Glossary of terms

The terms defined here are specific to the National Standards and pertain to Australian conditions and species


Abiotic non-living materials and conditions within a given ecosystem, including soil, rock, dead wood, litter or aqueous substrate, the atmosphere, weather and climate, topographic relief and aspect, the nutrient regime, hydrological regime, fire regime and salinity regime.

Adaptive managemen a sophisticated form of ‘trial and error';. Using the currently best available knowledge, skills and technology an action is implemented and outcomes recorded including success, failures and potential for improvement. These learnings form the basis of the next round of decision making and trialling in a process of continuous improvement.

Approach, (to restoration) the category of treatment (i.e. natural regeneration, assisted regeneration or reconstruction).

Assisted regeneration the practice of fostering natural regeneration and recolonisation after actively removing ecological impediments (e.g. invasive species, fish barriers) and reinstating appropriate abiotic and biotic states (e.g. environmental flows, fire regimes). While generally this approach is typical of sites of low to intermediate degradation, even some very highly degraded sites have proven capable of natural recovery given appropriate treatment and sufficient time frames.

Attributes, of an ecosystem the biotic and abiotic properties and functions of an ecosystem (In this document referred to as including absence of threats, physical conditions, species composition, community structure, ecosystem function and external exchanges).

Barriers (to recovery)factors impeding recovery of an ecosystem attribute.

Biotic, biota the living components of an ecosystem, including living animals and plants, fungi, bacteria and other forms of life (microscopic to large).

Carbon sequestration the capture and long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide (typically in biomass by way of photosynthesis and tree growth) to reduce the impacts of climate change.

Climate envelope the climatic range in which a species currently exists. With climate change, such envelopes are likely to shift towards the poles or higher elevations. However, as precipitation is likely to change in less predictable ways, it is likely that the displacement of climate envelopes will be more complex.

Community structure the physical organisation of biotic and abiotic elements in a community. This refers to the degree of layering and spatial patchiness in an ecosystem; whether of substrates (e.g. rocks, coral or shell reefs, woody debris) or organisms (e.g. trees, shrubs, ground layer vegetation). This enables the development of complexity of habitats and functions

Composition (of an ecosystem) the array and relative proportion of organisms within an ecosystem.

Construction methods involved in engineering permanent or temporary components that did not occur previously at that site—as distinct from 'reconstruction'.

Cultural ecosystem some ecosystems (e.g. agro-ecosystems) in which local indigenous species have been substantially transformed by humans well beyond natural analogues (e.g. agro-ecosystems). These may become the subject of ecological restoration or may be conserved as cultural ecosystems.

Cycling ecological cycles include the movement of resources such as water, carbon, nitrogen, and other elements that are fundamental to all other ecosystem functions.

Damage (to ecosystem) a substantial level of impact, generally from a single disturbance event.

Degradation (of an ecosystem) a persistent decline in the structure, function and composition of an ecosystem compared to its former state, generally from frequent or persistent impacts.

Destruction (of an ecosystem)  complete removal or depletion of an ecosystem.

Ecological maintenance ongoing activities intended to counteract processes of ecological degradation to sustain the attributes of an ecosystem. This maintenance phase is distinguished from the restoration phase that precedes it. Higher ongoing maintenance is likely to be required at restored sites where higher levels of threats continue, compared to sites where threats have been controlled.

Ecological restoration  the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed. (Note: Single species restoration can be considered complementary and an important component of ecological restoration.)

Ecosystem small or large scale assemblage of biotic and abiotic components in oceans, rivers and on land in which the components interact to form complex food webs, nutrient cycles and energy flows. The term 'ecosystem'; is used in the Standards to describe an ecological community of any size or scale.

Ecosystem attributes (see Attributes)

Ecosystem services  are the benefits to humans provided by ecosystems. They include the production of clean soil, water and air, the moderation of climate and disease, nutrient cycling and pollination, the provisioning of a range of goods useful to humans and potential for the satisfaction of aesthetic, recreation and other human values. Restoration targets may specifically refer to the reinstatement of particular ecosystem services.

Environmental repair any intentional activity—including reduction of impacts, rehabilitation and ecological restoration—that improves ecosystem functionality, ecosystem services, or biodiversity.

External exchanges the 2-way flows that occur between elements in the landscape or aquatic environment including flows of energy, water, fire, genetic material, animals and seeds. Exchanges are facilitated by habitat linkages.

Five-star (5-star) recovery A semi-quantitative rating system based on biotic and abiotic factors that provides comparative assessment of how well the attributes of an ecosystem are recovering after treatment. (Note, it is not a rating of the restoration works but of the recovery outcomes.)

Full recovery the state whereby all ecosystem attributes closely resemble those of the reference ecosystem.

Functions, of an ecosystem the collective term for the roles and processes that arise from interactions among living and non-living components of ecosystems. Examples include nutrient cycling and sequestration (through biomass accumulation, food production, herbivory, predation and decomposition), water filtration and cycling, soil formation, succession, disturbance regimes (fire, flooding and drying), water filtration and storage, provision of habitat, predation, dispersal, pollination, reproduction, disturbance and resilience.

Gene flows flows of seed or pollen between individual organisms that maintains the genetic diversity of a species' population. In nature, gene flow can be limited by dispersal distances of vectors and by topographic barriers such as mountains and rivers. In fragmented habitats it can be limited by the separation of remnants caused by clearing.

Germplasm the various regenerative materials (e.g. seeds, vegetative materials) that provide a source of genetic material for future populations.

Indicators of recovery characteristics of an ecosystem that a manager identifies as being suitable for measuring the progress of restoration goals or objectives at a particular site (e.g. measures of biotic or abiotic components of the ecosystem).

Landscape flows external exchanges that occur at a level larger than the site (including marine and freshwater areas) and including flows of energy, water, fire, genetic material, animals and seeds. Exchanges are facilitated by habitat linkages.

Local indigenous ecosystem an ecosystem comprising species or subspecies (excluding invasive non-indigenous species) that are either known to have evolved locally or have recently migrated from neighbouring localities due to changing climates. Where local evidence is lacking, regional or historical information can help inform the most probable local indigenous ecosystems. While many ecosystems we consider natural have been modified in extent and configuration (e.g. through burning by Indigenous peoples), the term used to describe ecosystems in which local indigenous species have been substantially transformed by humans well beyond natural analogues (e.g. agro-ecosystems) is 'cultural ecosystem'

Management (of an ecosystem)a broad categorisation that can include maintenanceand repair of ecosystems (including restoration).

Mandatory restoration restoration that is required (mandated) by government, court of law or statutory authority.

Natural regeneration recovery or recruitment of species from a germination or resprouting event. A 'natural regeneration' approach to restoration relies on spontaneous or unassisted natural regeneration as distinct from an 'assisted natural regeneration' approach that depends upon active intervention.

Non-mandatory restoration restoration that is voluntary rather than required (mandated) by a government, regulatory authority or court of law.

Over utilisation any form of harvesting or exploitation of an ecosystem beyond its capacity to regenerate those resources (including over-fishing, over-clearing, over-grazing, over-burning etc.).

Primary treatment the first treatment of a site (e.g. removal of standing weed biomass), after which there will be subsequent follow-up treatments referred to as 'secondary treatments'.

Productivity the rate of generation of biomass in an ecosystem, contributed to by the growth and reproduction of plants and animals.

Provenance  source (location) from which seed or other germplasm is derived.

Reallocation  transformation to another land use other than conservation.

Reconstruction a restoration approach where the appropriate biota need to be entirely or almost entirely reintroduced as they cannot regenerate or recolonise within feasible timeframes, even after expert assisted regeneration interventions.

Recovery the process of an ecosystem regaining its composition, structure and function relative to the levels identified for the reference ecosystem. In restoration, recovery is assisted by restoration activity—and recovery can be described as partial or full.

Recruitment production of a subsequent generation of organisms. This is measured not by numbers of new organisms alone (e.g. germinants of plants) but by the number that establish to adulthood in the population.

Reference ecosystem a real or notional community of organisms able to act as a model or benchmark for restoration. A reference ecosystem usually represents a non- degraded version of the ecosystem complete with its flora, fauna (and other biota), functions, processes and successional states that would have existed on the restoration site had degradation, damage or destruction not occurred—but should be adjusted to accommodate changed or predicted environmental conditions.

Regeneration see natural regeneration and assisted regeneration.

Rehabilitation the process of reinstating a level of ecosystem functionality on degraded sites where ecological restoration is not the aspiration, as a means of enabling ongoing provision of ecosystem goods and services.

Resilience the degree, manner and pace of recovery of species after a disturbance or stress, or the potential or capacity for such recovery. This property is developed by natural selection under conditions of exposure of the species to disturbance over evolutionary time scales—and enables a species or population to persist despite disturbance.

Resilience (of an ecosystem) the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while still retaining similar function, structure, and feedbacks. Highly dependent on the long adapted resilience of the species within the ecosystem. capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while still retaining similar function, structure, and feedbacks. Highly dependent on the long adapted resilience of the species within the ecosystem.

Restoration see also ecological restoration. The term 'restoration' is in common usage and can be used singly and in combination with other words to convey an intent to return something to a prior condition (e.g. restoring a species, a population or a particular ecosystem function such as carbon sequestration). Single species restoration can be considered complementary and an important component of ecological restoration.

Restoration project all works undertaken to achieve recovery of an ecosystem, from the planning stage, through implementation, to the point of full recovery. The term 'project' is not used in this document to refer to a specific limited set of works confined to a contract or funding round.

Revegetation establishment, by any means, of plants on sites (including terrestrial, freshwater and marine areas) that may or may not involve local or indigenous species.

Secondary treatment repeated follow-up treatments, e.g. to control weed, required during the restoration phase after primary treatment has triggered an ecological response.

Seed production area (SPA) a site used for the production of bulk quantities of high quality seed of known origin, quality, free of any undesirable hybridity and with appropriate genetic diversity for replanting or direct seeding onto restoration and rehabilitation sites.

Self-organizing a state whereby all the necessary elements are present and the ecosystem's attributes can continue to develop towards the reference state without outside assistance. Self organisation is evidenced by factors such as growth, reproduction, ratios between producers, herbivores, and predators and niche differentiation relative to characteristics of the identified reference ecosystem.

Site discrete area/location. Can occur at different scales including patch and larger scales (e.g. landscapes or aquatic environments).

Spatial mosaic patchiness in assemblages of species often reflecting spatial patterning (in vertical and/or horizontal plane) due to differences in substrate, topography, hydrology disturbance regimes.

Spatial patterning see spatial mosaic.

Succession (ecological) patterns of change and replacement occurring within and between ecosystems over time in response to disturbance or its absence. Some Australian ecosystems (including higher diversity heath communities) respond to disturbance with all species regenerating together from the outset, whereas others can assemble gradually over time.

Stratum, strata layer or layers in an ecosystem; often referring to vertical layering such as trees, shrubs and herbaceous layers.

Substrate the soil, sand, rock, debris or water medium where ecosystems develop.

Structure (of an ecosystem) the physical organisation of an ecological system both within communities and at a larger scale (e.g. density, stratification, and distribution of species-populations, habitat size and complexity, canopy structure, pattern of habitat patches).

Threat a factor potentially or already causing degradation, damage or destruction.

Threshold (ecological) a point at which a small change in environmental conditions causes a shift in an ecosystem property to a different ecological state. Once crossed, an ecosystem may not easily return to its previous state.

Trajectory (ecological) a pathway of development over time, which can be defined and monitored using sequential measurements of biotic and abiotic ecological parameters.

Transform shift to a different ecosystem. In this Standard, specifically referring to an agro-ecosystem or urban ecosystem.

Translocation the movement of organisms to a different part of the landscape or aquatic environment.

Treatment interventions r actions undertaken to achieve restoration, such as substrate amendment, exotics control, habitat conditioning, reintroductions.

Trophic levels levels in food webs (e.g., producers, herbivores, predators, and decomposers).