a systems approach to resource management that places a priority on maintaining ecological structures and functions

Ecosystem services: benefits provided to human society from natural ecosystems

Ecotone: the transitional zone between two ecosystem types

Ecoregion: a coarse-scale unit of ecosystem classification featuring a relatively constant mix of environmental conditions and relatively distinct flora and fauna

Edge effects: the alterations in physical and biological conditions at the margins of habitat patches resulting from external influences

Endemic: (1) occurring in a place naturally; a native species; (2) describing a species as being found only in one geographic location, such as an island or nation

Environmental impact assessment: the part of a project approval process that examines the potential environmental consequences associated with a particular development

Environmental stochasticity: random variations in environmental conditions experienced by a population or community; a contributor to the decline of small populations

Eutrophication: an increase in the amount of nutrients in ecosystems as a result of human activities, especially agriculture

Evapotranspiration: the transfer of water to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and other surfaces and by transpiration from plants

Exotic species: see alien species

Extinction debt: species extinctions that are anticipated but delayed by biological lag effects

Extinction vortex: the synergistic action of demographic, genetic, and environmental processes that drive small populations to extinction

Extirpation: the extinction of a species from a specific geographic area; local extinction


Fitness: an individual’s ability to grow, survive, and reproduce

Flagship species: a charismatic species that garners support for conservation

Focal species: a species of social significance that is the focus of management planning efforts

Frame: a mental construct that shapes the way we see the world and think about problems


Gamma diversity: the species diversity that exists across a broad region

Gene flow: the transfer of genetic material among populations arising from the movement of individuals

Gene pool: the total array of genes and alleles in a population

Genotype: the particular combination of alleles possessed by an individual


Habitat: the physical and biological environment using by an individual, population, or species

Habitat fragmentation: the transformation of contiguous habitat into a collection of small, isolated habitat patches through habitat loss

Heterogeneity: the state of being diverse in composition or character

Homogeneity: the state of being uniform in composition or character

Hot spots: areas identified as conservation priorities because of high species richness or high endemism


Inbreeding depression: the loss of fitness in small populations resulting from mating among related individuals

Indicator: a measurable system component or attribute used to assess the status of a system or a specific management objective

Industrial footprint: the cumulative modification of a natural landscape resulting from industrial activities.

Invasive species: species with high potential for expansion into new ecosystems; usually alien species

Irreplaceability: in reserve design, a description of planning units that cannot be substituted because they contain features not found elsewhere

IUCN: International Union for the Conservation of Nature


Keystone species: species that play a critical role in ecosystem function, above what would be expected from their abundance


Land ethic: a foundational concept underpinning Ecosystem-scale conservation first advanced by Aldo Leopold; nature is seen as an integrated system that needs to be managed as a whole


Maximum sustained yield: a harvest rate tuned to the natural demographics of a population such that production and harvest are maximal and non-declining

Metapopulation: a population that is divided into subpopulations as a result of natural or anthropogenic habitat fragmentation and which is linked by intermittent migration

Minimum viable population: the smallest population size able to persist over a defined interval at a given level of probability (e.g., a 99% chance of surviving over the next 100 years)

Mitigation measures: actions taken to prevent or reduce the adverse environmental effects of a project or other human activities


Natural: the state of a species or system unaffected by the activities of modern society

Natural disturbance model: the modification of industrial practices such that anthropogenic disturbances approximate the effects of natural disturbances

Natural range of variability (NRV): a statistical summary of the mean and variance of biotic elements and processes in a given area under natural conditions

Niche: see ecological niche

Normative: in science, research that is developed, presented, or interpreted based on an assumed preference for a particular policy


Offset: the restoration of an external site to compensate for unavoidable habitat losses from an industrial project

Old-growth forest: the stage in forest stand succession where natural senescence of the initial cohort of trees leads to individual tree replacement and increased structural complexity

Optimal resource allocation: in conservation, the efficient allocation of available resources to maximize conservation benefits

Opportunity cost: in the context of trade-off decisions, the values foregone when choosing one course of action over another


Path dependence: a situation where decisions made in the past constrain what is feasible in the present

Perturbation: A deviation of a system or process from its normal state or path, caused by an outside influence

Phenotype: the morphological, physiological, and biochemical characteristics of an individual arising from the expression of its genotype in a particular environment

Population: a group of individuals that live in a particular geographical area and normally breed with one another

Population viability analysis: a modeling approach for predicting a population’s likelihood of persistence on the basis of demographic parameters

Precautionary principle: a management concept which states that measures to prevent environmental degradation should not be delayed because of a lack of full scientific certainty

Preindustrial baseline: the environmental conditions prior to industrial development, commonly used as a proxy for the natural state in conservation initiatives


Ratchet effect: see shifting baseline

Reclamation: the repair of damage to a degraded site without necessarily recreating the original ecosystem

Reintroduction: The release of captive bred or Wild-collected individuals into a part of their historical range where they no longer occur

Remote sensing: the use of high-resolution imagery from satellites and aircraft to study the earth’s surface, often for the purpose of landscape classification and monitoring

Replacement cost: the estimated value of an ecosystem service based on the cost of replacing it with a human-based alternative

Rescue effect: the process whereby extirpation of small populations is prevented through immigration from other subpopulations

Reserve: a synonym for protected area

Resilience: the ability of a species or ecosystem to return to its original state after a disturbance

Resource selection function: a statistical model used to explain and predict habitat selection by individuals at the local scale

Restoration: the process of returning a degraded ecosystem to its natural state

Richness: the number of different species at a site or within a region


Salvage logging: the removal of standing dead trees after fire or other disturbance

Species at Risk Act (SARA): federal legislation governing the recovery of Canadian species at risk

Scenarios: in planning applications, alternative visions of how the future might unfold, chosen to foster learning about the management of a system

Sensitivity analysis: a modelling technique used to identify the most influential variables in a system as well as the main sources of uncertainty

Shifting mosaic: the complex, everchanging landscape pattern created by the turnover of habitat patches from disturbance and succession

Shifting baseline: where conservation objectives are reset each generation based on existing conditions, locking in losses that have already occurred

Silviculture: the practice of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, and quality of forests to meet specified management objectives

Sink population: a population existing in suboptimal conditions that must rely on immigration to remain viable

SLOSS: a debate concerning the design of protected areas focused on the relative merits of having a single large or several small reserves

Social licence: the standards that organizations must meet to achieve acceptance of their operations by local communities, stakeholders, and the public

Source population: a population that is intrinsically viable and can serve as a source of emigrants to other areas

Species: in conservation applications, a group of individuals capable of interbreeding under natural conditions

Species at risk: species listed as threatened or endangered under federal or provincial law and subject to special protection and recovery planning

Stochasticity: random variation in a ecological or environmental processes, such as weather, natural disturbances, and reproduction

Succession: the gradual and sequential process of change in ecosystem composition and structure following natural or anthropogenic disturbance

Sustainable development: development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs

Sustainable forest management: forestry designed to maintain and enhance the long-term health of forest ecosystems while providing benefits to present and future generations

Systematic conservation planning: a framework for reserve design featuring optimization methods for achieving comprehensive representation of biodiversity elements and the maximization of other design features


Telemetry: the collection of information using a remote transmitter, such as an animal collar fitted with a GPS unit

Trade-off: the necessity of giving up one thing to get something else when a constraint or incompatibility prevents the simultaneous achievement of multiple objectives

Tragedy of the Commons: a resource management problem in which the users of a shared resource end up depleting it through the narrow pursuit of self interest

Translational ecology: an approach in which conservation practitioners, stakeholders, and decision makers work together to develop research that addresses the practical dimensions of an environmental problem

Translocation: the intentional release of organisms from one area into another

Triad approach: a form of landuse zonation that includes a sustainable use zone, an intensive management zone, and a fully protected zone


Umbrella species: species with large home ranges and broad habitat requirements that can serve as surrogates for other species in habitat management initiatives

Utilitarian perspective: a viewpoint that emphasizes the direct benefits of biological systems and components to humans


Values: deeply held beliefs about what is desirable, right, and appropriate


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