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Biodiversity Jargon Buster

  • Market Insight 23 November 2022 23 November 2022
  • Resilience

With the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity officially starting in the first week of December 2022, we have prepared a list of key biodiversity terms with their explanation as well as a link to a legal definition, where available. Our Biodiversity Jargon Buster should help everyone understand the language used in the upcoming international negotiations and remove any barriers that newcomers to the biodiversity field may experience.

Biodiversity (legal definition here)

Biological diversity (biodiversity) refers to the variety of living organisms on earth from all sources including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems. See this term in the news - What is Cop15 and why does it matter for all life on Earth?

Biodiversity loss (full definition here)

Biodiversity loss refers to the reduction of any aspect of biodiversity through death, destruction, or manual removal on any scale from global extinctions to localised population declines resulting in a decrease in total biodiversity. See this term in the news - Biodiversity quickly rises up the ESG investing agenda

Nature (full definition here)

Nature refers to the living and non-living elements of the natural world that interact with each other in complex ecosystems, providing essential ecosystem services for people. Living or ‘renewable’ elements include the plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi that create biodiversity. Non-living or ‘non-renewable’ elements include, for example, soil, air and water. See this term in the news  - Most UK adults think nature is in urgent need of protection - poll

Ecosystem (full definition here)

An ecosystem is a functional unit, made up of the complex interactions between living organisms (plants, animals, fungi, and micro-organism communities) and the non-living components of nature (air, soil, water, minerals) in their habitats. See this term in the news - ESG investors wake up to biodiversity risk

Ecosystem services (full definition here)

Ecosystem services are benefits provided by nature to people, corporations and economies for free. They are often categorised into three different types of services: provisioning (supply of natural materials such as wood, water and rubber); regulating (those which moderate nature, such as flood prevention and pollination); and cultural (non-material benefits such as aesthetics and sense of belonging). See this term in the news - Backing biodiversity to save ourselves

Natural capital (legal definition here)

Very much like nature, natural capital refers to the living (renewable) and non-living (non-renewable) elements of the natural world that interact with one another to provide ecosystem services to people, both directly (e.g. by providing energy) and indirectly (e.g. by reducing ocean pollution). Unlike nature, natural capital conceptualises natural elements as capital assets, such as stocks and services, rather than purely as biomes and ecosystems. See this term in the news - Natural capital tool launched to help protect the environment

Biosphere (full definition here)

The biosphere is the sum of all the world’s ecosystems where life exists. It encompasses all living organisms on earth and the spaces they occupy from within the earth, its surface, the oceans, and the atmosphere. See this term in the news - Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere lands ‘step-change’ funding boost

Convention on Biological Diversity (full definition here)

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a legally binding international treaty on biodiversity which has three main objectives: 1) conservation of biodiversity; 2) the sustainable use of components of biodiversity; and 3) the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of utilisation of genetic resources. The CBD’s governing body is the Conference of the Parties (CBD COP), which consists of all states that have ratified the CBD. The CBD COP meets every two years to review progress, set priorities and commit to work plans. See this term in the news - Businesses call for nature impact disclosures to be mandatory by 2030

Nature-positive (full definition here)

Nature-positive describes a world, place, or mode of existence where nature is being restored and regenerated quicker than it is declining or being destroyed. At its core, being nature-positive aims to reverse the loss of biodiversity and decline in ecosystem services, and actively boost the state of nature. See this term in the news - Net zero is not enough - we need to build a nature-positive future

Drivers of biodiversity loss (full definition here)

Drivers of biodiversity loss are both natural and anthropogenic (i.e. human-induced) pressures that result in the loss of biodiversity. Five key drivers of biodiversity loss are land and sea use change, over-exploitation of organisms, pollution, climate change, and introduction of invasive non-native species. See this term in the news - The five biggest threats to our natural world … and how we can stop them

Biodiversity offsetting (full definition here)

Biodiversity offsetting is a market mechanism that enables people or companies to compensate for any biodiversity loss or ecosystem damage caused by their activities by purchasing ‘credits’ that invest in biodiversity protection, conservation benefits, or ecosystem restoration elsewhere. See this term in the news - England poised for controversial biodiversity offsets market

Deforestation (full definition here)

Deforestation is a process by which human activities – such as agricultural production – turn forested land into non-forested land. This can be either temporary or permanent. See this term in the news - Global deforestation pledge will be missed without urgent action, say researchers

Deforestation-linked commodities (legal definition here)

Deforestation-linked commodities, also sometimes referred to as forest risk commodities, are value chain raw materials and agricultural products that are particularly likely to contribute to deforestation. These include soy, beef, palm oil and coffee, among others. See this term in the news - EU proposes law preventing import of goods linked to deforestation

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (full definition here)

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) is a climate change mitigation solution implemented as a monetary payment to countries for keeping their forests intact. From a biodiversity perspective, REDD+ reduces deforestation pressures by promoting the sustainable management of forests and placing value upon existing forests. See this term in the news - Carbon offsets used by major airlines based on flawed system, warn experts

Value chains (full definition here)

Value chains are complex networks of organisations, people, activities, and resources that add value to goods at each stage of their lifecycle. Value chains encourage a full-lifecycle perspective, from harvesting raw materials, producing and transporting goods upstream, to selling, consuming and, finally, disposing of the goods downstream. The “value” added at each stage can include ethical and moral concerns, as well as other non-monetary utility values such as closing material loops, the provision of ecosystem services and added customer value. See this term in the news - Global value chains in times of multiple crises

Nature-based solutions (full definition here)

Nature-based solutions are actions or policies which harness the power of nature to address societal and environmental challenges, such as climate change. They involve protecting, enhancing, restoring, and sustainably managing ecosystems in ways that increase their resilience and ability to address those challenges. From a biodiversity perspective, there are a wide variety of nature-based solutions, such as tree-planting and peatland restoration, that provide or enhance habitats for biodiversity, while also helping to meet carbon-reduction targets. See this term in the news - Look to nature-based solutions to prevent drought

Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (full definition here)

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is an authoritative intergovernmental organisation established to improve the interface between science and policy on issues of biodiversity and ecosystem services, for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being, and sustainable development. It is intended to serve a similar role in relation to biodiversity as the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) does in relation to climate change. See this term in the news - IPBES and IPCC share Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity

Sustainability (full definition here)

Sustainability is the practice of using natural resources in a way that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their future needs. In the biodiversity context, sustainability means using natural resources (such as wood and fish stocks) at a rate that corresponds with the earth’s natural ability to renew them. See this term in the news - Universities in US and Canada beat UK in sustainability league


Additional authors:

Catriona Campbell, Gwen Evans, Blue Debell, Daniel Lo Kui Hoi, Arun Bora, Jamie Perriam, Maitreyi Rajwade, Isabelle Merchat, Arina Naumova, Chidozie Ajike Kachi-Agwu

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