Tackling the Nature Emergency - Scottish biodiversity strategy to 2045

Following consultation on the draft Strategy in 2022, this is the updated version of the Scottish biodiversity strategy to 2045: Tackling the Nature Emergency in Scotland, which takes into account responses to that consultation.

Annex 2

Glossary of Biodiversity Terms

Definitions are taken from accepted international sources where practical such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD Glossaries) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES Glossary).

Where these definitions have been modified, this is noted e.g. replacing "animals and plants" with "organisms" in order to include other taxa such as fungi, shortening particularly long definitions or adding examples for clarity. Other definitions are taken from Levin (ed) Encyclopedia of biodiversity or as stated.

Agri-Environment Scheme

Schemes that provide funding to farmers and land managers to farm in ways that supports biodiversity, enhance the landscape, and improve the quality of water, air and soil (see also agroecology as integral to such schemes). (IPBES)

Alien species

A species occurring in an area outside of its historically known natural range as a result of intentional or accidental dispersal by human activities (also known as an exotic or introduced species). (CBD)


The farming of aquatic organisms, including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants, involving interventions such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, to enhance production. (IPBES)


A minimum or starting point with which to compare other information (e.g. for comparisons between past and present or before and after an intervention). (IPBES)


Short for biological diversity, the diversity of life in all its forms—the diversity of species, of genetic variations within one species, and of ecosystems. (CBD)

Plants, animals and micro-organisms in a given area or volume. (IPBES)

Carbon cycle

The process by which carbon is exchanged among the ecosystems of the Earth. (IPBES)

Carbon sequestration

The long-term storage of carbon in plants, soils, geologic formations, and the ocean. Carbon sequestration occurs both naturally and as a result of anthropogenic activities and typically refers to the storage of carbon that has the immediate potential to become carbon dioxide gas. (IPBES)

Carbon storage

The biological process by which carbon in the form carbon dioxide is taken up from the atmosphere and incorporated through photosynthesis into different compartments of ecosystems, such as biomass, wood, or soil organic carbon. Also, the technological process of capturing waste carbon dioxide from industry or power generation, and storing it so that it will not enter the atmosphere. (IPBES)

Circular economy

A model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. (EU)


A participatory approach to design, in which community members are treated as equal collaborators in the design process


The management of human use of nature so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefit to current generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations. (CBD)

Conservation of Biodiversity

The management of human interactions with genes, species, and ecosystems so as to provide the maximum benefit to the present generation while maintaining their potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations; encompasses elements of saving, studying, and using biodiversity. (CBD)


A geographically defined area which allows species to move between landscapes, ecosystems and habitats, natural or modified, and ensures the maintenance of biodiversity and ecological and evolutionary processes. (IPBES)


The factors that, directly or indirectly, cause changes in nature, anthropogenic assets, nature's contributions to people and a good quality of life.

  • Direct drivers of change can be natural and/or anthropogenic. Direct drivers have direct physical (mechanical, chemical, noise, light etc.) and behaviour-affecting impacts on nature. They include, inter alia, climate change, pollution, different types of land use change, invasive alien species and zoonoses, and exploitation
  • Indirect drivers are drivers that operate diffusely by altering and influencing direct drivers, as well as other indirect drivers. They do not impact nature directly. Rather, they do it by affecting the level, direction or rate of direct drivers
  • Interactions between indirect and direct drivers create different chains of relationship, attribution, and impacts, which may vary according to type, intensity, duration, and distance. These relationships can also lead to different types of spill-over effects
  • Global indirect drivers include economic, demographic, governance, technological and cultural ones. IPBES give special attention among indirect drivers, to the role of institutions (both formal and informal) and impacts of the patterns of production, supply and consumption on nature, nature's contributions to people and good quality of life. (IPBES – modified)


A branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environment; the study of ecosystems. (CBD)


Communities of organisms interacting with each other and with their non-living environment—forests, wetlands, mountains, lakes, rivers, deserts and agricultural landscapes. (CBD - modified)

Ecosystem approach

The Ecosystem Approach is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. The Ecosystem Approach places human needs at the centre of biodiversity management. It aims to manage the ecosystem, based on the multiple functions that ecosystems perform and the multiple uses that are made of these functions. The ecosystem approach does not aim for short-term economic gains, but aims to optimize the use of an ecosystem without damaging it. (CBD)

Ecosystem diversity

The variety of ecosystems that occurs within a larger landscape, ranging from biome (the largest ecological unit) to microhabitat. (CBD)

Ecosystem Health

Ecosystem health is a metaphor used to describe the condition of an ecosystem, by analogy with human health. Note that there is no universally accepted benchmark for a healthy ecosystem. Rather, the apparent health status of an ecosystem can vary, depending upon which metrics are employed in judging it, and which societal aspirations are driving the assessment. (IPBES)

Ecosystem services

Processes by which the environment produces benefits useful to people, akin to economic services. (CBD)

Eco Tourism

Travel undertaken to witness sites or regions of unique natural or ecologic quality, or the provision of services to facilitate such travel that have the least impact on biological diversity and the natural environment. (CBD)

Endangered species

A technical definition used for classification referring to a species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. IUCN The World Conservation Union defines species as endangered if the factors causing their vulnerability or decline continue to operate. (CBD)

Ex situ conservation

A conservation method that entails the removal of germplasm resources (seed, pollen, sperm, individual organisms, from their original habitat or natural environment. Keeping components of biodiversity alive outside of their original habitat or natural environment. (CBD) e.g. botanic gardens, zoos, biobanks.


The evolutionary termination of a species caused by the failure to reproduce and the death of all remaining members of the species; the natural failure to adapt to environmental change. (CBD)


The local or regional loss of a species that stills exists elsewhere. This is sometimes referred to as local extinction.

Functional connectivity (Landscape connectivity)

The degree to which the landscape facilitates the movement of organisms (animals, plant reproductive structures, pollen, pollinators, spores, etc.) and other environmentally important resources (e.g., nutrients and moisture) between similar habitats. Connectivity is hampered by habitat fragmentation (q.v.). (IPBES – for Landscape connectivity)


The functional unit of heredity; the part of the DNA molecule that encodes a single enzyme or structural protein unit. (CBD)

Genetic diversity

The variety of genes within a particular population, species, variety, or breed. (CBD)


The variety of the geological and physical elements of nature, such as minerals, rocks, soils, fossils and landforms, and active geological and geomorphological processes. (IUCN)


A place or type of site where an organism or population naturally occurs. (CBD)

Habitat degradation

The diminishment of habitat quality, which results in a reduced ability to support organisms. Human activities leading to habitat degradation include polluting activities and the introduction of invasive species. Adverse effects can become immediately noticeable, but can also have a cumulative nature. Biodiversity will eventually be lost if habitats become degraded to an extent that species can no longer survive. (CBD - modified)

Habitat fragmentation

Fragmentation of habitats occur when a continuous habitat has become divided into separate, often isolated small patches interspersed with other habitats. Small fragments of habitats can only support small populations and these are more vulnerable to extirpation. The patches may not even be habitable by species occupying the original undivided habitat. The fragmentation also frequently obstructs species from migrating. Habitat fragmentation stems from geological processes that slowly alter the lay out of the physical environment or human activities such as land clearing, housing, urban development and construction of roads or other infrastructure. Adverse effects sometimes are not immediately noticeable and sufficient habitats may ostensibly be maintained. However inbreeding, lack of territories and food shortage are some of the problems small populations can encounter. Fragmentation of habitats is therefore expected to lead to losses of species and genetic diversity in the longer term. (CBD – modified)

Habitat loss

The outcome of a process of land use change in which a 'natural' habitat-type is removed and replaced by another habitat-type, such as converting natural areas to production sites. In such process, species that previously used the site are displaced or destroyed. Generally this results in a reduction of biodiversity. (CBD – modified)


Observed value representative of a phenomenon to study. In general, indicators quantify information by aggregating different and multiple data. The resulting information is therefore synthesised. In short, indicators simplify information that can help to reveal complex phenomena. (EEA)

In situ conservation

A conservation method that attempts to preserve the genetic integrity of gene resources by conserving them within the evolutionary dynamic ecosystems of the original habitat or natural environment. (CBD)

Invasive species

Invasive species are those that are introduced—intentionally or unintentionally—to an ecosystem in which they do not naturally appear and which threaten habitats, ecosystems, or native species. These species become invasive due to their high reproduction rates and by competing with and displacing native species that naturally appear in that ecosystem. Unintentional introduction can be the result of accidents (e.g. when species escape from a zoo), transport (e.g. in the ballast water of a ship); intentional introduction can be the result of e.g. importing animals or plants or the genetic modification of organisms. (CBD)

Just transition

Introducing changes in the economy to deliver environmental benefits in a way that is as fair and inclusive as possible to everyone concerned, creating decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind. This involves maximising the social and economic opportunities of climate action, while minimising and carefully managing any challenges – including through effective social dialogue among all groups impacted, and respect for fundamental labour principles and rights. (ILO)

Keystone species

A species that has a disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to its abundance. (Paine 1995, the term's originator)


An area as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction or natural and/or human factors. (EU - European Landscape Convention)


The socio-economic purpose of the land. Areas of land can be used for residential, industrial, agricultural, forestry, recreational, transport etc. purposes. Land use/cover area frame statistical survey, abbreviated as LUCAS, is a European field survey programme funded and executed by Eurostat, which applies standardised types of land use. (EU – Eurostat - modified)

Mitigating measures (Mitigation)

Measures that allow an activity with a negative impact on biodiversity, but reduce the impact on site by considering changes to the scale, design, location, process, sequencing, management and/or monitoring of the proposed activity. It requires a joint effort of planners, engineers, ecologists, other experts and often local stakeholders to arrive at the best practical environmental option. An example is the unacceptable impact on biodiversity of the construction of a certain road that is mitigated by the construction of a wildlife viaduct. (CBD - modified)

Native species

Plants, animals, fungi, and micro-organisms that occur naturally in a given area or region. (CBD)

Nature (Natural environment)

All living and non-living things, and processes that occur naturally on Earth. (CBD – modified)

Nature-based solution

Actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human wellbeing and biodiversity benefits. (IUCN)

Nature network

A collection of high-quality and well-connected areas that allow wildlife to thrive and cope with climate change, as well as enhancing natural beauty and delivering benefits for people such as flood alleviation. (Natural England)

Nature positive

Halting and reversing nature loss by 2030, measured from a baseline of 2020. (Locke et al. 2020)

Red List

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species provides taxonomic, conservation status and distribution information on taxa that have been globally evaluated using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. This system is designed to determine the relative risk of extinction. (CBD – modified)


The process of assisting the recovery of ecosystem processes serving and/or enhancing biodiversity and ecosystem resilience. This may not necessarily be the original habitat type or include the original species communities. In woodland, regeneration is the spontaneous recovery of native tree species that colonise and establish in abandoned fields or natural disturbances; this process can also be assisted through human interventions such as fencing to control livestock grazing, weed control, and fire protection. (Crouzeilles et al 2017)

Regenerative farming (agriculture)

An approach to farming that uses soil conservation as the entry point to regenerate and contribute to multiple ecosystem services. (Schreefel et al. 2020)

Note that Schreefel et al. (2020) found multiple definitions of Regenerative Agriculture.


The process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem towards or to good condition, as a means of conserving and/or enhancing biodiversity and ecosystem resilience; for habitat types listed in Annexes I and II, restoration means the process of assisting their recovery to the highest level of condition attainable. (EU - proposed)

Restoration measure

Any measure assisting ecosystem recovery actively or passively towards or to good condition and enhancing biodiversity, including measures taken for the improvement of the condition of an ecosystem or for the re-establishment of natural and semi-natural ecosystems, as well as measures to improve the connectivity of natural and semi-natural ecosystems, and to enhance species populations, also across national borders. (EU – proposed)

Soil health

The continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. (USDA). The concept connects agricultural and soil science to policy, stakeholder needs and sustainable supply-chain management (Lehmann et al 2020)


A group of organisms capable of interbreeding freely with each other but not with members of other species. (CBD)

Species diversity

The number and variety of species found in a given area in a region. (CBD)

Sustainable development

Development that meets the needs and aspirations of the current generation without compromising the ability to meet those of future generations. (CBD from Bruntland Commission Report, 1987)

Wild species

Organisms captive or living in the wild that have not been subject to breeding to alter them from their native state. (CBD)


Living, non-domesticated animals. Some experts consider plants also as part of wildlife. (CBD)


Email: biodiversityconsultation@gov.scot

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