Ireland's Biodiversity Awareness Campaign


What is Biodiversity?

Why is Biodiversity important?

Threats to Biodiversity

What makes up Ireland's Biodiversity?

Biodiversity Action Plans


Glossary of Terms


Not associated or derived from living organisms. Abiotic factors in an environment include sunlight, temperature and precipitation.


A system of land use in which harvestable trees or shrubs are grown among or around crops as a means of preserving or enhancing the productivity of that land


The cultivation of aquatic animals and plants, esp. fish, shellfish, and seaweed, in natural or controlled marine or freshwater environments; underwater agriculture

Assexual Reproduction

A form of reproduction that involves a single cell multiplying without the process of meiosis, mitosis or fertilisation

Biodiveristy Management Plan

A plan which outlines activities that will help to protect or enhance biodiversity


This term comprises of two separate words – Biological and Diversity and refers to the number, size and health of flora and fauna life

Biodiversity Hotspot

A region that is a significant reservoir of biodiversity and is threatened with destruction

Biological Reproduction

The biological process through which a new and individual organism is produced. There are two methods of biological reproduction – sexual and assexual reproduction


A scientist that studies biology


A branch of science dealing with the study of living organisms


Characterised by the presence of life


This is an area of uniform environmental conditions suitable for sustaining certain habitats for a specific group of plants and animals

Birds Directive

EU Directive 79/409 EEC, which provides a framework for the conservation and management of, and human interactions with, wild birds in Europe

Braided Channel

A braided channel is formed when a stream channel is divided into several smaller ones by the accumulation of in-channel deposits

Bruntland Report

Report produced by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in 1987, which provided a key statement on sustainable development

Buffer Zones

A natural or undisturbed strip or 'green belt' surrounding a development or land disturbance activity or bordering a stream or permanent water body


Species that consume animal protein


The group of marine animals with teeth including dolphins, whales and porpoises


A threadlike linear strand of DNA and associated proteins in the nucleus of eukaryotic cells that carries the genes and functions of that cell


The subdivision of a phylum, for example, under Phylum Cordata, the Class Mammalia (animals that incubate their young within the womb) lies


The prevailing weather conditions of a region over a year, averaged over several years

Climate Change

Climate change refers to the build up of man made gases in the atmosphere that trap the suns heat causing changes in the weather pattern on a global scale


Trees and shrubs that do not shed their leaves


The protection and management of a predetermined cause, such as biodiversity


A person that works towards conserving a predetermined cause, such as biodiversity

Convention on Biological Diversity

This is an International Treaty that was adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The Convention has three main goals: 1. Conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity); 2. Sustainable use of its components; and 3. Fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.


Trees and shrubs that shed their leaves annually


To fell or clear an area of trees


Diversity is the presence of a wide range of variation in the qualities or attributes under discussion


The first major grouping of organisms in biological/taxonomical data, for example the Domain Eukaryote, meaning organisms with complex cell structures


The third planet in the Solar System from the Sun and the only planet in the universe that is known by human beings to support life

Ecological Science

This is the study of the distribution and abundance of living organisms, as well as their interactions with each other, other organisms and their environment

Ecological Succession

Predictable or orderly changes to the composition or structure of an ecological community


Ecology, or ecological science, is the scientific study of the distribution and abundance of living organisms and how the distribution and abundance are affected by interactions between the organisms and their environment


According to the World Wildlife Fund, these are "relatively large units of land or water containing a distinct assemblage of natural communities and species, with boundaries that approximate the original extent of natural communities prior to major land-use change"


This term comprises of two separate words – ecological and system and refers to all biotic and abiotic components, their interactions with each other; in some defined area, with no conceptual restrictions on how large or small that area can be

Ecosystem Diversity

The variability within an ecosystem and the varying ecosystems on Earth


Tourism involving travel to areas of natural or ecological interest, typically under the guidance of a naturalist, for the purpose of observing wildlife and learning about the environment.

Endangered Species

A population of an organism (usually a species) which because it is either (a) few in number or (b) threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters, is at risk of becoming extinct


Land, air, climate, water, minerals, organisms and any other external factor surrounding and affecting an organism at any given time

Environmental Management System

Environmental Management Systems (EMS) are management approaches which enable an organisation to identify, monitor and control its environmental aspects


Over-enrichment of a water body with nutrients, resulting in excessive growth of organisms and depletion of oxygen concentration


The change in the gene pool of a population from generation to generation by such processes as mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift


The end of existence of a species


The further subdivision of a species after their Order. For example, in Order Carnivora, the Family Canidae exists. This Family is that of the carnivorous and omnivorous mammals commonly known as dogs




Creation by the physical union of male and female gametes




A mature sexual reproductive cell, as a sperm or egg, that unites with another cell to form a new organism


A unit of heredity that, in part, directs the physical development and behaviour of an organism

Gene Flow

Transfer of genes from one population to another of the same species, through migration or dispersal of seeds

Genetic Diversity

The variability of genes within a species

Genetic Drift

Random fluctuations in the frequency of the appearance of a gene in a small isolated population, presumably owing to chance rather than natural selection


A Family of organisms is again divided into a genus. This Genus provides biology with the first name of any organism. For example, all organisms in the Family Canidae will belong to the Genus Canis and will carry the name Canis before its species or subspecies name


The place where a particular species lives and grows

Habitats Directive

A European Directive that aims to provide for conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora in Europe


Species that consume vegetation


This is the transfer of behavioral and physical characteristics from parent to offspring, normally through genetic material


The dark organic material in soils, produced by the decomposition of vegetable or animal matter

Invasive Species

An invasive species is one that is introduced to an area where it does not naturally occur and is able to establish a population without human, or other, intervention


An animal without a backbone composed of vertebrae


The next level of taxon, or division, of organisms; beneath Domain. An example is Animalia, a group of multicellular organisms that are capable of movement, response and feeding


A solid geological feature on the surface of the earth, such as a hill, mountain, valley or plateau


An expanse of scenery that can be seen in a single view


Of the ocean/sea


The process of cell division in sexually reproducing organisms that reduces the number of chromosomes in reproductive cells from diploid to haploid, leading to the production of gametes in animals and spores in plants


Organisms so small (eg, bacteria, viruses, protozoans and yeast) that they can be seen only with a microscope.


Migration is the movement of an organism or species from one area to another (often a biotope) to seek food, shelter, changes in weather patterns or for reproduction


The entire process of cell division including division of the nucleus and the cytoplasm


Where one species is in abundance in an area


A sudden departure from parent type in one or more inherited characteristics, caused by a change in a gene or chromosome. These changes are brought about by copying errors in genetic material caused by exposure to radiation, chemicals, viruses or deliberately under cellular control during processes such as meiosis

National Heritage Area (NHA)

Under the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000, this is an area which is worthy of conservation for one or more species, communities, habitats, landforms or geological or geomorphological features, or for its diversity of natural attributes

National Park

An area of land protected under law owing to its unique physical and/or cultural value

Natura 2000

NATURA 2000 is a project by the European Union and each of its member states to protect the environment

Natural Selection

The process through which organisms with traits favourable for continued existence survive and reproduce

Nature Reserve

A nature reserve is an area of importance for wildlife, flora, fauna or features of geological or other special interest, which is reserved and managed for conservation and to provide special opportunities for study or research


A set or system of names used to identify kinds and groups of organisms


Omnivores are grazing species that do not have specific omnivorous or herbivorous tendencies


The subdivision of a Class and before Family, for example, in Class Mammalia lies the Order Carnivora, which represents organisms that have animal protein as their primary diet and have physical traits to reflect this (i.e. prominent canine teeth)


This is a system of complex and interacting organs functioning as a stable whole

Over exploitation

The overharvest or overuse of a resource. The result is a depletion of or exhaustion of that resource


Excessive population of an area to the point of overcrowding, depletion of natural resources, or environmental deterioration


This is an organism that exists by living in or on a host organism and gaining nutrition from that hosts body


The groupings of plants and animals in a kingdom based on varying physical dimensions e.g. Cordata – animals (from Kingdom Animalia) with a spinal cord


The contamination of air, water, or soil by substances that are harmful to living organisms

Population Genetics

This is the study of organism frequency, distribution and change caused by four factors of evolution – natural selection, genetic drift, mutation and gene flow


This is an organism that exists by preying on other organisms for food

Ramsar Site

Wetland site listed under the Convention of Wetlands adopted following an International Conference in Ramsar, Iran, 1971. A Ramsar site is a statutory nature conservation designation

Rare Species

An organism that is very uncommon or scarce

Red Data Book

This book is a document listing all rare and endangered species of animals, plants and fungi, as well as some local subspecies


Initialisation of a new seed to be used during seed-set generation.

Refuges for Fauna

Under the Wildlife Act 1976 the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government may
designate areas as refuges for certain species of wild birds or wild animals and impose restrictive
measures in order to protect the species and their habitat.

Riparian zone

An area adjoining a body of water, such as a lake or stream. These areas have special value and warrant careful management to protect their function as a buffer zone for controlling flooding and the input of nutrients, sediment, and other pollutants.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS)

Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS), is a scheme designed to reward farmers for carrying our their farming activities in an environmentally friendly manner and to bring about environmental improvement on existing farms.


A member of the family Salmonidae, which includes salmon, trout and whitefish.

Sessile Animals

Animals that root themselves to one spot. They are commonly found in the oceans and include barnacles, oysters and corals.

Sexual Reproduction

This involves the process of meiosis (involving the halving of chromosomes) followed by fertilisation of two gametes, thus regenerating the full number of chromosomes required. This type of reproduction increases genetic diversity of a species

Social Animal

An organism that is highly interactive with other members of its species


An organised group of individual organisms or species associated together for a specific purpose – cultural, scientific or a division of labour


Part of the earths surface that consists of disintegrated rock, mineral particles and humus



Special Area for Conservation (SAC)

These are conservation sites strictly protected under the EU Habitats Directive

Special Protection Area (SPA)

These sites are primarily of importance for birds and are protected under the EU Birds Directive


This term refers to all the individual organisms of a natural population which are able to interbreed, generally sharing similar appearance, characteristics and genetics due to having relatively recent common ancestors


Each Genus is divided into several species, with this species providing the second taxonomical name for an organism. For example, the species lupus can be found under the Genus Canis. Canis lupus is the taxonomical name for the Grey Wolf

Species Diversity

The variability amongst species in an ecosystem

Species Richness

This is a simple measurement of biodiversity and follows the calculation: S=n+((n-1)/n)k where . . . S = species richness n = total number of species present in sample population k = number of "unique" species (of which only one organism was found in sample population)


A species can again be further divided into a subspecies. Following the example set out in ‘species’, Canis lupus familiaris can be found. This is the taxonomical name given to the domestic dog

Sustainable Development

The most famous definition of this is from the Bruntland Report and defines it as: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”

Symbiotic Relations

Also known as Symbiosis, this refers to an interaction between two dissimilar organisms where at least one of them benefit by the relationship


This is the plural for taxon, which is a taxonomic category such as a genus or species


Of land

Threatened Species

Plants and animals that are vulnerable to extinction


The surface features of a geographical area, including landforms, water bodies and other natural and manmade features

Total Allowable catch(TAC)

The total allowable catch (TAC) is a catch limit set for a particular fishery, generally for a year or a fishing season

UNESCO Biosphere Site

Biosphere reserves are sites recognized under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme which innovate and demonstrate approaches to conservation and sustainable development.


A stream of water, as a river or brook.

World Wildlife Fund

A conservation group that leads international efforts to save endangered wildlife and their habitats

©2007 Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government