Contents SoE 2012

NSW State of the Environment 2012

People and the Environment Atmosphere Land Water Biodiversity


acid sulfate soils: a mix of low-lying coastal clays and sands that contain sulfur-bearing compounds at concentrations above 0.05% in clays and 0.01% in sands

air toxics: gaseous, aerosol or particulate contaminants present in ambient air in trace amounts with characteristics (toxicity, persistence) which make them a hazard to human health, plant and animal life

alluvium: clay, silt, sand, gravel or similar material deposited by running water, especially during recent geological time

anthropogenic: produced or caused by human activity

aquaculture: cultivation of aquatic organisms, including fish, molluscs and plants in fresh or salt water

aquifer: rocks and porous sediments which hold and yield groundwater

ballast water: water carried in tanks to maintain stability when a ship is lightly loaded and normally discharged to the sea when the ship is loaded with cargo

benthic: bottom-dwelling; usually refers to organisms living on the substrate at the bottom of a water body

biodiversity: the variety of all life forms – the different plants, animals and microorganisms, the genes they contain and the ecosystems they form

biological control: use of organisms (predators, herbivores, parasites and disease-producing organisms) to control pests and weeds

biomass: the total mass of living material occupying a specific part, or the whole of, an ecosystem at a given time

bioregion: relatively large areas characterised by broad, landscape-scale natural features and environmental processes that influence the functions of ecosystems; these landscape patterns are linked to fauna and flora assemblages and processes at the ecosystem scale, providing a useful means for simplifying and reporting on more complex patterns of biodiversity

biota: collectively, the plants, microorganisms and animals of a region

bloom: dense and visible growth of organisms (algae or other phytoplankton) in water, resulting from proliferation caused by increased nutrients (such as phosphorus), possibly toxic and generally resulting in reduced oxygen in the water

blue-green algae: members of the cyanobacteria (or Cyanophyta), characterised by blue-green pigmentation and a lack of cellular organisation

bycatch: species taken incidentally in a fishery along with the target species and often discarded

climate variation/climate variability: long-term changes in the patterns of average weather of a region or the Earth as a whole

CO2-equivalent (CO2-e): a measure used to compare the global warming potential (GWP) of various greenhouse gases relative to the concentration of CO2 (which is defined as having a GWP of 1); methane, for example, is 21 times more effective than CO2 at heating the atmosphere and therefore has a GWP of 21; thus five tonnes of methane is equivalent to 5 × 21 = 105 tonnes of CO2

connectivity: the degree to which the landscape facilitates animal movement and ecological flows

Country: the term used by Aboriginal people to describe both the land and waters, including the sea, to which they have a strong cultural connection

critically endangered species: species (or ecological community) facing an extremely high risk of extinction in NSW in the immediate future

disturbance: (ecology) any discrete event in time which disrupts ecosystem structure and resource availability

diversion: volume of water taken from a stream or aquifer on a sustained basis to supply water for rural, urban and industrial use; includes diversions undertaken by a water authority, private company or a group of individuals authorised to act as a water supply authority

ecological community: an aggregation of organisms characterised by a distinctive combination of two or more ecologically related species

ecosystem processes: the numerous interactions between different components (both living and non-living) of an ecosystem that support the biological elements of the system, including the storage and cycling of energy, nutrients and minerals; predation and competition; disturbance; weathering; and succession

ecosystem services: any functions provided by an ecosystem, such as the provision of clean air and water, the maintenance of soil fertility and the removal of wastes, that benefit humankind

electrical conductivity: a measure of charged particles in water used to estimate salinity in microSiemens per centimetre (µS/cm)

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO): a natural oscillation in the state of the ocean–atmosphere system that leads to substantial changes in atmospheric circulation throughout the Asia–Pacific region and generally drier conditions in eastern Australia

emissions trading: a scheme to provide for market-based allocation of discharge opportunities; the environmental regulator first determines total acceptable emissions and then divides this total into tradeable units (often called credits or permits) which are then allocated to scheme participants

endangered species: a species, population or ecological community facing a very high risk of extinction in NSW in the near future, but not considered to be critically endangered

environmental flows: flows of water (by volume and season) necessary to maintain aquatic biota and ecosystem processes

ephemeral plants: plants with a short life cycle – either perennial plants that emerge and die in a seasonal cycle or plants that emerge and grow in response to short wet periods in arid climates

eutrophication: the over-enrichment of a body of water with nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, resulting in excessive growth of some plants and algae and the subsequent depletion of dissolved oxygen

e-waste: used (‘end-of-life’) electrical and electronic equipment, commonly composed of many component materials that are difficult and expensive to separate before they can be reused; many of these materials, such as copper and gold, are valuable non-renewable resources; others, such as heavy metals, carbon black and brominated-flame retardants, are hazardous

extinct species: species that has not been recorded in its known or expected habitat in NSW over a time frame appropriate to its life cycle and form

extraction: taking water from a water body or aquifer for use (also called abstraction)

fishing effort: the amount of fishing gear used in a fishery over a unit of time, essentially fishing capacity times fishing activity

food web: a network describing the feeding interactions of the species in an area

fragmentation: the division of continuous habitat by vegetation clearance for human land-use activities, which isolates the remnant patches of vegetation and the species within them and limits genetic flow between populations

fugitive emissions: releases of gases or vapours from mines or industrial equipment due to unintended or irregular occurences (such as leaks)

full fuel cycle: emissions resulting from end use plus those resulting from feed stock extraction and refining, power generation and energy distribution

greater metropolitan area (GMA): the area of greater Sydney defined under the Protection of the Environment (Clean Air) Regulation 2010 (Part 1, section 3) and comprising the:

(a) Central Coast Metropolitan Area

(b) Newcastle Metropolitan Area

(c) Sydney Metropolitan Area

(d) Wollongong Metropolitan Area

(e) the local government areas of Blue Mountains, Cessnock, Kiama, Lithgow, Maitland, Mid-Western Regional, Muswellbrook, Port Stephens, Shoalhaven, Singleton, Wingecarribee and Wollondilly

greater metropolitan region (GMR1): the area of greater Sydney defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics comprising all statistical local areas and local government areas in the Sydney Statistical Division, Newcastle Statistical Subdivision and Wollongong Statistical Subdivision

greater metropolitan region (GMR2): comprising the Sydney, Illawarra and Lower Hunter regions

greater metropolitan region (GMR3): (Air Emissions Inventory) the area of NSW having Australian Map Grid (AMG) coordinates at the south-west corner at (Easting: 21000, Northing: 6159000, Zone 56) and north-east corner at (Easting: 420000, Northing: 64320000, Zone 56)

greenhouse gases: atmospheric gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons, nitrous oxide, ozone and water vapour, which trap heat reflected from the Earth’s surface

growth form: (vegetation) the general morphology or form of a plant type

Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD): a coupled oceanic and atmospheric phenomenon in the Indian Ocean that affects Australia’s climate

invasive species: a plant or animal that has been introduced into a region in which it does not naturally occur and that becomes established and spreads at the expense of naturally occurring species

invertebrates: animals without backbones, such as insects, worms, snails, mussels, prawns and cuttlefish

key threatening process (KTP): a process defined under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 that significantly threatens, or may have the capability to significantly threaten, the survival or evolutionary development of species, populations or ecological communities

long-term average annual extraction limit (LTAAEL): the level of groundwater that can be extracted from an aquifer sustainably on an annual basis

macroinvertebrates: invertebrates visible to the naked eye, having a body length exceeding 1 millimetre

mosaic: (vegetation) a combination of distinct vegetation types within a spatial unit that cannot be discriminated by the mapping techniques employed

non-woody vegetation: vegetation formations that are less than two metres high or with less than 20% canopy cover (mainly grasslands, arid shrublands and woodlands)

off-gassing: the slow release of a gas from a solid material, such as by evaporation, desorption or chemical alteration

pathogen: a disease-causing organism

potential acid sulfate soils: soils generally found less than five metres above sea level that produce sulfuric acid when drained; the acid can affect groundwater and surface waters, with impacts on urban areas, farming productivity, plants and animals

primary productivity/primary production: (biology) the transformation of chemical or solar energy into organic matter and its accumulation in an ecosystem

productivity: (biology) the rate of accumulation of organic material in an ecosystem

recharge: the process whereby surface water from rain, irrigation or streams infiltrates into groundwater; the amount of water added to or absorbed into a groundwater system; or groundwater that feeds surface waters (also known as baseflow)

regulated rivers: (NSW) those rivers proclaimed under the Water Act 1912 as having their flows controlled by the major dams; ‘regulated’ means that flows along the length of these rivers are controlled by releases from major dams to meet the needs of licensed users; (hydrology) rivers affected by major dams, weirs, canalisation and water transfers

remnant: (ecology) a small, fragmented portion of a vegetation type that once covered an area before being cleared

remote sensing: a means of acquiring information using airborne equipment and techniques to determine the characteristics of an area, commonly using aerial photographs from aircraft and images from satellites

riparian: occurring on or adjacent to a river, stream or other waterway

riparian zone: situated on or belonging to a river or a stream bank

sclerophyll: vegetation type consisting of plants with hard, short and often spiky leaves, adapted to the low-phosphorus soil conditions often found in Australia

sequestration: the long-term storage of carbon dioxide

suspended solids: any solid substances present in water in an undissolved state, usually contributing directly to turbidity

sustainability: environmentally sound resource use; use that does not degrade ecosystems or affect the quality of the resource

temperature anomaly: the difference between an annual average temperature and the climatological average, which by World Meteorological Organisation convention is the average over 1961–90

translocated native species: a plant or animal that occurs naturally in some part of Australia but has been introduced to another region in which it does not naturally occur

turbidity: a measure of the amount of suspended solids (usually fine clay or silt particles) in water and thus the degree of scattering or absorption of light in the water

unregulated rivers: (NSW) rivers without major dams or regulating structures (compare regulated rivers)

upwelling: divergence of water currents or the movement of warm surface water away from land leading to a ‘welling up’ of deeper water that is commonly richer in nutrients, with the combination of nutrients and warmth leading to abundant plant algal growth

vegetation class: a more detailed description of vegetation than formations, based on the dominant structure or growth form, supplemented by selected details of plant composition, location or environmental characteristics that help to best identify it; in NSW, one of 99 classes defined by Keith 2004

vegetation community: a group or assemblage of plant species that tend to grow together in similar environmental conditions where the association of species helps to identify or describe the plant community

vegetation condition: the health of native vegetation communities which reflects the level of naturalness and is commonly assessed against a benchmark, taking account of factors such as structural integrity, species composition, presence or absence of weeds and diseases, and reproduction of species

vegetation formation: a very broad classification of vegetation based on the structure or growth-form of the dominant plants in the formation; in NSW one of 16 formations defined by Keith 2004

vegetation structure: the organisation of plants within a plant stand or assemblage consisting of one or more layers or strata

vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT): a function of the number of motor vehicles on the road and the average distance travelled by each vehicle

vertebrates: animals with backbones and spinal columns, including fishes, sharks and rays, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds

virtually certain: indicates that there is a greater than 99% probability of occurrence, based on the definitions in IPCC 2007

vulnerable species: a species, population or ecological community facing a high risk of extinction in NSW in the medium-term future, but not considered to be endangered

wilderness: an area which, together with its plant and animal communities, is in a state that has not been substantially modified by humans or that is capable of being restored to such a state, and is of sufficient size to make its maintenance in such a state feasible; it can provide opportunities for solitude and self-reliant recreation

woody vegetation: vegetation formations (mainly woodlands and forests) that are over two metres high and with more than 20% canopy cover; also known as detectable native forest

Contents SoE 2012 View printable page Last modified: December 2012