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Pollution The presence of minerals, chemicals or physical properties at levels that exceed the values deemed
to define a boundary between “good or acceptable” and “poor or unacceptable” quality, which is
a function of the specific pollutant.
Poverty The pronounced deprivation of well-being.
Precautionary ap- The management concept stating that in cases “where there are threats of serious or irreversible
proach damage, lack of full scientific certainly shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective
measures to prevent environmental degradation.”
Prediction The act of attempting to produce a description of the expected future, or the description itself, such
as “it will be 30 degrees tomorrow, so we will go to the beach.”
Primary energy Energy embodied in natural resources (such as coal, crude oil, sunlight or uranium) that has not
undergone any anthropogenic conversion or transformation.
Projection The act of attempting to produce a description of the future subject to assumptions about certain
preconditions, or the description itself, such as “assuming it is 30 degrees tomorrow, we will go to
the beach.”
Provisioning services The products obtained from ecosystems, including, for example, genetic resources, food and fibre,
and freshwater.
Purchasing power The number of currency units required to purchase the amount of goods and services equivalent to
parity (PPP) what can be bought with one unit of the currency of the base country, for example, the US dollar.
Reforestation Planting of forests on lands that have previously contained forest, but have since been converted to
some other use.
Regulating services The benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystems processes, including, for example, the
regulation of climate, water and some human diseases.
Resilience The capacity of a system, community or society potentially exposed to hazards to adapt by resisting
or changing in order to reach and maintain an acceptable level of functioning and structure.
Rules and norms A part of the umbrella concept of institutions. While the distinction is a bit thin, rules could be con-
sidered to be directions for behavior that can both be explicit or implicit. Norms are an accepted
standard or a way of behaving or doing things that most people agree with.
Run-off A portion of rainfall, melted snow or irrigation water that flows across the ground’s surface and is
eventually returned to streams. Run-off can pick up pollutants from air or land and carry them to
receiving waters.
Sahel A loosely defined strip of transitional vegetation that separates the Sahara desert from the tropical
savannahs to the south. The region is used for farming and grazing, and because of the difficult
environmental conditions that exist at the border of the desert, the region is very sensitive to human-
induced land cover change. It includes parts of Senegal, the Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, Niger,
Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Chad.
Salinization The buildup of salts in soils.
Scale The spatial, temporal (quantitative or analytical) dimension used to measure and study any phenom-
ena. Specific points on a scale can thus be considered levels (such as local, regional, national and
Scenario A description of how the future may unfold based on “if-then” propositions, typically consisting of
a representation of an initial situation, a description of the key drivers and changes that lead to a
particular future state. For example, “given that we are on holiday at the coast, if it is 30 degrees
tomorrow, we will go to the beach”.
Security Relates to personal and environmental security. It includes access to natural and other resources,
and freedom from violence, crime and war, as well as security from natural and human-caused
Sediment Solid material that originates mostly from disintegrated rocks and is transported by, suspended in or
deposited from water.
Sedimentation Strictly, the act or process of depositing sediment from suspension in water. Broadly, all the proc-
esses whereby particles of rock material are accumulated to form sedimentary deposits. Sedimenta-
tion, as commonly used, involves not only aqueous but also glacial, aeolian and organic agents.
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