Glossary

Background Rate – See Extinction Background Rate

Biodiversity – A contraction of biological diversity.  It can refer to all life on the planet or life in any sized niche such as a rain forest, coral reef, or drop of water.

Biosphere – The total living earth.

Carnivore – Meat eater.

Conservation Litmus Test – Choosing actions that are better for the environment.  The actions don’t need to be the best which are usually too expensive or impractical.  They just need to be better actions.

Ecological Footprint – A measure of how much land in hectares (about 2 1/2 acres) a person needs to support him or her.  It accounts for food and water needs, energy production, waste disposal, community and government services.  It is at 8 hectares (20 acres) per person in the United States.  In South America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa it is 3 hectares or less.

Ecological Overshoot – Humanity demands more from the biosphere than it can provide.  In 2015 World Overshoot Day occurred on August 13th – the day we used up a year’s worth of ecosystem services.

Ecosystem Services – Nature’s benefits.  Everything that the biosphere does for the planet and humanity.  For example: produce Oxygen, maintain the climate (with greenhouse gases), create soil and recycle nutrients, pollinate, disperse seeds, remove wastes, purify and store water, provide food, and much more.  It is estimated that the value of all ecosystem services to mankind is $33 trillion a year.

Extinction – The end of a species.

Extinction Background Rate – The rate at which species go extinct under normal conditions.  The rate is estimated to be from 1 to 10 species going extinct every decade per 1,000,000 species.  For birds the rate is about one extinct species every 400 years.  For mammals the rate is one every 600 years.

Greenhouse Effect – The ability of gases in the atmosphere (such as Carbon Dioxide and Methane) to keep solar radiation from escaping to space after hitting the Earth.  Without the greenhouse effect, the Earth would be too cold for life.

Herbivore – Plant eater.

HIPPO – An acronym for the five main threats to species – Habitat loss, Invasive species, Pollution, Population, and Over-harvesting.

Life – Organisms that can metabolize nutrients, reproduce, and adapt to changing environments.

Mega-fauna – Large animals such as elephants, mastodons, rhinos, saber-toothed cats, and dire wolves.

Ocean Acidification – The ocean is naturally basic or alkaline with a pH near 8 (the pH of pure water is 7).  When atmospheric CO2 mixes with the ocean surface water, it forms Carbonic Acid which lowers the pH by eventually releasing Hydrogen ions.  That makes it less alkaline or more acidic. The ocean is expected to more than double its Hydrogen ion concentration by 2100 from pre-industrial levels.  Ocean pH increases when glaciers are formed and pH decreases when the glaciers melt.

Sustainable – Able to be maintained for a very long time.