Home » Forests & Energy » Glossary

Forests & Energy


Glossary over Forests & Energy


A system of land use in which harvestable trees or shrubs are grown among or around crops or on pastureland in order to increase production, generate short-term income, and benefit the environment (for example, by erosion control). (Source: Murray-Darling Basin Commission, The River Glossary  )


Biodiversity is a contraction of biological diversity. Biodiversity reflects the number, variety and variability of living organisms.

It includes diversity within species (genetic diversity), between species (species diversity), and between ecosystems (ecosystem diversity). (Source: GreenFacts)



Renewable energy made from materials from biological sources. Wood, charcoal, manure and crop residues are all traditional forms of bioenergy.

Bioenergy carriers produced from crops like maize or sugarcane are known as biofuels, while biogas refers to the mixture of methane and carbon dioxide produced by the bacterial decomposition of organic wastes. (Source: GreenFacts )


Biofuels are non-fossil fuels. They are energy carriers that store the energy derived from organic materials (biomass), including plant materials and animal waste.

They may be solid, such as fuelwood, charcoal and wood pellets; liquid, such as ethanol, biodiesel and pyrolysis oils; or gaseous, such as biogas. (Source: GreenFacts)



The total quantity or mass of organic material produced by living organisms in a particular area, at a given time. (Source: GreenFacts)


Black liquor

A liquid woodfuel, a by-product of the pulp industry. (Source: FAO  Forests and energy glossary )

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

A colorless, odorless, non-combustible gas, present in low concentrations in the air we breathe (about three hundredths of one percent by volume).

Carbon dioxide is produced when any substance containing carbon is burned. It is also a product of breathing and fermentation. Plants absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. (Source: The Pacific Forest Trust Glossary )


Carbon monoxide (CO)

An odorless, colorless, and highly poisonous gas.



The principal component of cell walls of plants, composed of a long chain of tightly bound sugar molecules. (Source: Humanure Glossary  )


Climate change

The long-term fluctuations in temperature, precipitation, wind, and all other aspects of the Earth's climate.

It is also defined by the United Nations Convention on Climate Change as “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” (Source: CoRIS glossary  )


When referring to humans, a community is defined as:

A collection of human beings who have something in common.

A local community is a fairly small group of people who share a common place of residence and a set of institutions based on this fact, but the word ‘community’ is also used to refer to larger collections of people who have something else in common (e.g., national community, donor community).

When referring to other living organisms, a community is defined as:

An assemblage of species occurring in the same space or time, often linked by biotic interactions such as competition or predation. (Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment  Glossary )


In food preparation, curing refers to various preservation processes and flavoring processes, especially of meat or fish, by the addition of a combination of salt, sugar and either nitrate or nitrite. Many curing processes also involve smoking. (Source: GreenFacts)


The conversion of forested land to non-forested land as a direct result of human activities. (Source: Forest Carbon Accounting Definitions  )


Degradation of ecosystems

A persistent reduction in the capacity to provide ecosystem services. (Source: MA  Glossary )



The complex system of plant, animal, fungal, and microorganism communities and their associated non-living environment interacting as an ecological unit.

Ecosystems have no fixed boundaries; instead their parameters are set to the scientific, management, or policy question being examined. Depending upon the purpose of analysis, a single lake, a watershed, or an entire region could be considered an ecosystem. (Source: US EPA Glossary of Climate Change Terms   )

Endangered species

Species that face a very high risk of extinction in the wild. (Source: MA  Glossary )


Energy crop

A plant grown to produce biofuels, or directly exploited for its energy content. (Source: FAO  Forests and energy glossary )


A protein that encourages a biochemical reaction, usually speeding it up. Organisms could not function if they had no enzymes. (Source: NHGRI NHGRI Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms  )


Fairness of rights, distribution, and access. Depending on context, this can refer to resources, services, or power. (Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment  Glossary )


Feedstock refers to the raw material that is required for some industrial process. (Source: GreenFacts )



The process by which micro-organisms break down complex organic substances generally in the absence of oxygen to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. (Source: GreenFacts)


Food & Agriculture Organization

"The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Serving both developed and developing countries, FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations meet as equals to negotiate agreements and debate policy. FAO is also a source of knowledge and information. We help developing countries and countries in transition modernize and improve agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices and ensure good nutrition for all. Since our founding in 1945, we have focused special attention on developing rural areas, home to 70 percent of the world's poor and hungry people. FAO's activities comprise four main areas:

  • Putting information within reach
  • Sharing policy expertise.
  • Providing a meeting place for nations.
  • Bringing knowledge to the field. "

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines “forest” as a portion of land bigger than half a hectare (5 000m2) with trees higher than 5 meters and a tree canopy cover of more than 10 %, or with trees that will be able to meet these criteria.

It does not include land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban land use.


Forest cover

Percentage of land within a specific area covered by forests. (Source: FAO  Forests and energy glossary )

Fossil fuel(s)

A general term for buried combustible geologic deposits of organic materials, formed from decayed plants and animals that have been converted to crude oil, coal, natural gas, or heavy oils by exposure to heat and pressure in the Earth's crust over hundreds of millions of years. (Source: US EPA Glossary of Climate Change terms  )


Gasification is the conversion of solid or liquid material such as coal, petroleum, or biomass into a gas for use as a fuel. This is done at high temperatures with a controlled amount of oxygen. (Source: GreenFacts )

Genetic material

Any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin that carries genetic information and that passes it from one generation to the next.

The information contained controls reproduction, development, behaviour, etc. (Source: GreenFacts )


Geothermal energy

The word geothermal comes from the Greek words geo (earth) and therme (heat). So, geothermal energy is heat from within the earth. We can use the steam and hot water produced inside the earth to heat buildings or generate electricity. Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source because the water is replenished by rainfall and the heat is continuously produced inside the earth. (Source: The U.S. Energy Information Administration, Energy Kids page   )



The process of regulating human behavior in accordance with shared objectives. The term includes both governmental and nongovernmental mechanisms. (Source: MA Glossary  )

Greenhouse gas

Greenhouse gases are those gaseous constituents of the atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic, that absorb and emit radiation at specific wavelengths within the spectrum of infrared radiation emitted by the Earth’s surface, the atmosphere and clouds.

This property causes the greenhouse effect.

Water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4), and ozone (O3) are the primary greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. Moreover there are a number of entirely human-made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as the halocarbons and other chlorine and bromine containing substances, dealt with under the Montreal Protocol. Beside CO2, N2O and CH4, the Kyoto Protocol deals with the greenhouse gases sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs). (Source: IPCC Glossary  )


The location and environmental conditions in which a particular organism normally lives. (Source: MA  Glossary )


The decomposition of organic compounds by interaction with water. (Source: US EPA Terms of Environment  )

International Energy Agency

"The International Energy Agency (IEA) is an intergovernmental organisation which acts as energy policy advisor to 28 member countries in their effort to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for their citizens.

Founded during the oil crisis of 1973-74, the IEA’s initial role was to co-ordinate measures in times of oil supply emergencies. As energy markets have changed, so has the IEA. Its mandate has broadened to incorporate the “Three E’s” of balanced energy policy making: energy security, economic development and environmental protection. Current work focuses on climate change policies, market reform, energy technology collaboration and outreach to the rest of the world, especially major consumers and producers of energy like China, India, Russia and the OPEC countries.

With a staff of around 190, mainly energy experts and statisticians from its 28 member countries, the IEA conducts a broad programme of energy research, data compilation, publications and public dissemination of the latest energy policy analysis and recommendations on good practices." (Source: IEA website  )


A site where household and industrial waste can be disposed of. It is generally spread in thin layers which are then covered with soil. (Source: GreenFacts)



CH3OH. Methanol is the simplest alcohol and is toxic. At high concentrations, methanol can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and death. Acute exposure may cause blindness. Chronic exposure to methanol can cause liver damage. (Source: GreenFacts )



Wetlands where the soil is highly organic because is it formed mostly from incompletely decomposed plants.

This soil is called peat and its presence is what defines peatlands. (Source: Hamilton Naturalists' Club Glossary )



A toxic chemical product that kills harmful organisms (e.g., insecticides, fungicide, weedicides, rodenticides, acaricides). (Source: FAO Glossary of biotechnology & genetic engineering  )



The pronounced deprivation of well-being.

Income poverty refers to a particular formulation expressed solely in terms of per capita or household income. (Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment  Glossary )

Renewable energy

Energy produced from sources that can be renewed indefinitely, for example, hydro-, solar, geothermal, and wind power, as well as sustainably produced biomass. (Source: FAO  Forests and energy glossary )


Wood in its natural state as felled, with or without bark. It may be round, split, roughly squared or in other forms.

Roundwood can be used for industrial purposes, either in its round form (e.g. as transmission poles or piling) or as raw material to be processed into industrial products such as sawn wood, panel products or pulp. (Source: FAO Forest harvesting Glossary   )



A plausible and often simplified description of how the future may develop, based on a coherent and internally consistent set of assumptions about key driving forces (e.g., rate of technology change, prices) and relationships.

Scenarios are neither predictions nor projections and sometimes may be based on a “narrative storyline.”

Scenarios may include projections but are often based on additional information from other sources. (Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment  Glossary )



Sewage refers to waste-water from homes and industry which is collected and carried away in sewers (pipes or tunnels). When raw waste-water is cleaned in treatment plants the waste product is sewage sludge, which can be used as a fertiliser under certain conditions or deposited in landfills. (Source: GreenFacts )


A group of organisms that differ from all other groups of organisms and that are capable of breeding and producing fertile offspring. This is the smallest unit of classification for plants and animals. (Source: OceanLink Glossary of Common Terms and Definitions in Marine Biology  )



Individuals or groups that are affected by a decision and have an interest in its outcome. (Source: TDM Encyclopedia Glossary   )


Complex carbohydrate used by plants as a way to store glucose (sugar). It is found in potatoes, white rice, bread, corn, wheat and other foods (Source: GreenFacts)


Financial assistance (often from governmental bodies) to businesses, citizens, or institutions to encourage a desired activity deemed beneficial. (Source: GreenFacts)



A characteristic or state whereby the needs of the present and local population can be met without compromising the ability of future generations or populations in other locations to meet their needs.


Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

"Poverty reduction and sustainable development are the principal tasks of the SDC. To facilitate the achievement of these goals, the SDC focuses on various thematic priorities. In each thematic domain, a sub-goal is targeted while ever keeping in mind the fact that the priority themes are intimately linked to one another." (Source: SDC website )


When the combined effect of several forces operating is greater than the sum of the separate effects of the forces. (Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment  Glossary )

Temperate zone

The part of the Earth's surface between the Arctic Circle and the Tropic of Cancer or between the Antarctic Circle and the Tropic of Capricorn; characterized by temperate climate [i.e. mild, moderate temperature; neither hot nor cold]. (Source: WordNet Temperate zone )


Traditional biomass

Woodfuels, agricultural by-products and dung burned for cooking and heating purposes. In developing countries, traditional biomass is still widely harvested and used in an unsustainable and unsafe way. It is mostly traded informally and non-commercially. (Source: FAO  Forests and energy glossary )


A pattern of change over time, over and above short-term fluctuations. (Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment  Glossary )


An expression of the degree to which a future condition (e.g., of an ecosystem) is unknown.

Uncertainty can result from lack of information or from disagreement about what is known or even knowable. It may have many types of sources, from quantifiable errors in the data to ambiguously defined terminology or uncertain projections of human behavior. Uncertainty can therefore be represented by quantitative measures (e.g., a range of values calculated by various models) or by qualitative statements (e.g., reflecting the judgment of a team of experts). (Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment  Glossary )


Defined by Webster to be the quality of a thing according to which it is thought of as being more or less desirable, useful, estimable or important.

Using this definition the value of an ecosystem might be defined in terms of its beauty, its uniqueness, its irreplacability, its contribution to life support functions or commercial or recreational opportunities, or its role in supporting wildlife or reducing environmental or human health risks, or providing many other services that benefit humans. (Source: Ecosystem Valuation Definition of Terms  )


Wood energy

Energy derived from wood in various forms. Woodfuel includes solids (fuelwood and charcoal), liquids (black liquor, methanol, and pyrolitic oil) and gases from the gasification of these fuels. (Source: GreenFacts, based on FAO  Forests and energy glossary )


Other articles you might like...
Soils degradation home
How could soil be protected?
India Millennium Development Goals home
How did India fare in meeting the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals?
Sustainable oceans home
How can we ensure that the sustainable use of the services and resouces that the oceans offer ?
A-Z List
    Themes covered
    Publications A-Z