• Withdrawal of water from the environment for human use.

  • Removal of water from a water store.

  • The process of becoming more acidic (i.e. lowering the pH). Soils tend to become acidic through natural leaching and weathering, and as a result of some agricultural practices such as loss of organic material and overuse of nitrogenous fertilisers. The ocean is becoming more acidic as atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels rise and the concentration of dissolved CO2 in sea water increases, forming carbonic acid.

  • Shifts (e.g. in behaviour, management practices, biology) in response to change that support survival; responses that decrease the negative effects of change and capitalise on opportunities.

  • A systematic process for continually improving policies and practices by learning from the outcome of previously used policies and practices.

  • A group of pollutants found in ambient air, usually at relatively low concentrations, including heavy metals and many types of volatile and semivolatile organic compounds. These include known or suspected carcinogens and pollutants linked to other serious health impacts, including birth defects, and developmental, respiratory and immune system problems.

  • A region where topography and meteorology limit the movement of air pollutants from the area.

  • A sudden proliferation of algae (microscopic plants) that occurs near the surface of a body of water. Blooms can occur due to natural nutrient cycles, or can be in response to eutrophication or climate variations. See also eutrophication.

  • A correlation between the size of a population and the individuals’ fitness.

  • Outdoor air.

  • Features, benefits and advantages of the built environment, including the character and appearance of buildings and works; proximity to shopping facilities; quality of infrastructure; and absence of noise, unsightliness or offensive odours.

  • A type of water mass that forms around Antarctica. It is very cold and salty, and therefore dense.

  • The area south of 60°S.

  • Caused by human factors or actions.

  • Parts or features of the natural environment that provide environmental functions or services.

  • The variety of all life forms. There are 3 levels of biodiversity: genetic diversity—the variety of genetic information contained in individual plants, animals and microorganis; species diversity—the variety of species; ecosystem diversity—the variety of habitats, ecological communities and ecological processes.

  • Produced by living organisms or biological processes.

  • The quantity of living biological organisms in a given area or ecosystem at a given time (usually expressed as a weight per unit area or volume).

  • A large geographically distinct area that has a similar climate, geology, landform, and vegetation and animal communities. The Australian land mass is divided into 85 bioregions under the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia. Australia’s marine area is divided into 41 provincial bioregions under the Interim Marine and Coastal Regionalisation for Australia.

  • A large, geographically distinct area that has a similar climate, geology, landform, and vegetation and animal communities.

  • Processes, programs and structures in place to prevent entry by, or to protect people and animals from, the adverse impacts of invasive species and pathogens.

  • Living organisms in a given area; the combination of flora, fauna, fungi and microorganisms.

  • When organic material is inundated or washed into waterways and consumed by bacteria, leading to a sudden depletion of dissolved oxygen in the water.

  • When salt is forced out of the ice as sea ice forms.

  • A measure that combines the global warming effect of the 6 greenhouse gases listed in Annex A of the Kyoto Protocol—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)—into a single meaningful number. Specifically, CO2-e represents the carbon dioxide emissions that would cause the same heating of the atmosphere as a particular mass of an Annex A greenhouse gas.

  • Processes to remove carbon from the atmosphere, involving capturing and storing carbon in vegetation, soil, oceans or another storage facility.

  • The Australian Government’s central environment program since 2008, which funds environmental management, protection and restoration.

  • A change of climate attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and is additional to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods (under the terms of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).

  • A type of natural gas found in coal deposits (coal seams). It largely comprises methane gas.

  • Also known as ‘Commonwealth waters’; refers to any part of the sea—including the waters, seabed and airspace—within Australia’s exclusive economic zone and/or over the continental shelf of Australia, excluding state and Northern Territory coastal waters. Generally, the Commonwealth marine area stretches from 3 nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline to the outer limit of the exclusive economic zone, 200 nautical miles from the baseline. The territorial sea baseline is normally the low water mark along the coast.

  • A reserve established and managed under Division 4 of Part 15 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, which must be assigned an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) category; it may be subdivided into a number of different zones with different management objectives and IUCN categories.

  • A naturally occurring group of species inhabiting a particular area and interacting with each other, especially through food relationships, relatively independently of other communities. Also, a group of people associated with a particular place.

  • The ‘health’ of a species or community, which includes factors such as the level of disturbance from a natural state, population size, genetic diversity, and interaction with invasive species and diseases.

  • Linkages between habitat areas; the extent to which particular ecosystems are joined with others; the ease with which organisms can move across the landscape.

  • Conserving or re-establishing interconnected areas and corridors of vegetation to protect linked ecosystems and the species within them.

  • Protection and management of living species, communities, ecosystems or heritage places; protection of a site to allow ongoing ecosystem function or to retain natural or cultural significance (or both) and to maximise resilience to threatening processes.

  • The legal continental shelf is defined under article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: ‘where not limited by delimitation with another state (country), it will extend beyond the territorial sea to a minimum of 200 nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline. In some places where certain physical characteristics of the seabed are met it can extend further’. This differs from the geoscientific definition of a continental shelf: the seabed adjacent to a continent (or around an island) extending from the low water line to a depth at which there is usually a marked increase of slope towards oceanic depths. This increase of slope usually occurs at water depths of 200 metres around the Australian continent.

  • When the coral host expels its zooxanthellae (marine algae living in symbiosis with the coral) in response to increased water temperatures, often resulting in the death of the coral.

  • A linear landscape structure that links habitats and helps movement of, and genetic exchange among, organisms between these habitats.

  • At extreme risk of extinction in the wild; the highest category for listing of a threatened species or community under the criteria established by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth).

  • When the condition of an ecosystem, species or community has decreased. It usually represents more than just a decrease in numbers of individuals, and describes the result of several interacting factors (e.g. decreasing numbers, decreasing quality or extent of habitat, increasing pressures). Where ‘decline’ is applied to elements of environments (e.g. condition of vegetation as habitat), it usually means that changes have been sufficient to potentially affect the viability of species relying on these elements.

  • Associated with the region just above the sea floor.

  • A temporary change in average environmental conditions that disrupts an ecosystem, community or population, causing short-term or long-term effects. Disturbances include naturally occurring events such as fires and floods, as well as anthropogenic disturbances such as land clearing and the introduction of invasive species.

  • A major continental-scale water catchment; Australia has been classified into 12 drainage divisions.

  • Representation of the catchments of major surface-water drainage systems, generally comprising a number of river basins. Thirteen drainage divisions are defined for Australia in the Australian Hydrological Geospatial Fabric.

  • Overarching causes that can drive change in the environment; this report identifies climate change, population growth and economic growth as the main drivers of environmental change.

  • A study approach that integrates environmental and information sciences to define entities and natural processes.

  • The interrelationships among organisms, their environment(s) and each other; the ways in which organisms interact, and the processes that determine the cycling of energy and nutrients through natural systems.

  • See ecological processes.

  • An interrelated biological system comprising living organisms in a particular area, together with physical components of the environment such as air, water and sunlight.

  • Actions or attributes of the environment that are of benefit to humans, including regulation of the atmosphere, maintenance of soil fertility, food production, regulation of water flows, filtration of water, pest control and waste disposal. It also includes social and cultural services, such as the opportunity for people to experience nature.

  • A periodic extensive warming of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean that leads to a major shift in weather patterns across the Pacific. In Australia (particularly eastern Australia), El Niño events are associated with an increased probability of drier conditions. See also La Niña.

  • Output or discharge, as in the introduction of chemicals or particles into the atmosphere.

  • A system of market-based economic incentives to reduce the emission of pollutants.

  • At very high risk of extinction in the wild; in danger of extinction throughout all or a portion of its range; criteria are established by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth).

  • Unique to a spatially defined area; in this report used mainly to refer to large bioregions of the continent and marine environment.

  • The degree to which species and genes are found nowhere else; the number of endemic species in a taxonomic group or bioregion.

  • The Australian Government’s main environmental legislation; it provides the legal framework to protect and manage nationally and internationally important flora, fauna, ecological communities and heritage places.

  • Managed freshwater flow to natural water systems designed to maintain aquatic ecosystems.

  • Organisms living on the surface of the seabed or attached to submerged objects or aquatic animals or plants.

  • Excessive nutrients in a body of water, often leading to algal blooms or other adverse effects.

  • The marine seabed, subsoil and waters between the 3 nautical mile boundary and the 200 nautical mile boundary off the coast of Australia.

  • An area of continental shelf that extends beyond the Australian exclusive economic zone, the seabed of which forms part of Australia’s marine jurisdiction.

  • Areal coverage—for example, of vegetation or sea ice.

  • Areal coverage; for example, of vegetation or sea ice.

  • When there is no reasonable doubt that the last individual has died.

  • Where the outputs of a process affect the process itself.

  • Frequency, extent, intensity and timing of bushfires.

  • Interconnected food chains; a system of feeding connections in an ecosystem.

  • Isolation and reduction of areas of habitat, and associated ecosystems and species, often due to land clearing.

  • A location on a river or steam where instantaneous streamflow is physically measured. Also known as stream gauge or stream gauging station.

  • Resilience to unknown or unidentified pressures, disturbances or shocks.

  • Geographical area within which a species can be found.

  • Scientific study of landforms and the processes that shape them.

  • One thousand million litres.

  • A process that occurs when volatile chemicals evaporate in the warmer places in which they are used and condense in colder places.

  • See greenhouse effect.

  • Where thermal energy (infrared radiation) that otherwise would have been radiated into space is partially intercepted and reradiated (some of it downwards) by atmospheric greenhouse gases, resulting in warmer temperatures at the planet’s surface. The greenhouse effect has supported the development of life on Earth, however strengthening of the greenhouse effect through human activities is leading to climate change (also known as global warming).

  • Gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect, the most important of which are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), short-lived tropospheric ozone (O3), water vapour, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

  • The total market value of goods and services produced in a country in a given period, after deducting the cost of goods and services used in production but before deducting allowances for the consumption of fixed capital.

  • The value of output at basic prices minus the value of intermediate consumption at purchasers’ prices. The term is used to describe gross product by industry and sector. Using basic prices to value output removes the distortion caused by variations in the incidence of commodity taxes and subsidies across the output of individual industries.

  • Subsurface water in soils and geological formations that are fully saturated. See also surface water.

  • A wall or barrier built along a beach.

  • The environment where a plant or animal normally lives and reproduces.

  • All parts of the sea that are not included in the exclusive economic zone, territorial sea or the internal waters of a state.

  • The branch of geology that deals with the occurrence, distribution, movement and effect of groundwater. See also groundwater and surface water.

  • Related to water quality, movement and distribution.

  • The branch of science especially concerned with the movement and quality of water in relation to land.

  • The identification of layers of rock and sediment types as they relate to a groundwater bore.

  • When the physical effects of something lag behind the cause; a cause that does not have an immediate effect.

  • Animals that live in seabed sediments.

  • A set of 85 bioregions within the Australian landmass, used as the basis for the National Reserve System’s planning framework to identify land for conservation.

  • Non-native plants or animals that have adverse environmental or economic effects on the regions they invade; species that dominate a region as a result of loss of natural predators or controls.

  • An Australian state or territory, or under the control of the Australian Government.

  • Winds that are caused by local downwards motion of cool air.

  • A species that has a profound effect on a particular environment.

  • An international agreement that commits industrialised nations to stabilising the level of greenhouse gas emissions; the agreement is linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

  • A periodic extensive cooling of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. In Australia (particularly eastern Australia), La Niña events are associated with increased probability of wetter conditions in eastern Australia. See also El NiÑo.

  • Relating to lakes.

  • A shallow body of water, especially one separated from a sea by sandbars or coral reefs.

  • The management and modification of land for various uses, including agriculture, forestry, mining, industry and urban development.

  • An area of land comprising land forms and interacting ecosystems; an expanse of land, usually extensive, that can be seen from a single viewpoint.

  • Processes that affect the physical aspects of the landscape (e.g. weathering of rock formations, erosion, water flow).

  • Backboneless animals that can be seen with the naked eye, such as flies, worms, snails and spiders.

  • Aggregation of vegetation into distinct categories; Australia’s native vegetation has been classified into 23 major vegetation groups.

  • A significant, relatively sudden and potentially high-impact event, the timing of which is very hard to predict.

  • A significant shift in social, environmental, economic, technological or geopolitical conditions that has the potential to reshape the way an organisation, industry or society operates.

  • Small pieces of plastics, generally less than 1 millimetre in size, which can be found in the environment.

  • The recent drought in southern Australian that lasted from 2000 to 2010 (although in some areas it began as early as 1997).

  • Actions intended to reduce the likelihood of change or to reduce the impacts of change.

  • The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer aims to reduce or eliminate human use of substances that deplete the atmospheric ozone layer.

  • A 2012 publication that outlines a total water management approach for the Murray–Darling Basin.

  • Very small particles; generally between 1 and 100 nanometres in size.

  • Australia’s network of protected areas that conserve examples of natural landscapes, and native plants and animals. The system has more than 9300 protected areas, including federal, state and territory reserves, Indigenous lands, and protected areas run by conservation organisations or individuals.

  • The management of natural resources such as land, water, soil, plants and animals, with a focus on sustainable practices.

  • Notothenioidei is a suborder of fish, most of which are endemic to Antarctic waters.

  • A group of organisms that is new to an ecosystem, whether by natural or human introduction (therefore covers most invasive species).

  • NOx

    A generic term for nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide.

  • A zone of rapid nutrient change with depth in the water column.

  • Movement and exchange of organic and inorganic materials through the production and decomposition of living matter.

  • The process by which water bodies such as estuaries or embayments receive excess nutrients from a variety of sources (primarily agriculture, aquaculture and sewage), setting off a cascade of environmental changes.

  • The ability of the ocean’s surface to reflect energy into space.

  • The movement of water masses of different densities caused by variations in ocean salinity and temperature.

  • The reduction of the amount of ozone in the lower stratosphere above Antarctica that has occurred each spring since around 1980.

  • See stratospheric ozone.

  • Substances that break down stratospheric ozone, principally chlorofluorocarbons, freons and halons, used as refrigerants, industrial solvents and propellants in aerosol spray cans. These substances are stable and long-lived in the lower atmosphere, but drift up to the stratosphere where they break down through the action of ultraviolet radiation. This releases highly reactive atoms (chlorine and bromine) that react with ozone molecules and break them apart. See also stratospheric ozone.

  • Ancient endemism.

  • Relating to inland, nonflowing water.

  • A microorganism that causes harm to its living host.

  • Associated with the open ocean or upper waters of the ocean.

  • A region between the outer suburbs and the countryside.

  • A group of macroinvertebrates that are often used to assess water quality. See also macroinvertebrate.

  • pH

    A measure of acidity or alkalinity on a log scale from 0 (extremely acidic) through 7 (neutral) to 14 (extremely alkaline, or basic).

  • Timing of lifecycle events.

  • Referring to a chemical reaction that is triggered by the effect of light on molecules.

  • The genetic lineage of an organism.

  • A study approach that looks at the historical processes that may be responsible for the geographic distribution of species.

  • Study of historical processes that result in an animal’s geographic range or distribution.

  • Events, conditions or processes that result in degradation of the environment.

  • The production of organic compounds from atmospheric or aquatic carbon dioxide, principally through photosynthesis.

  • A measure of the influence a factor (such as greenhouse gases) has on altering the balance of incoming and outgoing energy in the Earth–atmosphere system. Warming of climate is a response to positive radiative forcing, while cooling is a response to negative radiative forcing.

  • An international treaty that provides a framework for the conservation and management of important wetland habitats.

  • Influx of new members into a population or habitat by reproduction, immigration or settlement. In fisheries management, recruitment represents influx into the fishable part of the stock of a target species.

  • Capacity of a system to experience shocks while retaining essentially the same function, structure and feedbacks, and therefore identity.

  • Capacity of a system to not change significantly when faced with a common range of natural disturbances.

  • Related to riverbanks or lake shores.

  • Relating to a river or riverbank.

  • Movement of water across the land, including into streams.

  • The process of becoming more salty; the accumulation of soluble salts (e.g. sodium chloride) in soil or water. Many Australian soils and landscapes contain naturally high levels of sodium salts held deep in the soil profile.

  • See salinisation.

  • The timing of annual ice advance and retreat, and duration of the resultant coverage.

  • Submerged mountain rising more than 1000 metres from the ocean floor, with its summit below the surface of the sea.

  • See carbon sequestration.

  • A state and/or area of reduced water velocity.

  • Fog mixed with smoke (i.e. mixing of particulate pollutants with water droplets). Photochemical smog results from the action of sunlight on nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons present in a polluted atmosphere.

  • A group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring.

  • Resilience to identified pressures, disturbances or shocks.

  • A condition where the state of a system tends to remain unchanged.

  • The formation of layers, classes or categories.

  • A layer of Earth’s atmosphere, beginning at an altitude of around 10 kilometres above Earth’s surface and extending to approximately 50 kilometres.

  • A layer of ozone in the stratosphere that limits the amount of harmful ultraviolet light passing through to lower layers of the atmosphere.

  • Any animal that lives in groundwater systems. See also groundwater.

  • Where action is taken by the lowest appropriate level of government.

  • A sudden bloom of phytoplankton (microscopic plants) that occurs near the surface of a body of water. See also algal bloom.

  • Using ‘natural resources within their capacity to sustain natural processes while maintaining the life-support systems of nature and ensuring that the benefit of the use to the present generation does not diminish the potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations’. (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, p. 815.) ‘Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. United Nations Brundtland Commission

  • A group of one or more organisms classified as a unit. Taxonomic categories include class, order, family, genus, species and subspecies.

  • One member of a group; singular of taxa.

  • Related to the classification and naming of species (taxonomy).

  • The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance, which provides standards and guidelines for cultural heritage management; Australia ICOMOS Inc. is the national chapter of the International Council on Monuments and Sites.

  • Likely to become endangered in the near future.

  • A process or activity that ‘threatens … the survival, abundance or evolutionary development of a native species or ecological community’ (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, p. 273) and which also may threaten the sustainability of resource use.

  • A boundary between two relatively stable states; a point where a system can go rapidly into another state, usually because of positive feedback(s).

  • The threshold at which a relatively small change in conditions leads to a large change in the state of a system, such as habitat structure, species composition, community dynamics, fire regimes, carbon storage or other important functions (Laurance et al. 2011), potentially resulting in a regime shift (a large, abrupt, persistent change in the structure and function of a system).

  • Criteria levels within guidelines that trigger action; specifically, those that indicate a risk to the environment and a need to investigate or fix the cause.

  • A framework that addresses social, environmental and financial factors.

  • Related to an organism’s place in a food chain. Low trophic levels are at the base of the chain (e.g. microorganisms, plankton); high trophic levels are at the top of the chain (e.g. dingoes, sharks).

  • The lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere. Its depth varies with latitude, averaging around 17 kilometres in the mid-latitudes.

  • A measure of water clarity or murkiness; an optical property that expresses the degree to which light is scattered and absorbed by molecules and particles in the water. Turbidity results from soluble coloured organic compounds and suspended particulate matter.

  • A measure of the light-scattering properties of water. This is an indicator of the presence of suspended solids.

  • When surface waters are blown offshore and replaced by cold, nutrient-rich water that rises from deeper depths.

  • The extent of area taken up by urban buildings and constructions.

  • The worth of environmental assets. Categories of environmental values include:indirect-use values: indirect benefits arising from ecological systems (e.g. climate regulation); direct-use values: goods and services directly consumed by users (e.g. food or medicinal products); non-use values (e.g. benevolence); intrinsic value (i.e. environmental assets have a worth of their own regardless of their usefulness to humans).

  • A systematic classification of vegetation condition by the degree of anthropogenic modification from a benchmark natural condition.

  • A group of carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature. Common VOCs include acetone, benzene, formaldehyde, methylene chloride, toluene and xylene. Different VOCs have different health effects, ranging from those that are highly toxic, to those with no known health effect. Some react with oxides of nitrogen in photochemical processes to generate a range of secondary pollutants (notably ozone).

  • At high risk of extinction in the wild; likely to become endangered unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve.

  • A regulatory and planning-based system of managing surface-water and groundwater resources for rural and urban use that aims to optimise economic, social and environmental outcomes.

  • The level below which the ground is saturated with water; the division between the subsurface region in which the pores of soil and rocks are effectively filled only with water, and the subsurface region in which the pores are filled with air and usually some water.

  • The groundwater surface in an unconfined aquifer or confining bed at which the pore pressure is atmospheric.

  • Weeds identified as a threat to Australian environments based on their invasiveness, potential for spread, and socio-economic and environmental impacts; 20 plant species are currently listed as WoNS.

  • An unplanned fire, whether accidentally or deliberately lit (in contrast to a planned or managed fire lit for specific purposes such as fuel reduction).