Glossary of terms

ARtificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services. ARIES is a networked software technology that redefines ecosystem service assessment and valuation for decision-making. The ARIES approach to mapping natural capital, natural processes, human beneficiaries, and service flows to society is a powerful new way to visualize, value, and manage the ecosystems on which the human economy and well-being depend.

A biophysical model is a simulation of a physical or biological system using mathematical equations, probability functions or statistics of the different elements of that system. Such models can be used to predict the influence of biological and physical factors on complex systems.

Biodiversity is defined as “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.” The importance of this definition is that it draws attention to the many dimensions of biodiversity. It explicitly recognizes that every biota can be characterized by its taxonomic, ecological, and genetic diversity and that the way these dimensions of diversity vary over space and time is a key feature of biodiversity.

Blue-Green infrastructure Network is a strategically planned network of natural and semi-natural areas with other environmental features designed and managed to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services such as water purification, air quality, space for recreation and climate mitigation and adaptation. This network of green (land) and blue (water) spaces can improve environmental conditions and therefore citizens’ health and quality of life. The European Commission has developed a Green Infrastructure Strategy. This strategy aims to ensure that the protection, restoration, creation and enhancement of green infrastructure become an integral part of spatial planning and territorial development whenever it offers a better alternative, or is complementary, to standard grey choices.

Climate change term, by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g. using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. It refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. This usage differs from that in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where climate change refers to a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.

The conservation status of a species or community type is an indicator of how likely it is to remain alive or existing in good overall conditions at present or in the near future. Many factors are used to assess the conservation status of habitats or species, including the number of species or individuals remaining at present or in the near future, the overall increase or decrease in the population over time, breeding success rates and known threats.

Ecological modelling is the construction and analysis of mathematical models of ecological processes or components, including both purely biological and combined biophysical models. Models can be analytic or simulation-based and are used to understand complex ecological processes and predict how real ecosystems are structured and function.

Ecosystem function’ is the technical term used to define the biological, geochemical and physical processes and components that take place or occur within an ecosystem. Or more simply, ecosystem functions are a general term that includes stocks of materials (e.g., carbon, water, mineral nutrients) and rates of processes involving fluxes of energy and matter between trophic levels and the environment.

Ecosystem Services are the many and varied benefits that humans freely gain from the natural environment and from ecosystems. Such ecosystems include, for example, agroecosystems, forest ecosystems, grassland ecosystems and aquatic ecosystems. Collectively, these benefits are becoming known as ‘ecosystem services’, and are often integral to the provisioning of clean drinking water, the decomposition of wastes, and the natural pollination of crops and other plants.

Human activities generate impacts on the environment. For example, urbanization in coastal areas might predate dune systems, agriculture in floodplains might produce riparian clearance, over application of fertilizers, poor soil management or cattle rising can produce overgrazing.

Environmental monitoring can be described as a programme of recurring, systematic studies that reveals the state of the environment. The specific aspects of the environment to be studied are determined by environmental objectives and environmental legislation. The purpose of environmental monitoring is to assess the progress made to achieve given environmental objectives and to help detect new environmental issues.

Environmental policy related to any measure made by a government, corporation or other public or private organization regarding the effects of human activities on the environment, particularly those measures that are designed to prevent or reduce harmful effects of human activities on ecosystems.

The EUNIS habitat classification is a comprehensive pan-European system to facilitate the harmonised description and collection of data across Europe through the use of criteria for habitat identification. It is a hierarchical typology and covers all types of habitat from natural to artificial, from terrestrial to freshwater and marine.

Directive 2007/60/EC on the assessment and management of flood risks, entered into force on 26th of November 2007. This Directive requires Member States to assess if all water courses and coast lines are at risk from flooding, to map the flood extent and assets and humans at risk in these areas and to take adequate and coordinated measures to reduce this flood risk. Its aim is to reduce and manage the risks that floods pose to human health, the environment, cultural heritage and economic activity.

Scenarios are carefully constructed snapshots of the future and the possible ways a sector might develop. Scenarios help focus thinking on the most important factors driving change in any particular field. By considering the complex interactions between these factors, we can improve our understanding of how change works, and what we can do to guide it.

GIS application are tools that allow end users to perform spatial query, analysis, edit spatial data and create hard copy maps. In simple way GIS can be define as an image that is referenced to the earth or has x and y coordinate and it’s attribute values are stored in the table. Therefore, a GIS lets us visualize, question, analyze, and interpret spatial data as well as to understand relationships, patterns and trends.

The concept of Global Change refers to the interference (causes) and disruptions (impacts) as a whole, produced by human activity on the processes that determine the balance of the planet (Earth system). These changes are caused by the destruction, fragmentation and overexploitation of ecosystems, invasive species, the alteration of biogeochemical cycles, general pollution caused by nitrogen and phosphorus and above all, climate change, land use change and land abandonment. The impact generated by these agents of change also affects the essential ecological processes which support life on this planet and results in the loss of biodiversity, environmental goods and services and, finally, social welfare.

A habitat, or biome, is the type of environment in which plant and animals live. Habitat is dictated by what kinds of plants grow there, the climate and the geography. Rainforest, coral reefs and the tundra are all habitats where particular kinds of plants and animals might be found.

Adopted in 1992, the Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora aims to promote the maintenance of biodiversity, taking account of economic, social, cultural and regional requirements. It forms the cornerstone of Europe’s nature conservation policy with the Birds Directive and establishes the EU wide Natura 2000 ecological network of protected areas, safeguarded against potentially damaging developments. In a nutshell, the Habitats Directive ensures the conservation of a wide range of rare, threatened or endemic habitat types, animal and plant species.

Habitat mapping can be defined as a specific methodology that allows defining the distribution of habitats by interpreting physical data layers, often derived from remote sensing and GIS, using biological information about habitats obtained from direct sampling and observation of the real environment. Only a small proportion of nature can be observed or sampled and the complete coverage of habitats is inferred from the association between the physical habitat data and the ground data collected, so the final maps predict the distribution of habitats. The physical habitat factors act as a proxy for the biological habitat data.

Integrated landscape management is a way of managing a landscape which incorporates multiple criteria, as for example hydrological, economy, social, ecological, etc. This methodology should incorporate the visions of multiple stakeholders, who collaborate to integrate policy and practice for their different objectives, with the purpose of achieving sustainable landscapes.

Integrated modelling (IM) is a type of scientific modelling often used by the environmental sciences and environmental policy analysis. IM is integrated because it incorporates knowledge from two or more domains into a single framework that relies on the use of numerical models, in order to generate useful information for policy making.

INTERREG Atlantic Area is an European funding programme that promotes transnational cooperation among 36 Atlantic regions of five European countries. Based on the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), this programme finances cooperation projects in the fields of Innovation & Competitiveness, Resource Efficiency, Territorial Risks Management, Biodiversity and Natural & Cultural Assets.

k.Lab is a standalone software tool environment which allows models and data to be contributed by independent researchers, hosted on a network, and automatically assembled into model workflows following a user’s simple. The technology, which can be applied beyond the field of ecosystem services, is the first operational example of semantically integrated, distributed, collaborative modelling.

A landscape is the visible features of an area of land, its landforms and how they integrate with natural or man-made features. It includes landforms such as (ice-capped) mountains, hills, water bodies such as rivers, lakes, ponds and the sea, living elements of land cover including indigenous vegetation, human elements including different forms of land use, buildings and structures, and transitory elements such as lighting and weather conditions. Landscapes are spatially heterogeneous geographic areas characterized by diverse interacting patches or ecosystems, ranging from relatively natural terrestrial and aquatic systems such as forests, grasslands, and lakes to human-dominated environments including agricultural and urban settings.

Landscape ecology is the science of studying and improving relationships between ecological processes in the environment and particular ecosystems. This is done within a variety of landscape scales, development spatial patterns, and organizational levels of research and policy.As a highly interdisciplinary field in systems science, landscape ecology integrates biophysical and analytical approaches with humanistic and holistic perspectives across the natural sciences and social sciences. The most salient characteristics of landscape ecology are its emphasis on the relationship among pattern, process and scale, and its focus on broad-scale ecological and environmental issues. These necessitate the coupling between biophysical and socioeconomic sciences. Key research topics in landscape ecology include ecological flows in landscape mosaics, land use and land cover change, scaling, relating landscape pattern analysis with ecological processes, and landscape conservation and sustainability.

Human land use change, and its influence on land cover, is a major driver of the distribution and functioning of ecosystems, and thus in the delivery of ecosystem services. Our need for space, whether it is to produce food, to live, to recreate, to work or to provide energy all compete for land as a resource. Land use change is also the prime cause of the loss or fragmentation of natural habitats and their species. The landscape to a large extent reflects the choices that we make when using land and sea.

The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellites co-managed by USGS & NASA, and offers the longest continuous space-based record of Earth’s land in existence.

Natura 2000 is a network of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species, and some rare natural habitat types, which are protected in their own right. It stretches across all 28 EU countries, both on land and at sea. The aim of the network is to ensure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats, listed under both the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive.

Natural resources are materials provided by the Earth and its ecosystems that humans can use to make more complex (human-made) products.

Participatory modelling is a purposeful learning process for action that engages the implicit and explicit knowledge of stakeholders to create formalized and shared representation(s) of reality.

Participatory Learning is a family of approaches, methods, attitudes, behaviours and relationships, which enable and empower people to share, analyse and enhance their knowledge of their life and conditions, and to plan, act, monitor, evaluate and reflect.

Remote sensing is the acquisition of information about an object or phenomenon without making physical contact with the object and thus in contrast to on-site observation. Remote sensing is used in numerous fields, including geography, land surveying and most Earth Science disciplines (for example, hydrology, ecology, oceanography, glaciology, geology); it also has military, intelligence, commercial, economic, planning, and humanitarian applications.

In current usage, the term “remote sensing” generally refers to the use of satellite- or aircraft-based sensor technologies to detect and classify objects on Earth, including on the surface and in the atmosphere and aquatic ecosystrems, based on propagated signals (e.g. electromagnetic radiation). It may be split into “active” remote sensing (i.e., when a signal is emitted by a satellite or aircraft and its reflection by the object is detected by the sensor) and “passive” remote sensing (i.e., when the reflection of sunlight is detected by the sensor).

Satellite imagery are images of Earth or other planets collected by imaging satellites operated by governments and companies around the world.

A person, group or organization that has interest or concern in a certain topic or area.

Sentinel-2 is an Earth observation mission developed by ESA as part of the Copernicus Programme to perform terrestrial observations in support of services such as forest monitoring, land cover changes detection, and natural disaster management. It consists of two identical satellites, Sentinel-2A and Sentinel-2B.

User-friendly describes a hardware device or software interface that is easy to use. It is “friendly” to the user, meaning it is not difficult to learn or understand.

A virtual watershed (VW) is a computer-aided geospatial simulation of riverine landscapes used to enumerate numerous aspects of watershed landforms and processes, and human interactions within them over a range of scales. The virtual watershed is a state of the art terrain model where all terrestrial and riverine surfaces are characterized and connected along physically and biologically relevant pathways.

The Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC is an EU directive which commits European Union member states to achieve good qualitative and quantitative status of all water bodies (including marine waters up to one nautical mile from shore) by 2015. It is a framework in the sense that it prescribes steps to reach the common goal rather than adopting the more traditional limit value approach. The Directive’s aim for ‘good status’ for all water bodies will not be achieved, with 47% of EU water bodies[1] covered by the Directive failing to achieve the aim.