State Of The Environment

Acid rain

Rainfall that is acidic due to contact with various pollutants such as carbon dioxide, sulphate and nitrogen oxides.  Acid rain contaminates soil, plants and water, damages buildings and can effect human health.


Adaptation in relation to natural, human, social and ecological systems, means the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects, in order to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities, in relation to natural systems, the process of adjustment to actual climate and its effects, adaptive capacity means the ability of a system to adapt to the impacts, cope with the consequences, minimise potential damages, or to take advantage of opportunities offered by climate change or climate variability

Adaptive capacity

The ability of a system to adapt to the impacts, cope with the consequences, minimise potential damages, or to take advantage of opportunities offered by climate change or climate variability

Admission of guilt fines (J534)

Means fines paid for less serious environmental offences in terms of Section 56 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977. For the purposes of this report, admission of guilt fines are reported separately from convictions imposed through formal trial proceedings. (Source, DEA. (2018). National Environmental Compliance & Enforcement Report 2017-18. Pretoria, Department of Environmental Affairs)


The process of planting trees or sowing seeds, in a barren land devoid of any trees to create a forest.

Agenda 21

Aglobal plan of action for sustainable development agreed to by most of United Nations member states at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (also called the Earth Summit or UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2002. The Agenda 21 document contains 40 separate sections of concern and outlines a total of 2500 recommendations. It focuses on partnerships involving the public and all relevant stakeholders to resolve developmental problems and to plan strategically for the future.


The movement towards the economic activity of agriculture.


The cultivation of soil and rearing of animals to feed the human population. As more people move from rural areas to cities, more intensive farming methods and more extensive areas are used for farming to increase food production.

Air pollution

Air containing gases, dust, fumes, or odour in potentially harmful amounts (that is, in amounts that could be harmful to the health or comfort of humans and animals, or that could damage plants and materials).


Simple plants containing chlorophyll or other photosynthetic pigments, found widely in freshwater and marine environments, and ranging from single cells to plants many metres in length.

Ambient air

All air outside buildings, stacks, and exterior ducts.

Anopheles mosquito

The species of mosquito that is a carrier for the malaria parasite.


The idea that human beings are the central feature of the world, the interpretation of environmental and resource issues solely in terms of human values and standards.


Human-induced or human-caused changes to the environment.


Growing, living, or found in water.


Abody of permeable rock that can store significant amounts of water.

Arrests by EMIs

Indicates the number of individuals arrested,summoned to Court by EMIs for the purposes of criminal prosecution. (Source, DEA. (2018). National Environmental Compliance & Enforcement Report 2017-18. Pretoria, Department of Environmental Affairs)


The thin layer of gases surrounding earth which sustain life on the planet and which is composed mainly of nitrogen and oxygen. It consists of two main layers, namely the troposphere, which extends from sea level to about 17 km above sea level, and the stratosphere, which extends from 17 kilometres above sea level to about 48 km above sea level.

Basic sanitation

The prescribed minimum standard of services necessary for the safe, hygienic, and adequate collection, removal, disposal, and purification of human excreta, domestic wastewater, and sewage from households, including informal households.


The lowermost region of a freshwater or marine profile in which organisms reside.

Bimodal rainfall

A wet season with two rainfall peaks, separated by at least one dry month.


Process by which certain toxic substances (such as heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenyls) accumulate and keep on accumulating in living organisms, posing a threat to health, life, and to the environment.

Biodiversity / biological diversity

The variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part. The term also includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.

Biodiversity hotspot

An area that is identified as a conservation priority because it contains a high number of endemic species and faces extreme threats.

Biodiversity mainstreaming

The incorporation of biodiversity considerations into all human activities including programmes, plans, and policies.

Biodiversity target

Abiodiversity objective expressed in a qualitative or quantitative manner, usually to be achieved by a specified date.


Refers to all economic activity derived from scientific and research activity focussed on biotechnology.

Biogenic minerals

Any biogenic substance that has undergone transformation through the action of geological processes. Although the term does not include compounds produced entirely by biological processes, such as shells of marine molluscs, it does include the constituents of limestones and phosphorites derived from marine organisms.


The total mass of all living organisms present in an ecosystem, usually expressed as a dry weight.


One of the worlds major environmental communities, classified according to the predominant vegetation and characterized by adaptations of organisms to that particular environment. Major biomes include, aquatic, desert, forest, grassland, and tundra.


The search for plant and animal species from which medicinal drugs and other commercially valuable compounds can be obtained.


Biosecurity refers to management systems designed to protect society and the environment against potentially harmful organisms and biological materials. In an agricultural context, i.e. veterinary and plant health disciplines, the term has come to represent the protection of valued biological resources and foodstuffs from foreign, harmful or invasive organisms or harmful chemicals.


The envelope around the Earth containing the planets life-supporting systems (for example, the atmosphere, soil, inland water, and the sea).

Biosphere reserve

Alocality that forms part of an international network of protected areas designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), located in areas of high biodiversity where research into and the monitoring of biodiversity is carried out with the participation of local people.


The combined flora and fauna of a particular region or period.

Birth rate

The number of childbirths per 1 000 persons per year.

Blue (green and brown) environment

The blue environment, especially in respect of compliance and enforcement activities, refers to ocean and coastal matters, Whereas the green environment refers to biodiversity and protected areas and brown indicates pollution, waste and environmental impact assessment-related matters. (Source, DEA. (2018). National Environmental Compliance & Enforcement Report 2017-18. Pretoria, Department of Environmental Affairs).

Bush encroachment

The conversion of a grassland-dominated vegetation type to one that is dominated by woody species, an increasing woody plant density.

Carbon budget

A carbon budget can be defined as a tolerable quantity of greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted in total over a specified time. The budget needs to be in line with what is scientifically required to keep global warming and thus climate change tolerable.Carbon budgeting is sometimes confused with the use of targets, thresholds or caps to set emissions reduction goals.

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

Agas that occurs naturally in the atmosphere. It is produced when animals breathe, when vegetation rots, and when material containing carbon is burnt or broken down.

Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)

Carbon dioxide equivalent or CO2e is a term for describing different greenhouse gases (GHG) in a common unit. For any quantity and type of greenhouse gas, CO2e signifies the amount of CO2which would have the equivalent global warming impact. A quantity of GHG can be expressed as CO2e by multiplying the amount of the GHG by its global warming potential (GWP). For example, if 1kg of methane is emitted, this can be expressed as 25kg of CO2e (1kg CH4 X 25 = 25kg CO2e). CO2e is a useful term in that it allows collections of greenhouse gases to be expressed as a single number thereby allowing the comparison of different GHG collections. CO2e is also sometimes written as CO2eq, CO2equivalent or even CDE.

Carbon pricing

Carbon pricing is an approach to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that uses market mechanisms to pass the cost of emitting on to emitters. Its broad goal is to discourage the use of carbon dioxide–emitting fossil fuels. A key aspect of carbon pricing is the polluter paysprinciple. By putting a price on carbon, society can hold emitters responsible for the costs of adding GHG emissions to the atmosphere, these costs include polluted air and the costs associated with all of the impacts of climate change. Putting an appropriate price on carbon creates financial incentives for polluters to reduce emissions.

Carbon sequestration

The long-term storage of carbon in plants, soils, geologic formations, and the ocean. Carbon sequestration occurs both naturally and as a result of anthropogenic activities and typically refers to the storage of carbon that has the immediate potential to become carbon dioxide gas. In response to growing concerns about climate change resulting from increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, considerable interest has been drawn to the possibility of increasing the rate of carbon sequestration through changes in land use and forestry and also through geoengineering techniques such as carbon capture and storage.

Carbon sinks

Carbon reservoirs and conditions that take in and store more carbon than they release (for example, forests and oceans).

Carbon tax

Atariff charged by governments on business, industry, and energy sources that emit greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, through the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas). The charge is typically levied per tonne of carbon dioxide.


Asubstance contributing to the development of cancer in animal tissues.

Carrying capacity

The maximum population of a given organism that a particular environment can sustain.


The area of land drained by a particular stream or river.

Catchment management

Aphilosophy, process, and implementation strategy to achieve a balance between the utilization and the protection of environmental resources in a particular catchment area.

Child mortality

Number of children dying before the age of 5 years, per 1 000 births per year.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

Ozone-destroying chemicals released mainly by cooling systems such as air conditioners and refrigerators.

Civil Court applications

Means civil proceedings instituted in the High Court (e.g. interdict, declaratory order) by regulatory authorities, usually in circumstances where notices or directives are ignored, and / or actual or imminent significant harm is being caused to the environment. (Source, DEA. (2018). National Environmental Compliance & Enforcement Report 2017-18. Pretoria, Department of Environmental Affairs)

Clean development mechanism

Aproposition according to which industrialized countries or their companies could earn emission credits, while developing countries acquire technology and capital and earn emission credits that can be banked or sold.

Cleaner production

Improvements to an industrial production process in order to use less energy, water, or other inputs, or to reduce the generation of waste.

Climate change

Refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g., by 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. Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings, such as modulations of the solar cycles, volcanic eruptions and persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use.

Coastal public property (CPP)

CPP includes coastal waters, land submerged by coastal waters, coastal islands, the sea shore, and other state land such as the Admiralty Reserves, forests reserves, reclaimed land, state owned land specifically added to CPP and the natural resources on or in CPP in the EEZ.

Coastal zone

The area of land and sea along a coast. It includes estuaries, onshore areas, and offshore areas, wherever they form an integral part of the coastal system.

Commodity market

Market where raw/primary products are exchanged.

Communal areas

Areas of land that are owned and managed communally, generally by traditional authorities.


The maintenance of environmental quality and functioning.


The purchase and/or use of goods and services.

Contractual parks

Protected areas established as a result of contracts between government agencies and local communities, where the local communities retain their title to the land in the park.


An agreement drafted by an international, independent panel, which various governments then sign, to support specific action.


Means convictions imposed by a Court, whether pursuant to a trial or a guilty plea. This excludes convictions by way of the payment of admission of guilt fines. (Source, DEA. (2018). National Environmental Compliance & Enforcement Report 2017-18. Pretoria, Department of Environmental Affairs)

Cooperative governance

In South Africa, government is constituted as national, provincial and local spheres of government which are distinctive, interdependent and interrelated. All spheres of government must observe and adhere to the principles in Section 41 of the Constitution and must conduct their activities within the parameters that the Chapter provides.

Co-operative governance

In South Africa, government is constituted as national, provincial and local spheres of government which are distinctive, interdependent and interrelated. All spheres of government must observe and adhere to the principles in Section 41 of the South African Constitution and must conduct their activities within the parameters that Chapter 3 provides.

Criminal dockets

Means criminal dockets registered with the South African Police Service with an allocated CAS number. (Source, DEA. (2018). National Environmental Compliance & Enforcement Report 2017-18. Pretoria, Department of Environmental Affairs)


The permanent clearing of an area of forest or woodland.


The reduction or loss of the biological or ecological productivity of an area. (SeeDesertification.)

Demersal fish

Fish that live on, or adjacent to, the bottom of the sea.


The study of the structure of populations.

Dependency ratio

A measure of the portion of a population that is composed of dependents (that is, people who are too young or too old to support themselves).


The process of removing dissolved salts from salt water or brackish (slightly salt) water, making it fit for consumption by humans or for use for agricultural and other activities.


The degradation of land in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas, resulting from various factors including climatic variations and human activities.


A process of change that represents planned progress of some kind. For example, developing the economy of a region or country can take place through the expansion of economic activities, the improvement of peoples skills, or job creation.


Dredging involves the removal of sediment from the ocean floor to increase the depth of an area. Dredging is required to maintain port and harbour depths to allow the movement of large ships.


In the context of the driver–pressure–state–impact–response (DPSIR) Model, Drivers (or driving forces) are the various factors that cause changes or lead the behaviour of a system. They can be natural or human induced.


The ecological efficiency of goods and services, assessed by measuring their economic price and checking it against its production or manufacturing success in reducing environmental impact, improving quality of life, and lessening the overall adverse environmental impact on nature. Being more eco-efficient means creating more goods and services while using fewer resources and creating less waste and pollution.

Ecological footprint

Ameasure of the load imposed by a given population on nature. It represents the land area of average quality needed to sustain current levels of resource consumption and waste discharge by that population. The bigger the footprint the greater is the impact that it represents.

Ecological footprint

The impact of a person or community on the environment, expressed as the amount of land required to sustain their use of natural resources.

Economic growth

The increase in a nations capacity to produce goods and services, usually expressed as a rate of change in output from one year to the next.


The dynamic complex of animal, plant, and microorganism communities and their non-living environment (soil, water, climate, and atmosphere) interacting as a functional unit.

Ecosystem services

The beneficial functions provided by ecosystems, such as water quality regulation, nutrient cycling, soil fertility maintenance, regulation of the concentration of atmospheric gases, and cultural and recreational opportunities.


Tourism in which the natural environment is the main tourist interest, and the exercise of which does not potentially harm the environment.


Water (usually wastewater) that flows out of a man-made system into a river or the sea.

El Niño

(Meaning the Christ Childin Spanish) is the name of a warm ocean current appearing periodically along the coast of Ecuador and Peru. In contrast to the normal, cold, north-flowing current, El Niño (when it flows) causes warming in the Pacific region, which influences world weather patterns by affecting air and ocean temperatures. A serious El Niño event can cause changes in climate over southern Africa. (SeeLa Niña.)


Anoise or a liquid or gaseous effluent that is discharged into the environment.

Emissions inventory

Alisting, by source, of the amounts of air pollutants discharged into the atmosphere. It is used to establish emission standards.

Emissions trading regime

Afree market solution to problems caused by the adverse impacts of pollution, in which a country is allocated a pollution quota and the freedom to sell the portion of the quota that it does not use. (SeeKyoto Protocol.)

Endangered species

A plant or animal species whose number of individuals or whose population has been reduced to a critical level or whose habitats have been reduced so drastically as to cause an imminent risk of extinction.


Aplant or animal species that occurs and is restricted to a particular geographical region is said to be endemic to that region, owing to factors such as isolation or response to soil or climatic conditions.


The capacity of matter or radiation to do work.

Enforcement action required

Means that the environmental authority has decided that the nature of the non-compliance warrants the initiation of an enforcement action (criminal, civil or administrative). (Source, DEA. (2018). National Environmental Compliance & Enforcement Report 2017-18. Pretoria, Department of Environmental Affairs)


The surroundings within which humans exist and that are made up of — (i) the land, water and atmosphere of the earth, (ii) micro-organisms, plant and animal life, (iii) any part or combination of (i) and (ii) and the interrelationships among and between them, and (iv) the physical, chemical, aesthetic and cultural properties and conditions of the foregoing that influence human health and well-being.

Environmental crime

Is the violation of a common law or legislative obligation related to the environment which triggers a criminal sanction. (Source, DEA. (2018). National Environmental Compliance & Enforcement Report 2017-18. Pretoria, Department of Environmental Affairs)

Environmental degradation

The reduction of the capacity of the environment to meet social and ecological objectives and needs.

Environmental governance

The processes of decision-making involved in the control and management of the environment and natural resources.

Environmental health

Well-being based on health of the environment, both natural and built.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

The process of identifying, predicting, evaluating, and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals before major decisions are taken or commitments made. The EIA Regulations require that specific procedures be followed, and reports (scoping and/or EIA reports) prepared for those activities listed as potentially having a substantial detrimental effect on the environment.

Environmental Implementation Plan (EIP)

Astatutory instrument for promoting cooperative governance for environmental management among different spheres of government.

Environmental indicator

Physical, chemical, biological or socio-economic measures that can be used to objectively assess the quality and quantity of natural resources and of the environment.

Environmental justice

Aterm used in the social sciences to describe injustices in the way in which natural resources are used. It often also refers to attempts to right the wrongs of past practices that discriminated against the poor and the disadvantaged.

Environmental management

The deliberate and multidisciplinary process of managing environmental resources, which requires the careful preparation, planning, and administration of environmental policies and standards. It aims to ensure that environmental concerns are included in all stages of development, so that development is sustainable and does not exceed the carrying capacity of the environment. (SeeISO 14000 series.)

Environmental Management System (EMS)

Documented procedures drawn up in terms of a South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) code of practice to implement the requirements of ISO 14000. The code is an international standard and provides the basis for uniform EMS, which will conform to wider international standards and requirements.

Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI)

An index constructed by Yale University that ranks countries according to their performance based on a range of aspects of environmental sustainability.


The coastal body of water that has a free connection with the open sea and where fresh water, derived from land drainage, is mixed with sea water.


The process through which a body of standing water (like a dam, pond or lake) becomes polluted, or enriched in dissolved nutrients (like phosphates and nitrates). These nutrients stimulate the growth of aquatic plant life, usually causing the depletion of dissolved oxygen within the waterbody, resulting in mass die-off of fish and other aquatic animal life.


Acombined term for water lost as vapour from a soil or open water surface (evaporation) and water lost from the surface of a plant, mainly via the stomata (transpiration).

Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)

Azone in the sea under a countrys national control, up to 200 nautical miles wide. The coastal country has the right to explore and exploit and the responsibility to conserve and manage all living and non-living resources in its area.


Economic activities that cause uncompensated environmental loss or damage to others.

Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI)

An international initiative that aims to ensure that the revenues from extractive industries contribute to sustainable development and poverty reduction.


All the animal life of a habitat or a region at a given time.

Fertility rate

The number of children born alive to a woman during her lifetime.


An area beside a river that is seasonally flooded when water levels rise because of high rainfall.


All the plant species that make up the vegetation of a given habitat or area at a given time.


In the context of compliance and enforcement, follow-up means inspections that are conducted subsequent to an initial inspection. These types of inspections are typically more focused on the progress that has been made in respect of non-compliant areas identified in the initial inspection. (Source, DEA. (2018). National Environmental Compliance & Enforcement Report 2017-18. Pretoria, Department of Environmental Affairs)

Food security

The assured availability and access (physical and economic) to adequate food (in terms of quality and quantity) by all people at all times, as required for a healthy, active, and productive life.


The practice of growing and managing forest trees for commercial timber production. It includes the management of specifically planted forests, of native or exotic tree species, as well as the commercial use of existing indigenous forests.

Formal dwelling

A structure that is built according to approved plans, for example, a house on separate sand, flat, apartment, townhouse or room in a backyard

Fossil fuels

Mined energy sources, such as coal, gas, and petroleum, that are derived from the remains of prehistoric animals and plants.


An international Index Series designed to measure the performance of companies that meet globally recognized corporate responsibility standards and to facilitate investment in those companies.

Full cost accounting

Amethod of accounting that aims to identify, quantify, and allocate all costs associated with a product or process, including environmental and social costs.


Afrikaans word for fine-leaved bush, a biome in South Africas southern Cape area, comprising shrubs and shrubby woodland with patches of hardwood.

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)

Atype of genetic engineering through which a gene from one organism is isolated and transferred to cells of another organism, where it is incorporated into the recipients chromosomes and expressed. During the 1990s there was dramatic growth in the commercial applications of this new technology, including the development of genetically modified (GM) crops.


Ameasure of inequality. It is normally used to measure income inequality, but can be used to measure any form of uneven distribution. The Gini coefficient is a number between 0 and 1, where 0 corresponds with perfect equality (where everyone has the same income, for example) and 1 corresponds with perfect inequality (where one person has all the income, and everyone else has zero income).

Global Environmental Facility (GEF)

Established in 1991 by World Bank resolution, GEF helps developing countries to fund projects and programmes that protect the global environment.

Global Stewardship Corruption Perception Index

An annual measure compiled by a German group (called Transparency International), designed to measure the performance of governments against set criteria of bribery and corruption.

Global warming

Agradual warming of the air temperature in the Earths lower atmosphere as a result of the build-up of greenhouse gases (for example, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, methane, and ozone). (SeeGreenhouse effect.)


The process by which the worlds nations and communities are becoming more closely connected by modern telecommunications and more strongly interdependent economically, socially, and politically. The process carries with it the pressure to conform to global standards and economic approaches.


The systems of values, policies, and institutions by which society manages its economic, political, and social affairs through interactions within and among the state, civil society, and the private sector.


Ahabitat/ecosystem/biome that has vegetation dominated by grasses.

Green Scorpions

The popular name of a South African enforcement unit empowered by the National Environmental Management Act to ensure statutory compliance with environmental legislation.

Greenfields site

Asite on which no development has yet taken place.

Greenhouse effect

Awarming effect of the Earths lower atmosphere resulting when greenhouse gases trap heat from the sun and prevent that heat from escaping back into space. (SeeGlobal warming.)

Greenhouse gas

Any gas that absorbs infrared radiation in the atmosphere, thus allowing heat to enter the Earths atmosphere but not to leave it.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

The value of all goods and services produced by all factors of production in an economy by both residents and non-residents over a period of a year.


Water that is stored within the air spaces of soil and in rock formations.

Groundwater recharge

Replacement of water, normally through rainwater percolating into the ground to replenish water lost from the groundwater store by abstraction, evaporation, or transpiration.


The place where an organism or community occurs. It is characterized by its physical properties and by the other life forms found there.

Habitat fragmentation

The break-up of natural habitat into small non-contiguous parts. This can cause problems because when the portions are too small they cannot function effectively on their own.

Habitat loss

Aprocess of land use change in which one habitat-type is removed and replaced by some other habitat-type. In the process of land-use change, plants and animals that previously used the site are displaced or destroyed. This generally results in alteration or reduction in biodiversity. (SeeDeforestationandHabitat fragmentation.)

Hazardous waste

Waste that poses substantial or potential threats to public health or the environment.

Heat exhaustion

Fatigue and collapse resulting from prolonged exposure to excessive or unaccustomed heat.

Heat stroke

A condition marked by fever and often by unconsciousness, caused by failure of the bodys temperature-regulating mechanism when exposed to excessively high temperatures.


The sum total of sites of geological, zoological, botanical, archaeological, and historical importance. Heritage is that which we inherit, wildlife and scenic parks, sites of scientific or historic importance, national monuments, historic buildings, works of art, literature and music, oral traditions, and museum collections, together with their documentation.


The term comes from the Greek holos, meaning complete, integrated. This is a philosophy based on the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, that is, that a system may have properties over and above those of the parts and the way in which they are organized.


Areas designated for black people according to their ethnic group, under the former apartheid government.

Human Development Index (HDI)

Asummary composite index that measures a countrys average achievements in three aspects of human development, longevity, knowledge, and standard of living. It was created by the United Nations Development Programme and first presented in its Human Development Report in 1990.


Any chemical compound that consists only of the elements carbon (C) and hydrogen (H). All hydrocarbons contain a carbon backbone, called a carbon skeleton, and have hydrogen atoms attached to that backbone. Examples of hydrocarbons include petroleum, coal and gas, and the fossilised remains of plants.

Hydrological cycle

The flow of water through the terrestrial and atmospheric environments.


Electricity generated by means of flowing water.


Astate in which the ability of the bodys immune system to respond to disease is decreased.


Ameasure that helps to assess the extent of the success with which goals are being achieved. Based on complex information or data, indicators are often used in State of the Environment Reports to measure how resources are being managed.

Indicator species

Aspecies whose presence, or relative well-being in a given environment is indicative of the health of its ecosystem as a whole.

Indigenous species

Plants, animals, or microbes that are native to a particular area. (SeeFynbos.)


Aprocess of social and economic change, associated with technological innovation, through which a human society is transformed from pre-industrial to an industrial state.

Inflation rate

The percentage increase in the price of goods and services, normally measured year on year.


The framework of key facilities that supports communities and their industrial and commercial activities and services.

Integrated Environmental Management (IEM)

Acode of practice to ensure that environmental considerations are fully integrated into the management of all activities, so as to achieve a desirable balance between conservation and development.

Integrated Pollution and Waste Management

An integrated approach adopted by the South African government to deal with the current problems relating to waste management and pollution.

Integrated resource management

seeIntegrated Environmental Management (IEM).

Inter-basin transfer

The transfer of water from one river system to another, in places where water would not naturally be transferred between the two systems.


This term refers to the relations among spheres of government and to relations among government agencies in the same sphere of government.

Intertidal zone

The area of the beach between the high and low tide watermarks.

Invasive alien species

Species that are intentionally or unintentionally introduced to an area where they would not naturally occur, which then reproduce and invade areas beyond those into which they were originally introduced.


Aspecies of animal without a backbone, such as, for example, a butterfly or a lobster.

ISO 14000 series

An international standard for environmental management systems developed by the International Standards Organisation (ISO), which ensures that actions and processes are carried out in a uniform manner. ISO 14000 sets out guidelines on how to manage environmental matters in different companies in different countries, and is often used to certify organisations as environmentally sound. (SeeEnvironmental Management System (EMS))

Johannesburg Plan of Implementation

Akey outcome of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, which constitutes a plan of action for more sustainable global development.


Shrubby, semi-desert landscape covering two-thirds of the area of South Africa.

Kyoto Protocol

The international protocol named for the city in Japan where it was adopted on 11 December 1997 at the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It sets individual emissions limitations and reduction targets on six greenhouse gases through three flexible mechanisms, Joint Implementation, Emissions Trading, and Cleaner Development Mechanism (CDM).

La Niña

(From the Spanish for female child) unusually cold sea surface temperatures found in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. La Niña occurs approximately half as often as El Niño.

Land administration

The act or process of authoritative control over land.

Land degradation

Reduction or loss, in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, of the biological or economic productivity and complexity of rainfed cropland, irrigated cropland, or range, pasture, forest and woodlands, as a result of land uses or from a process or combination of processes, including processes arising from human activities and habitation patterns such as, (i) soil erosion caused by wind and/or water, (ii) deterioration of the physical, chemical and biological or economic properties of soil, and (iii) long-term loss of natural vegetation. (SeeSoil degradation.)

Land reform

Redistribution of land to recognise the rights of all citizens.

Land rehabilitation

The process of returning land in a given area to some degree of its former self, after a process (such as may be conducted by business, industry, or a natural disaster) has damaged it.

Land tenure

Atype of land ownership.

Land transformation

The conversion of land, normally from natural habitat to human uses such as agriculture or settlements.


Places, such as quarries, used for disposing household and industrial waste. Normally, land is excavated and sealed to prevent the contamination of adjacent land or underground water.


The patterns and structure of a specific geographic area or place, including its natural, physical, built, and socio-economic environments.

Land-use change

Changes in the purpose for which land is used, as, for example, where land that was previously used for pasture becomes a human settlement.


Is statutory law that is enacted (or promulgated) by a legislature or other governing body. The term may refer to a single law or to the collective body of enacted law. Before legislation becomes law it may be known as a bill. In South Africa, legislation must be confirmed by the executive branch of government before it enters into force as law. Under the Westminster system, an item of legislation is known as an Act of Parliament.


A study of national economic aggregates.


The rearing of fish, shell-fish, and certain aquatic plants under controlled and managed conditions either in their natural environment in the sea or on land based sea farms. Also called aquaculture or fish farming.


An umbrella term for things relating to the ocean, as in the terms marine biology and marin geology. In scientific contexts, the term almost always refers exclusively to saltwater environments.

Marine Protected Area (MPA)

An area of marine or estuarine habitat where some types of fish or plants are protected or where an entire ecosystem is set aside as a park or reserve.

Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF)

A detailed three-year rolling expenditure and revenue plan for national and provincial departments in South Africa.


An odourless and colourless hydrocarbon gas produced either by natural or artificial decomposition of organic material. (SeeGreenhouse gasandHydrocarbon).

Microbial contamination

Contamination with bacteria, fungi, or other microbes that can cause disease.


Movement of all or part of a population to and from a geographical area.

Millennium Development Goals

The set of development goals contained in the Millennium Declaration of 2000, which are intended to guide actions for development globally.


Measures taken to reduce adverse effects on the environment and humans. In the context of climate change, climate change mitigation refers to efforts to reduce or prevent emission of greenhouse gases and includes, among others, using new technologies and renewable energies, making older equipment more energy efficient, or changing management practices or consumer behaviour.


The frequency of a sickness in a population.


The frequency of death in a population or community.

Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEA)

International environmental treaties that contain measures to prevent the degradation of environmental resources, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

National park

Land set aside for the protection of plants, animals, and scenery, and for human enjoyment.

Natural environment

The physical environment comprising all living and non-living things that occur naturally on Earth.

Natural heritage

Natural features consisting of physical and biological formations, or groups of such formations, which are of outstanding universal value from an aesthetic or scientific point of view.

Natural resources

The basic minerals and resources that are produced through the Earths own inherent natural processes and systems.

Non-governmental organization (NGO)

An organization that is not part of a government and was not founded by a state. NGOs are typically independent of governments. Although the definition can technically include for-profit corporations, the term is normally restricted to social, cultural, legal, and environmental advocacy groups having goals that are primarily non-commercial.

Non-renewable resources

Resources that do not renew themselves in a human time-scale and cannot be replenished once exhausted, such as fossil fuels and copper.

Nuclear power

Energy created by the process of fission from atomic nuclei, as generated by nuclear power stations.

Nutrient loading

The release of excessive nutrients into a water body from the catchment area, often through the use of fertilizers or other pollutants. (SeeEutrophication.)


Grazing by livestock or wildlife to the point where grass cover is depleted, leaving bare, unprotected patches of soil, with a corresponding increase in erosion by water and wind.


Overuse of resources, thereby affecting their future use and the condition of the environment.


Agas molecule composed of three oxygen molecules, which occurs naturally in the stratosphere where it protects Earths surface from harmful ultraviolet radiation. In the troposphere it acts as a greenhouse gas.

Ozone depletion

The destruction or thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer that shields the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation.


Aterm used to describe either particles of solid matter (for example, dust, soil, soot, and ash) or droplets of liquid (for example, sulphuric acid, salts, dioxins, and pesticides) that are small or light enough to remain suspended in the atmosphere for short periods of time. (SeePM10).


Relating to communities of marine organisms that belong to the open sea, living free from direct dependence on the sea bottom or shore.


(In reference to a water body) flowing or occurring throughout the year.

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Chemical substances that are toxic, persist in the environment for long periods of time, and bio accumulate as they move up through the food chain.


Can be categorized as a diverse group of chemicals that kills insects or weeds, which can harm humans and the natural environment. Pesticides can migrate by wind or water to areas that they were not intended to reach, thus causing unintended damage to insect ecological systems that are essential for pollination.

Petrochemical industry

Broadly defined as that industrial activity which uses petroleum or natural gas as a source of raw materials, and whose products are neither fuels nor fertilizer.


Any particulate matter with a diameter less than or equal to 10 micrometres.


Aframework or basis of action to overcome identified problems or to achieve stated goals and objectives, which sets out guidelines for decision-making and action.


The concentration of substances that are beyond the environments capacity to handle. It refers to any substance released to air, water, or soil by any process, which is capable of causing harm to humans or other living organisms supported by the environment. Pollution comes in many forms, including liquid effluent, solid waste, air emissions, noise, and smells. (SeeAir Pollution,Solid waste, andWastewater.)

Population density

The number of organisms, species, or humans found in a prescribed area.

Population dynamics

The study of the changes in the size, age, and gender composition of a population due to major biotic and abiotic factors.

Population growth

An increase in the number of organisms or species. In human demography, the population growth rate refers to the annual growth rate of the population calculated from mid-year.


Acertain level of material deprivation below which a person suffers physically, emotionally, and socially.

Poverty gap

The total income shortfall (expressed in proportion to the poverty line) of families with income below the poverty threshold, divided by the number of families.

Poverty line

A poverty threshold that takes into account household size and age composition and that is intended to indicate an income level below which subsistence needs are not met.

Precautionary principle

The principle included in policy and laws requiring that where the environmental consequences of a particular project, proposal, or course of action are uncertain, then the project, proposal, or course of action should not be taken.


All the forms in which water falls to the ground such as rain, sleet, snow, hail, and drizzle. It also refers to the deposition of dust or other substances.


The rate at which plants, animals, and humans produce or have the capacity to produce.


The act of formally proclaiming new legislation to the public. This occurs when the law receives final formal approval. It is generally performed by the head of state who acts according to constitutional rules or convention.

Quaternary catchment

A catchment on the fourth level of subdivision of catchments into sub catchments, often used as a management unit.

Rainfall variability

the term used to describe a pattern of rainfall in which the amount of rain differs over a period of time, such as from year to year.


Formal approval of an international agreement by a states highest authority. In ratifying a Convention, a country agrees to be bound by the terms of the agreement and indicates to the international community a commitment to meet implementation goals.


water added to underground water - for instance, rainfall that seeps into the ground.


The process of collecting, cleaning and re-using waste materials that would otherwise be thrown away.

Red data list/book

A catalogue of species in danger of extinction and those already extinct, published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Red Data species

Species that appear on a Red Data list.

Red tide

A catalogue of species in danger of extinction and those already extinct, published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


A set of conduct, standards, or procedures, which must be followed in order to comply with legislation, or governmental or ministerial order that has the force of law.


Repair or reconstruction of damaged habitats.

Renewable energy

is energy derived from an energy source produced by natural processes at rates equal to or faster than its consumption. Renewable energy sources include sunshine, wind, wave power, flowing water (hydropower), biological processes such as anaerobic digestion, and geothermal heat flow.


The capacity to recover from a disturbance, for example, the capacity of a degraded natural area to return to its original state.


A general term for whatever can be used to provide the means to satisfy human needs and wants.

Resource base

All the resources on which human societies depend, including natural resources such as land, water and minerals, for an example.

Resource management

The control of resources in a planned and responsible way.

Riparian vegetation

Vegetation on or immediately adjacent to a river bank.

River catchment

All the land from mountain- top to sea shore that is drained by a single river and its tributaries. Catchment areas vary in size. A big river may have a catchment area of several thousand square kilometres, whereas a small tributary could have a catchment area of only a few hectors.


The flow of water over the ground surface.


The measure of the total quantity of dissolved solids in water, in parts per thousand by weight.


A story, told in words and numbers, about the manner in which future events could unfold, and offering lessons on how to direct the flow of events towards sustainable paths and away from unsustainable ones.

Sea level

The position of the air-sea-level interface to which all terrestrial elevations and sea depths are referred.


Finely divided solid matter suspended in or falling to the bottom of a liquid or gas. Materials such as rocks and sands deposited by glaciers, wind or water.


An area in which annual rainfall ranges from about 250-600mm, rainfall is seasonal and variable, and evaporation is high.


The deposition of soil or fine rock particles on the bottom of river beds or other water bodies, often as a result of soil erosion in the surrounding area.

Social capital

The collaboration and cooperation within a community or society (through such mechanisms as networks, shared trust, norms, and values) to achieve mutual benefits.


Linked to human activities, for example social, economic, cultural, and political activities. Themes that form part of the socio-economic environment are the economy, health, education, safety, and security as well as environmental governance.

Soil conservation

An intervention to stop soil degradation and even reverse it, through physical structures such as contours and terraces, or through biological means such as intercropping and grass strips.

Soil degradation

The declining productivity of soils through physical, chemical, or biological deterioration resulting from a combination of physicalfactors such as drought, management factors such as cultivation of marginal land or overstocking, and historical and socio-economic factors such as inequitable distribution of land. (See Land degradation.)

Soil erosion

The loss or movement of soil by agents such as running water, wind, and gravity.

Solid waste

Any solid, semi-solid, liquid, or contained gaseous materials discarded from industrial, commercial, mining, or agricultural operations, and from community activities. Solid waste includes garbage, construction debris, commercial refuse, sludge from water supply or waste treatment plants or air pollution control facilities, and from other discarded materials.


A population of plants or animals that is able to interbreed to produce fertile offspring

Species diversity

The range of different species in an area or habitat, expressed as a combination of the number of species and the abundance of each species.

Species richness

The number of species in an area or habitat.


People and/or organizations involved or interested in an area or an issue, for example, residents, councillors, business people, trade unions, government institutions.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

an environmental assessment that is carried out in connection with one or more strategic actions, policies, plans, or programmes. It is an important tool for helping planners and decision-makers to understand what will happen to an area if it were to accommodate different land uses.

Stratospheric ozone

The ozone in the layer of the Earths atmosphere, which extends from 15 to 35 kilometres above the surface and protects life on the planet from harmful ultraviolet rays.


A situation in which people provide for all their own needs from their immediate environment, rather than earning wages to pay for goods and services. Subsistence fishing, for example, refers to the level of fishing where the catch is enough to feed only the person and his or her own family.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2)

A colourless, acrid gas formed by the combustion of sulphur. It is an oxidizing and reducing agent and is used as a refrigerant, disinfectant, preservative, andbleach. It reacts with water to make sulphuric acid.

Surface water

Water found on the surface of the land, for example in rivers and dams.


The ability to meet the needs of present and future generations through the responsible use of resources.

Sustainable agriculture

Agriculture that does not degrade the soil or other resources in which it depends.

Sustainable development

Development that meets the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, in turn.

Sustainable harvesting

The harvesting of natural resources (for example, fish) in such a manner that there is no long-term decline in the population or its ability to reproduce.


Any unit used in the science of biological classification, or taxonomy. Some species have been split into subspecies and/or varieties and are assessed at these levels. Consequently, if a taxonomic group includes subspecies or varieties, the summary statistics use the term taxa. If a group contains only species, then the term species is used in the summary statistics.

Taxon/taxonomic group

A group of living organisms with similar characteristics of any taxonomic rank (family, genus or species), such as, for example, mammals, insects, and flowering plants.


The science of discovering, identifying, naming, and documenting the life-forms making up the Earths biological diversity.


Of or associated with land.

The Ocean


Thermal efficiencies

The efficiency with which a power source transforms the potential heat of its fuel into work or output, expressed as a ratio of the useful work done by the power source in a giventime interval to the total heat energy contained in the fuel burned during the same time interval, both work and heat being expressed in the same units.

Threatened species

Plants or animals that are likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.

Total allowable catch (TAC)

Is a catch limit set for a particular fishery, generally for a year or a fishing season.

Tradable emissions

Emissions that fall under a tradable emissions permit, which allows the holder to release a certain quantity of a specific emission. Should the permit-holder reduce his or her emissions, he or she can sell the quantity that remains on the permit.

Trade liberalization

The reduction of tariffs and other measures that restrict trade.

Tragedy of the commons

The idea that if there is no clear ownership of the rights to use a natural resource, this resource tends to be over exploited.

Transboundary protected areas/Parks

Areas that straddle international boundaries, but within which all human barriers are removed. Their primary purpose is wildlife conservation and they are managed as a unit under a single management plan.

Transfrontier Conservation Area(TFCA)

Area that straddle international boundaries and are composed of two or more conservation areas, which may have differing conservation status. these areas may also be separated by human barriers, which can prevent the free movement of animals.

Transparency International

An organisation dedicated to fighting corruption.

Trickle Down Effect

An economic theory that an increase in in wealth in society will eventually increase the standard of living of all the people in that society.

Triple bottom line

One of the theories of sustainable development conceptualized by John Elkington, which suggests that true sustainable development in business must consider not just the financial bottom line of prosperity, but also the bottom lines of environmental quality and social equity.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation

The light between visible light and X-rays on the light spectrum, further divided by wavelength into A, B, and C bands. Most UV radiation is absorbed by the ozone layer before it reaches the lower reaches of the atmosphere. Excessive exposure to UV radiation results in skin cancer.


People who are unable to find a job but will accept work if given the opportunity.


When used in an environmental context, a term describing land or habitat in its natural state.


the main process driving the creation and ongoing remaking of towns and cities. An area is deemed urban if it has a population of more than 20 000 people. The term is often used with reference to the movement of people from rural to urban areas.

Vector-borne diseases

Diseases that are commonly transmitted through vectors. Vector is a term used broadly to refer to any animal that transmits human disease or plays an essential role in a parasites life cycle (for example, anopheles mosquitoes transmitting malaria, snail hosts of schistosomiasis, or rodent reservoirs of leshmaniasis).


The plant-life of an area or region.


South African term for natural vegetation, usually grassland or savanna, typically containing scattered shrubs or trees.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Primarily the lighter fractions of oil or hydrocarbons, that is, the parts that evaporate easily because they have alow boiling point.


Something which nobody wants at a particular time and which needs to be disposed of. (SeeSolid waste.)

Waste management

A control system to limit, collect, and dispose of waste, through policies and environmental standards.

Waste treatment

The treatment of industrial or municipal waste with chemicals or natural organisms to reduce the amount of nutrients and other contaminants in the water before it is released to the environment.

Waste water

Water left over after it has been used. for example in homes, gardens, and factories.

Water abstraction

The removal of water from a body of water.

Water balance

The balance between incoming water and the loss or use of water in a given area or system.

Water erosion

A process of soil erosion beginning when raindrops bombard bare soil, loosening and washing away soil particles and culminating eventually in gully formation.

Water table

A more or less horizontal layer in the soil below which all spaces between soil particles are saturated with water.


Diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, gastroenteritis, hepatitis, and schistosomiasis, which are commonly transmitted through contaminated water.


Transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems, where the water table is usually at or near the surface, or where the land is periodically covered with shallow water, in normal circumstances, such land supports or would support vegetation typically adapted to life in saturated soil.

Wind erosion

A process of soil erosion, most severe in dry flat areas where vegetative cover is poor and winds blow strongly.

World Heritage Site

Architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structures of natural or archaeological elements, structures or landscapes, and combinations of features, which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art, or science. The protection of world heritage sites is the duty of the international community as a whole, and is governed by the United Nations World Heritage Convention.
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