The Indigenous peoples of Australia. ‘Aboriginal’ is a term extensively used and widely accepted throughout Australia when referring to Aboriginal peoples and topics. Aboriginal peoples are the first peoples of mainland Australia, who self-identify in distinct societies, each one a distinct “people”, for example Yorta Yorta people. 

See also First Nations and Indigenous people. 

All organic material that accumulates above the ground in both living biomass and dead structures (e.g. trees, crops, grasses, tree litter, dead wood). 

Withdrawal of water from the environment for human use. 

A flat, relatively featureless bottom of the ocean at a depth greater than 2,000 metres. 

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 and resilience; 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. 

In relation to environmental protection, how much of each ecosystem should be sampled to provide ecological viability and integrity of populations, species and ecological communities at a bioregional scale. The concept incorporates ecological viability and resilience of ecosystems for individual protected areas and for the protected area system as a whole (Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council 2010). 

(Indigenous); the rights and capacity of Indigenous people to speak for themselves and make their own self-determined choices. This includes representation, economic wellbeing, development and governance.  

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

A body of air, bounded by meteorology and topography, in which substance emissions are contained. 

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. 

Outdoor air.

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

A type of water mass that forms at the bottom of the ocean around Antarctica. It is very cold, salty and dense. 

The area south of 60°S. 

Caused by human factors or actions. 

Cultivation of aquatic and marine species such as fish, crustaceans, shellfish and algae, predominantly for use as human or animal food. 

An underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock or loose material such as gravel, sand or silt; aquifers may provide well or bore water. 

Part or feature of the natural environment that provides environmental functions or services, and holds value over a period of time. 

The Australian continental margin; the submerged zone consisting of the continental shelf, slope and rise that separates the terrestrial portion of a continent from the deep ocean floor. 


Whales that use baleen plates to feed by sieving plankton and other small organisms from the water. 

All organic and inorganic material that accumulates below the ground, and principally in soils to a depth of around 2 metres, both living and dead (e.g. tree roots, soil organisms and microbes, soil humus, organic and organic–mineral complexes of carbon). 

Associated with the sea floor. 

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 microorganisms 
  • species diversity – the variety of species  
  • ecosystem diversity – the variety of habitats, ecological communities and ecological 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. 

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. 

Species taken incidentally in a fishery where other species are the target. 


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, perfluorocarbons 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 Annex A greenhouse gases. 

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

(Indigenous); a process by which Indigenous people describe, connect, manage and perform their customary obligations to that Country, their kin and ancestors for present and future generations. It is also used to reference the Australian Indigenous movement of people asserting their rights and interests. 

An area of land determined by topographic features within which rainfall will contribute to run-off at a particular point. The catchment for a major river and its tributaries is usually referred to as a river basin. 

Whales, dolphins and porpoises. 

The green pigment in plants that functions in photosynthesis by absorbing light from the sun. 

Public participation and collaboration in scientific research with the aim to increase scientific knowledge. 

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 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. 

In relation to environmental protection, refers to the aim of including, within protected areas, samples of the full range of regional ecosystems recognisable at an appropriate scale within and across each bioregion under the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council 2010).  

See also representativeness. 

The ‘health’ of an aspect of the environment (e.g. species, community, heritage site), including factors such as the level of disturbance from a natural state and the level of resilience to pressures and disturbances. 

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

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 maximise resilience to threatening processes. 

Dependent on conservation efforts to prevent it from becoming endangered. 

See also Endangered. 

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. 

(Indigenous); an obligation or a commitment to achieve common outcomes shared among the Indigenous people living in their Country.  

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

(Indigenous); the Indigenous concept of everything within a cultural landscape, including the land or sea itself; the plants and animals within it; the history, culture and traditions associated with it; and the connections between people and the landscape. Country is a distinct geographic, cultural and ecological space that is common to a specific Indigenous people, group of peoples or local community. Tenure is held collectively – either legally or nonlegally – and resource definition and use, as well as cultural practice, is governed within a common property context. 

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 (Cth). 

Land owned by the Crown; nonfreehold land. Commonwealth Crown land is land vested to the Commonwealth; state and territory Crown land is vested to the specific state or territory. 

A group of mainly aquatic arthropods, including prawns, lobsters and crabs. 

(Indigenous); a dynamic process of upholding and reactivating relationships, values and spirituality over time and across generations. It is both the way and responsibility to receive, generate, process and transmit traditional knowledge, wisdom and practices from generation to generation through families, kinship structures, and connections to the place and ancestral memory. It is a determining factor of Indigenous identity and self-determination as a distinct people. 

(Indigenous); water that is released from holdings for Indigenous cultural purposes. ‘Water entitlements that are legally and beneficially owned by the Nations of a sufficient and adequate quantity and quality to improve the spiritual, cultural, natural, environmental, social and economic conditions of those Nations. These are our inherent rights.’ (MLDRIN Echuca Declaration, 2007) 

(Indigenous); landscapes that contain interrelated natural and cultural elements of heritage. 

(Indigenous); the experiential and nonmaterial services related to the perceived or realised qualities of ecosystem assets whose existence and functioning contributes to a range of cultural benefits derived by individuals. 

(Indigenous); the accepted ways of knowing and behaving, and a set of common understandings shared by members of a group or community. Includes land, language, ways of living, and working artistic expression, relationships and identity.  

(Indigenous); a person charged with maintaining and passing on particular elements of cultural significance (e.g. knowledge, stories, songs, dances, language, ritual, imagery). 

(Indigenous); laws based on traditions and customs of a particular Indigenous group in a specific region. Also referred to as ‘lore’. 


When the condition of an aspect of the environment has decreased to a point where its long-term viability is in question. It usually describes the result of several interacting factors (e.g. for species, reducing 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 means that changes have been sufficient to potentially affect the viability of species relying on those elements. 

Associated with the region just above the sea floor. 

(Indigenous); a decision by an Australian court or other recognised body that native title does or does not exist. A determination is made either when parties have reached an agreement after mediation (consent determination) or following a trial process (litigated determination). 

A temporary change in average environmental conditions that causes short or long-term effects to an area or aspect of the environment. 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. 

An identified water catchment; Australia has been classified into 12 drainage divisions. 

Overarching cause 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 system’s capacity to maintain composition, structure, functioning and self-organisation over time using processes and elements characteristic for its ecoregion and within a natural range of variability. 

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. 

Using, conserving and enhancing the community’s resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased. 

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

The ability of an ecosystem to generate an ecosystem service under current ecosystem condition, management and uses, at the highest yield or use level that does not negatively affect the future supply of the same or other ecosystem services from that ecosystem. 

The system properties of the ecosystem and its major abiotic and biotic components (water, soil, topography, vegetation, biomass, habitat and species) with examples of characteristics, including vegetation type, water quality and soil type. 

The quality of an ecosystem measured in terms of its abiotic and biotic characteristics. 

Actions or attributes of the environment 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 equatorial 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, usually used in relation to greenhouse gas emissions. 

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

At 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 (Cth). 

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. 

Interaction and consultation with external groups such as community or other stakeholders. Meaningful engagement is a 2-way process that receives input as well as shares information.  

(Indigenous); the act of approaching Indigenous peoples about their Country, interests and aspirations. 

The Australian Government’s key environmental legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, defines the environment as including: 

  • ecosystems and their constituent parts, including people and communities 
  • natural and physical resources 
  • the qualities and characteristics of locations, places and areas 
  • heritage values of places 
  • the social, economic and cultural aspects of a thing mentioned in the first 3 points. 

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. 

The naturally occurring living and nonliving components of Earth, together constituting the biophysical environment, that may provide benefits to humanity. 

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

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

See also algal bloom. 

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. 

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

When a species is known only to survive in cultivation or captivity, or in a natural population well outside its traditional range. 

Industries that rely on extracting a resource from the natural environment (e.g. mining, fishing, forestry). 


Where the outputs of a process affect the process itself. 

Frequency, intensity and timing of bushfires. 

A generic term for Indigenous peoples; this is not specific to Australian Indigenous peoples and can be applied to describe Indigenous peoples from other countries (e.g. Canada).  

The measure of the amount of specific type of fishing gear used on the fishing grounds over a given unit of time (e.g. the number of hauls of a beach-seine net per day). 

The pattern of water flow through a river. 

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

The fraction of an area (usually a pixel for the purposes of remote sensing) that is covered by a specific cover type such as green or photosynthetic vegetation, non-photosynthetic vegetation (i.e. stubble, senescent herbage, leaf litter) or bare soil/rock (e.g. areas that have been burnt resulting in ash/blackened soil). 

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

The highest form of land ownership. Land title is held in perpetuity.  


Resilience to unknown or unidentified pressures, disturbances or shocks. 

The natural range (diversity) of geological (rocks, minerals, fossils), geomorphological (landforms, topography, physical processes), and soil and hydrological features.  

Geographical area within which a species can be found. 

Elements of Earth’s geodiversity that are considered to have significant scientific, educational, cultural or aesthetic value. They include special places and objects (specimens in situ and in museums) that contribute to our understanding of the abiotic and biotic evolution of Earth (Crofts et al. 2015). 

Scientific study of landforms and the processes that shape them. 

One thousand million litres. 

See greenhouse effect and climate change. 

(Indigenous); the ability of Indigenous peoples to define and maintain clear mechanisms, processes and rules that guide decision-making and implementation of a self-determined vision of wellbeing that secures cultural continuity and the health of the ecosystems they depend on. This concept recognises longstanding customary governance mechanisms and how that intersects with modern forms of governance. 

Where thermal energy (infrared radiation) that otherwise would have 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. This 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).  

See also climate change. 

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).  

See also greenhouse effect. 

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. 

The vegetation (living and dead), biological crusts and stone that is in contact with the soil surface. Nonwoody groundcover such as crops, grass forbs and chenopod-type shrubs may change monthly rather than annually, making this component a good indicator of land management performance. Groundcover is a subcomponent of land cover and can be used to infer land management practices. From a remote sensing perspective, it is the fractional cover of the nonwoody understorey. 

(Indigenous); the ability of Indigenous peoples to act upon an inherent right and acceptance of responsibility to govern and manage collective territory using their own laws and values.  


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

Aspects of the natural and cultural environment having aesthetic, historic, scientific or social significance, or other significance for current and future generations of Australians. They include inherited monuments, objects, buildings, landscapes, culture and traditions.  

Objects that provide material evidence of Australia’s heritage (Indigenous, natural, historic). Objects may occur in situ at significant sites or be held in collecting institutions (e.g. archives, museums, zoos, botanic gardens) or as part of recognised collections (e.g. historic buildings, Australian Antarctic Division). 

Natural and cultural (or natural–cultural) sites, structures, complexes, and areas and regions, including landscapes, that have aesthetic, historic, scientific or social significance, or other special value for current and future generations of Australians. They include places, complexes and cultural landscapes that are of traditional importance, or that are part of the contemporary cultural practice of Indigenous communities or have other special significance to them. 

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

(Indigenous); lands located on Aboriginal ancestral lands with cultural and spiritual significance to the Aboriginal people who live there. Complex connections to land include cultural, spiritual and environmental obligations, including obligations for the protection of sacred sites. 

The knowledge, skills, competencies and attributes of individuals that help to create personal, social and economic wellbeing (Keeley 2007). 

Related to water quality, movement and distribution. 


Land that has been purchased, vested, reserved for or leased on behalf of an Aboriginal land trust. Generally freehold, but may be leased or reserved on behalf of an Aboriginal land trust. Ownership rights and privileges under Indigenous freehold vary with jurisdiction legislation. 

A voluntary agreement between a native title group and others about the use of land and waters. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons. They are the people who have and maintain strong connection to their Country, values, cultural practices and distinct social systems. ‘Indigenous’ is a term extensively used throughout Australia when referring to the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people of Australia, and related topics.  

This report uses the word Indigenous; however, we acknowledge that this may not be the preferred term for all Australia’s First Nations’ people and we apologise for any offence it may cause. In the text, we have used the words ‘Indigenous’ and ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’ and have also identified Indigenous people and Country by their  Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander clan or language name. 

See also Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and First Nations. 

An area governed by formal or informal rules and institutions that determine access to, and control over, land and natural resources. 

Practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage. Intangible cultural heritage is manifested in oral traditions and expressions, and language; the performing arts; social practices, rituals and festive events; knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; and traditional craftsmanship (after the UNESCO 2003 Convention definition). 

A set of 85 bioregions in Australia, 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 due to loss of natural predators or controls.  


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


Winds caused by local downwards motion of cool air. 

A species that has a profound effect on a particular environment, disproportionate to its abundance. 

One thousand litres. 

(Indigenous); relationships between Indigenous people and nations, and being related to and belonging to Country. An important part of Indigenous cultures and values.  

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

Opportunities for temporary or permanent use and occupation of land for purposes of shelter, productive activity, or the enjoyment of recreation and rest. Land access is obtained by direct occupation; exchange (purchase or rental), through membership of family and kin groups; or by allocation by government, other landowners or management authorities. 

The observed physical and biological cover of Earth’s surface, including living vegetation such as native ecosystems and agricultural lands, and non-living surfaces such as rock and ice, and human-made environments. Land cover can be measured using on-ground techniques or through remote sensing. 

The reduction or loss of the biological or economic productivity and complexity of rain-fed cropland, irrigated cropland, or range, pasture, forest and woodlands resulting from a combination of pressures, including land use and management practices. 

The process of managing the use and development of land resources. The degree that areas of land and water are managed by humans may differ from intensively managed (e.g. built-up areas, cropland) to not managed (e.g. polar regions, oceans). 

The approach taken to achieve a land-use outcome (e.g. cultivation practices, such as minimum tillage and direct drilling). Some land management practices, such as stubble disposal practices and tillage rotation systems, may show characteristic land cover patterns and be linked to particular issues. 

The total above-ground net primary production, defined as the energy fixed by plants minus their respiration, which translates into the rate of biomass accumulation that delivers a suite of ecosystem services. 

The way land is held or owned by individuals and groups, or the set of relationships legally or customarily defined among people with respect to land. Tenure reflects relationships between people and land directly, and between individuals and groups of people in their dealings in land. 

The activities undertaken and the management arrangements in place for a given area for the purpose of economic production, maintenance and restoration of environmental functions. Land use may include urban development, agricultural production, grazing, nature conservation and cultural uses by Indigenous peoples, where land and water are used and maintained both physically and spiritually.  

An area of land comprising landforms 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). 

(Indigenous); a group of Indigenous people sharing a common language. Language is linked to particular geographical areas. The term is often used in preference to the term ‘tribe’, and many Aboriginal people identify themselves through their language group. 

A periodic extensive cooling of the central and eastern equatorial 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. 

(Indigenous); social control based on consensus and individual rights being subordinate to the welfare of the community. 

The institutional unit entitled in law and sustainable under the law to claim the benefits associated with the entities. 

The ability of systems and processes to continue without negatively affecting the environment or depleting natural resources. 

(Indigenous); the quality of being able to continue implementing key activities to ensure Indigenous guardianship of vital ecosystems. It involves securing that financial sustainability is in place and that good governance is maintained over time.  


Distinct vegetation categories. Australia’s native vegetation has been classified into 23 major vegetation groups. 

One million litres. 

The drought in southern Australia that lasted widely 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. 

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


(Indigenous); a group of Indigenous people who share the same language and area of land, river and sea that is their traditional land. 

Australia’s network of protected areas that conserve examples of natural landscapes, and native plants and animals. The system has more than 9,300 protected areas, including federal, state and territory reserves; Indigenous lands; and protected areas run by conservation organisations or individuals. 

A commitment made by countries that are parties to the Paris Agreement to limit their greenhouse gas emissions to a certain amount as of a certain date. 

A form of recognition of Indigenous people as rightful owners of that land. It recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have rights and interests to land and waters according to their traditional law and customs as set out in Australian law. Native title is governed by the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth). 

Organisations appointed under the Native Title Act 1993 to help Indigenous people with their native title claims. 

Plants that are indigenous to Australia. 

The stock of renewable and nonrenewable natural resources (e.g. plants, animals, air, water, soils, minerals) that combine to yield a flow of benefits to people. 

The process of calculating the total stocks and flows of natural resources and services in a given ecosystem or region. Accounting for such goods may occur in physical or monetary terms. This process can subsequently inform government, corporate and consumer decision-making because each relates to the use or consumption of natural resources and land, and sustainable behaviour. 

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

All natural biological resources (including timber and aquatic resources), mineral and energy resources, soil resources and water resources. 

A state in which greenhouse gas emissions are fully offset by carbon sequestration.  

See also carbon sequestration. 

Resources that will not regenerate after exploitation within any useful time period. Nonrenewable resources are either re-usable (e.g. most metals) or not re-usable (e.g. thermal coal). 

A suborder of fish, most of which are endemic to Antarctic waters. 

A generic term for oxides of nitrogen. 

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


The movement of water masses of different densities from the top to the bottom of the ocean, caused by variations in ocean salinity and temperature. 

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 ozone layer. 

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

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


An agreement reached in 2015 between the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to limit global warming to as near as possible to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.  

A microorganism that causes disease. 

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

A region between the outer suburbs and the countryside. 

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

That where there are threats or potential threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation (AHC and ACIUCN 2002).  

Event, condition or process that results in degradation of the environment. 

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

A form of land ownership where the land titleholder has the power to sell, lease, license and mortgage the land. Minerals and petroleum remain property of the Crown. All dealings are subject to compliance with planning and environmental laws, including the protection of heritage and sacred sites.   

The human-made goods and financial assets that are used to produce goods and services consumed by society. 

Recognised interests in land or property vested in an individual or group. Rights may apply separately to land and to property on it (e.g. houses, apartments or offices). A recognised interest may include customary, statutory or informal social practices that enjoy social legitimacy at a given time and place. 

A clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed through legal or other effective means to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services such as clean water and cultural values. 

Those ecosystem services representing the material contributions to benefits supplied by ecosystems. 


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


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. 

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. 

A point against which to compare past, present and future ecosystem condition for use as a standard, and to measure relative change over time. 

A prescribed body corporate (PBC) nominated by native titleholders to represent them and manage their native title rights and interests once a determination that native title exists has been made. The PBC is entered onto the National Native Title Register as a registered native title body corporate. 

Those ecosystem services resulting from the ability of ecosystems to regulate and maintain climate, hydrological and biochemical cycles, and a variety of biological processes in ranges that benefit individuals and society. 

A method of obtaining information about properties of an object without coming into physical contact with that object (e.g. satellite and radar observations). 

Resources that may be exploited indefinitely, provided the rate of exploitation does not exceed the rate of replacement, allowing stocks to rebuild (assuming no other significant disturbances). Renewable resources exploited faster than they can renew themselves may effectively become nonrenewable, such as when overharvesting drives species to extinction (UN 1997). 

In environmental protection, comprehensiveness considered at a finer scale (i.e. Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia, or IBRA, subregion). It recognises that the regional variability within ecosystems is sampled within the reserve system. One way to achieve this is to aim to represent each regional ecosystem within each IBRA subregion.  

See also comprehensiveness. 

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

Related to riverbanks or lake shores. 

Movement of water from the land into aquatic environments. 


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.  

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

Submerged mountain rising more than 1,000 metres from the ocean floor with its summit below the sea surface. 

(Indigenous); when Indigenous people determine their affairs themselves, including decision-making, interacting with non-Indigenous parties and creating the solution to a problem. 

See carbon sequestration. 

A specific place or area, identified for its values or activities. 

(Indigenous); places of importance and significance to Aboriginal people because they provide a link to former or current traditions, people or practices. 

Fog mixed with smoke (i.e. mixing of particulate pollutants with water droplets).  

Also photochemical smog, which results from the action of sunlight on nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons present in a polluted atmosphere. 

Networks together with shared norms, values and understanding that facilitate cooperation within and among groups (OECD 2001). 

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

A quality of being that transcends our physical reality and provides a deep sense of interconnectedness.  

A sudden or major change. 

The region of Earth’s atmosphere extending from the top of the troposphere, at heights of about 10–17 kilometres, to the base of the mesosphere, at a height of about 50 kilometres. 

The characteristic belt of high pressure over the subtropics. The subtropical ridge is typically centred over southern Australia in winter and near or off the southern coastline in summer. 

In law, the only one of its kind, constituting a class of its own; standalone focused legislation. For Indigenous cultural and intellectual property, sui generis laws can be developed to cover something previously unprotected or under-protected. 

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.) 

Sustainability is often thought of as a long-term goal (i.e. a more sustainable world), while sustainable development refers to the many processes and pathways to achieve it (e.g. sustainable agriculture and forestry, sustainable production and consumption, good government, research and technology transfer, education and training, etc.). 

See also sustainable development.  

Development that uses many processes and pathways to achieve sustainability (e.g. sustainable agriculture and forestry, sustainable production and consumption, good government, research and technology transfer, education and training), and meets present needs without compromising the ability of future needs to be met. 

See also sustainability, sustainable. 


A group of one or more organisms classified as a unit. The most commonly used and widely accepted taxonomic categories include kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species and subspecies. 

One member of a group; singular of taxa. 

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

A concept in international law meaning ‘a territory belonging to no-one’ or ‘over which no-one claims ownership’. The concept has been used to justify the invasion and colonisation of Australia.  

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

(Indigenous); Indigenous people or nations who have responsibilities in caring for their Country. A Traditional Custodian may not have any ownership rights and/or those rights of custodianship may not necessarily apply to land but to things – tangible items – on the land. 

(Indigenous); an Indigenous owner of their traditional Country, as determined through the purchase of freehold, as granted by government or as determined through the native title process.  

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. 

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). 

A low-pressure system in which the core is warmer than its surroundings, with winds of at least 65 kilometres per hour around at least half of its circumference. Tropical cyclones are normally found over tropical and subtropical oceans and adjacent land areas, and occur mostly between November and April. 

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. 


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

The phenomenon in which urban areas are typically warmer than surrounding rural areas, particularly at night, because of the heat retained in hard surfaces and buildings. 


The worth of environmental assets. Categories of environmental values include: 

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

Primary pollutant that reacts with oxides of nitrogen in a photochemical process to generate 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. Criteria are established by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth). 


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. It is 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. 

Weeds identified as a threat to Australian environments based on their invasiveness, potential for spread, and socioeconomic and environmental impacts; 20 plant species are currently listed as WONS. 

The life quality and satisfaction of people and communities, comprising:  

  • health 
  • living standards 
  • community and social cohesion 
  • security and safety 
  • freedom, rights, recognition and self-determination 
  • cultural and spiritual fulfilment 
  • connection to Country and nature.