Conservation Terms

Adaptive Management

A systematic process of continually improving management policies and practices by learning from the outcomes of existing programmes. This is based on continuous monitoring and evaluation and making appropriate changes to ensure that the objectives are met.


The current geological age, viewed as the period where human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.


Biodiversity is the variety of all life forms on earth – the different plants, animals and microorganisms and the ecosystems of which they are a part.

Captive Breeding

The process of breeding animals in controlled environments within well-defined settings, such as wildlife reserves, zoos and other commercial and noncommercial conservation facilities.


The management of human use of natural resources and the environment so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefit while maintaining its potential for to meet the needs of future generations.

Corridors (connectivity)

Areas of habitat connecting wildlife populations, separated by human activity or structures, such as roads, development, or logging. This allows migration and exchange of individuals between populations, which may help prevent the negative effects of inbreeding and reduced genetic diversity (via genetic drift) that often occur within isolated populations. Corridors may also help facilitate the re-establishment of populations that have been reduced or eliminated due to random events (such as fires or disease)


A dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro- organism communities interacting as a functional unit.

Ecosystem Engineer

An organism (usually fauna) that directly or indirectly modulates the availability of resources to other species, by causing physical state changes in biotic or abiotic materials. In so doing, they modify, maintain and create habitats.

Ecological Niche

The set of habitat resources (food, cover types, water etc.) used by a species, as determined by its geographic and ecological range and its adaptations.
 The role or “job” of a species in its environment. For example, the Tasmanian devil fulfills the niche of top predator in the ecosystem by scavenging on carrion to keep prey populations healthy and managing the spread of possible disease.

Ecosystem Services

The benefits people obtain from natural ecosystems based on 4 main categories including provisioning services (food and water), regulating services (flood and disease control, cultural services (spiritual, recreational and cultural benefits) and supporting services (nutrient cycling, that maintain the conditions for life on earth).

Ecologically Functional

Ecosystem processes include decomposition, production, nutrient cycling, and fluxes of nutrients and energy.


Environmentally responsible travel such as wildlife tourism to enjoy, study and appreciate nature that promotes conservation with minimal visitor impact.

Endangered Species

Any species that is in danger of extinction.

Endemic Species

Species native and restricted to a particular geographic area. A species is endemic to an area, if it is not found anywhere else. For example most of Australia’s fauna is endemic to Australia].


The conservation of components of biological diversity outside their natural habitats.


An irreversible process where a species ceases to exist in the wild, forever. A taxon is Extinct when there is no reasonable doubt that the last individual has died. A taxon is presumed Extinct when exhaustive surveys in known and/or expected habitat, at appropriate times (diurnal, seasonal, annual), throughout is historic range have failed to record an individual. Surveys should be over a time frame appropriate to the taxon’s life cycle and life form. [IUCN, 2012]

Extinct in the Wild

Fauna and Flora are classified as Extinct in the Wild when it is known only to survive in captivity or in cultivation. It is presumed extinct in the wild when surveys in known and/or expected habitat and throughout its historic range have failed to record an individual.

Flagship Species

Popular charismatic species such as Tigers, Elephants and Giant pandas which are considered as Ambassadors, icons or symbols to raise conservation awareness and action at a local, national or global level as it generally possesses traits that appeal to a target audience.

Indicator Species

A species whose status provides information on the overall condition of the ecosystem and of other species in that ecosystem. They reflect the quality and changes in environmental conditions as well as aspects of community composition.

Invasive Species (also known as Alien, Exotic or Introduced species)

Species which are non-native to a particular ecosystem which successfully establish themselves in native ecosystems, and whose introduction (usually by humans) and spread can cause, socio-cultural, economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. Invasive species can alter ecological relationships among native species and can affect ecosystem function and human health


The place or type of site where an organism or population naturally occurs. Species are dependent for their survival on habitat and habitat loss and fragmentation are the primary causes of species loss.

Habitat Loss

The loss of habitat as a result of converting natural areas to production sites. In such process, flora and fauna species that previously used the site are displaced or destroyed. Generally this results in a reduction of biodiversity.

Habitat Degredation

A decline in species-specific habitat quality that leads to reduced survival and/or reproductive success in a population e.g. related to changes in food availability cover or climate.

Habitat Fragmentation

The ‘breaking apart’ of continuous habitat into distinct pieces.


The conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats and the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings and, in the case of domesticated or cultivated species, in the surroundings where they have developed their distinctive properties.

Keystone Species

A species that plays a large or critical role in supporting the integrity of its ecological community and if lost, would cause a change in other species’ populations or ecosystems functions, processes and integrity. Without keystone species, it can trigger a cascade of direct and indirect changes on a trophic level which can result in loss of habitats and extirpation of their species.


A group of individuals of the same species, occupying a defined area, and usually isolated to some degree from other similar groups. Populations can be relatively reproductively isolated and adapted to local environments.


The release of individuals to re-establish fauna and flora species in an area which was once part of its historical range, but from which it has been extirpated or become extinct, often using individuals from collections.


The return of an ecosystem or habitat to its original community structure, natural complement of species, and natural functions

Threatened Species

A species that is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future, throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Umbrella term for any species categorised as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Trophic Cascade

Trophic cascade, an ecological phenomenon triggered by the addition or removal of top predators and involving changes in predator-prey relationships which often results in dramatic changes in ecosystem structure and nutrient cycling.

Umbrella Species

Species that have either large habitat needs or other requirements whose conservation results in many other species being conserved at the ecosystem or landscape level.

Viable Population

A self-supporting population with sufficient numbers and genetic variety among healthy individuals and breeding pairs that are well enough distributed to ensure a high probability of survival despite the foreseeable effects of demographic, environmental and genetic events, and of natural catastrophes.