My biodiversity glossary

Let me tell you about the birds and the bees

and the flowers and the trees

and a thing called


Inspired by Biodiversity A-Z and the IPBES Glossary, I’ve decided to pull together a few of my favorite key words related to biodiversity in celebration of the best day of the year.

Pop Quiz: Who knows the artist of my graphic? Find the answer at the end of the post.

Happy International Biological Diversity Day


Agricultural biodiversity is the biological diversity that sustains key functions, structures and processes of agricultural ecosystems. It includes the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms, at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels.

According to Crop Trust, the benefits of Crop Diversity include “Ensuring food security, adapting to climate change, reducing environmental degradation, protecting nutritional security, reducing poverty and ensuring sustainable agriculture are just six reasons why it matters to conserve crop diversity.”

Who loves interactive maps?


Many scientists consider the current geological age the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment and they have labeled this epoch the Antropocene.

Biodiversity Hotspot

A generic term for an area high in such biodiversity attributes as species richness or endemism. It may also be used in assessments as a precise term applied to geographic areas defined according to two criteria: (i) containing at least 1,500 species of the world’s 300,000 vascular plant species as endemics, and (ii) being under threat, in having lost 70% of its primary vegetation.

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund has an excellent site that documents the areas of activity for conserving biodiversity hotspots.

Biodiversity Hotspots
Who loves interactive maps?


Biomes are global-scale zones, generally defined by the type of plant life that they support in response to average rainfall and temperature patterns. For example, tundra, coral reefs or savannas.


Camera Trap

An automated digital device that uses an infrared sensor to snap photos of wildlife, allowing photographic data to be collected when researchers are not present. Camera traps are a useful tool in ecological research and conservation. Plus, they capture entertaining candid shots of wildlife.

Mongabay, an environmental news source, frequently reports on sightings captured on camera traps such as this footage of biodiversity in the Yucatan Peninsula.

eMammal is a tool for collecting, archiving, and sharing camera trapping images and data which gives citizen scientists and nature enthusiasts a platform to explore.

Who wants to see camera trap images?

Citizen Science

The collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists.

Scientific American offers a huge database of citizen science projects.

The iNaturalist app is one of my favorite ways to participate in citizen science.


Climate Change

As defined in Article 1 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods”.

Climate Change has changed the habitat of polar bears leaving many prone to starvation, as seen in this National Geographic video. Trigger warning: it’s a tear jerker!

Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity is an international legally binding United Nations treaty to deliver national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. It has three main goals:

  • the conservation of biodiversity;
  • the sustainable use of the components of biodiversity; and
  • the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.

It is one of the three Rio Conventions and one of the seven international conventions that focus on biodiversity issues.


Deforestation is simply the clearing of a large area of trees. Land that undergoes deforestation is often used for agriculture or other forms of development. However, it has huge consequences for biodiversity.


According to the Center for Biological Diversity: “Our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals — the sixth wave of extinctions in the past half-billion years. […] Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day. It could be a scary future indeed, with as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species possibly heading toward extinction by mid-century.”

Earlier this year, the world paid homage to the last male White Rhino that died, foreshadowing the extinction of his species.

Read more on Ami Vitale’s photography of the last male white rhino.

Half Earth Project

The Half Earth Project was inspired by E.O. Wilson’s book on the same topic suggests that half of the earth’s surface should be devoted to nature.

Natural Capital

The world’s stocks of natural assets which include geology, soil, air, water and all living things. The idea enables business leaders to develop tools for investment in nature.

The most recent World Forum on Natural Capital took place on November 27-28, 2017, in Edinburgh.

Who wants to learn about natural capital?

Open Access Data

As tracking and monitoring biodiversity is essential to conserving species and preventing biodiversity loss, open access data has become a critical component of conservation.

GBIF—the Global Biodiversity Information Facility—is an international network and research infrastructure funded by the world’s governments and aimed at providing anyone, anywhere, open access to data about all types of life on Earth.

The African Insect Atlas is an example of a data project using GBIF resources.


The practice of producing food, energy, etc, using ways that do not deplete the earth’s natural resources. Permaculture design principles are a great way to protect biodiversity in your own built environment.


The practice of returning areas of land to a wild state, including the reintroduction of animal species that are no longer naturally found there.

A number of books have been written on the subject including Rewilding the World (2010) by Caroline Fraser and Feral (2013) by one of my favorite journalists, George Monbiot. Guardian published this excellent video on Rewilding in 2013. To get in on the action, check out the Rewilding Institute site.

Threatened Species

An umbrella term for any species categorized as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Or any species that is likely to become extinct within the foreseeable future throughout all or part of its range and whose survival is unlikely if the factors causing numerical decline or habitat degradation continue to operate.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) describes aboriginal, indigenous, or other forms of traditional forms of knowledge regarding sustainability of local resources.

Yale360 recently published an article by Jim Robbins describing TEK in detail. National Geographic published an extensive interview with Dr. Michael Hutchins on TEK on its blog. For a great primer on the subject, check out this slide show by Dr. Raymond Pierotti.

Add more key words for biodiversity knowledge, ideas, resources and tools in the comments. 

Answer to Pop Quiz: Lisa Frank. I was a huge fan of her line of products, as a child of the 1990s.

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