Terms


A list of key terms for conservation management and recommended definitions for VCAs

General agreement on the meaning of terms is critical to ensure clarity among all stakeholders regarding the processes and outcomes of areas managed according to the VCA Standard.

Terms used within the conservation community can at times be confusing or unclear. For example, the word ‘biodiversity’ has two different meanings in common usage. For some, it refers to “the number and variety of organisms found within a specified geographic region.” For others, it refers to “the variability among living organisms on the earth, including the variability within and between species and within and between ecosystems.” For the VCA Standard, we use the latter definition which is much closer to the official CBD definition listed below. Importantly, biodiversity includes both species and ecosystems, and indeed “the ecological complexes of which they are part.”

In general, where available, the official CBD definition of a term is used. For some important terms such as ‘species’, the CBD does not provide a definition. This section also defines some new terms that are used specifically for the VCA Registry.


Adaptive Management – A systematic process of continually improving management policies and practices by learning from the outcomes of existing programmes. (IUCN)

Baseline Assessment – A baseline is the starting point (a certain date or state) against which the changes in the condition of a variable or set of variables are measured. An assessment comprises the analysis and review of information derived from research for the purpose of helping someone in a position of responsibility to evaluate possible actions, or think about a problem. Assessment means assembling, summarizing, organizing, interpreting, and possibly reconciling pieces of existing knowledge, and communicating them so that they are relevant and helpful to an intelligent but inexpert decision-maker. (CBD SBSSTA9)

Biodiversity (or Biological Diversity) – The variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems. (CBD)

Biological Resources – Includes genetic resources, organisms or parts thereof, populations, or any other biotic component of ecosystems with actual or potential use or value for humanity. (CBD)

Consensus – General agreement, characterised by the absence of sustained opposition to substantial issues by any important part of the concerned interests. (ISEAL)

Conservation – Conservation is the management of human use of the biosphere so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefit to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations. Thus conservation is positive, embracing preservation, maintenance, sustainable utilization, restoration, and enhancement of the natural environment. (IUCN)

Ex-Situ Conservation – Conservation of components of biological diversity outside their natural habitats. (CBD)

In-Situ Conservation – 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. (CBD)

Dryland – Arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, other than polar and sub-polar regions, in which the ratio of annual precipitation to potential evapotranspiration falls within the range from 0.05 to 0.65. (UNCCD)

Ecoregion – A large unit of land or water containing a geographically distinct assemblage of species, natural communities, and environmental conditions. (WWF)

Ecosystem – A dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit. (CBD)

Priority Ecosystem Services – Those services on which project operations are most likely to have an impact and, therefore, which result in adverse impacts to Affected Communities; and/or those services on which the project is directly dependent for its operations (e.g., water). (IFC)

Genetic Material – Any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity. (CBD

Genetic Resources – Genetic material of actual or potential value. (CBD)

Habitat – The place or type of site where an organism or population naturally occurs. (CBD) A terrestrial, freshwater, or marine geographical unit or airway that supports assemblages of living organisms and their interactions with the non-living environment. (IFC)

Modified habitats – Areas that may contain a large proportion of plant and/or animal species of non-native origin, and/or where human activity has substantially modified an area’s primary ecological functions and species composition. Modified habitats may include areas managed for agriculture, forest plantations, reclaimed coastal zones, and reclaimed wetlands. (IFC)

Natural habitats – Areas composed of viable assemblages of plant and/or animal species of largely native origin, and/or where human activity has not essentially modified an area’s primary ecological functions and species composition. (IFC)

Critical habitats – Areas with high biodiversity value, including (i) habitat of significant importance to Critically Endangered and/or Endangered species; (ii) habitat of significant importance to endemic and/or restricted-range species; (iii) habitat supporting globally significant concentrations of migratory species and/or congregatory species; (iv) highly threatened and/or unique ecosystems; and/or (v) areas associated with key evolutionary processes. (IFC)

Hectare – The basic measurement unit for VCAs, equivalent to 10,000m2.

High Conservation Values (HCVs) – Encompass the whole scale from species to landscape, and include exceptional or critical ecological attributes, ecosystem services and social functions. (HCV Resource Network)

Indicator – A measure or metric based on verifiable data that conveys information about more than itself. (Biodiversity Indicators Partnership)

Landscapes – A geographical mosaic composed of interacting ecosystems resulting from the influence of geological, topographical, soil, climatic, biotic and human interactions in a given area. (IUCN, related to the CBD concept of ‘ecological complexes’ in its definition of biodiversity)

Manager – The agent – individual, communal, corporate or public – with clearly recognised legal or customary rights and responsibilities to manage a VCA; also called a Management Authority. (VCA)

Measure – A standard unit used to express size, amount or degree. (Biodiversity Indicators Partnership)

Metric – A system or standard of measurement. (Biodiversity Indicators Partnership)

Protected Area – A geographically defined area which is designated or regulated and managed to achieve specific conservation objectives. (CBD)

Legally Protected Area – A clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values. (IUCN & IFC)

Internationally Recognized Area – Exclusively defined as UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites, UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserves, Key Biodiversity Areas, and wetlands designated under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (the Ramsar Convention) (IFC)

Species – A group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. The species is the principal natural taxonomic unit, ranking below a genus and denoted by a Latin binomial, e.g. Homo sapiens. (OUP)

Alien Species – A species, subspecies or lower taxon, introduced outside its natural past or present distribution; includes any part, gametes, seeds, eggs, or propagules of such species that might survive and subsequently reproduce (CBD)

Domesticated or Cultivated Species – Species in which the evolutionary process has been influenced by humans to meet their needs. (CBD)

Invasive Alien Species – An alien species whose introduction and/or spread threaten biological diversity (CBD)

Native Species (or Indigenous Species) – a species, subspecies, or lower taxon, occurring within its natural range (past or present) and dispersal potential (i.e. within the range it occupies naturally or could occupy without direct or indirect introduction or care by humans) (IUCN)

Stakeholders – Persons, groups or institutions with interests in a project or programme. Primary stakeholders are those ultimately affected, either positively (beneficiaries) or negatively (for example, those involuntarily resettled) Secondary stakeholders are the intermediaries in the aid delivery process. (FAO)

Standard – A document that provides for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for products or related processes and production methods, with which compliance is not mandatory. (WTO)

Sustainable Development – Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts: the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs. (Bruntland Report)

Sustainable Use – The use of components of biological diversity in a way and at a rate that does not lead to the long-term decline of biological diversity, thereby maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of present and future generations. (CBD)

SWOT Analysis– A SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) involved in managing a VCA. With respect to the conservation of nature involves identifying the internal (SW) and external (OT) factors that are favourable and unfavourable to achieving conservation objectives. (VCA, adapted from Wikipedia)

Verified Conservation Area (VCA) – A geographically-defined area which is listed on the VCA Registry and managed to conserve nature and use it sustainably in the context of sustainable development. (VCA, adapted from the CBD definition for a protected area)

Wetlands – Areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres. (Ramsar)