Biological diversity, or biodiversity, means the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

Convention on Biological Diversity (1992)

Cross-sectoral collaboration refers to working with people and organisation across sectors, including science, policy and business to address complex environmental and societal challenges and to create change.

Ecosystem services are benefits people obtain from ecosystems. These include provisioning services such as food and water; regulating services such as regulation of floods, drought, land degradation, and disease; supporting services such as soil formation and nutrient cycling; and cultural services such as recreational, spiritual, religious and other non-material benefits.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

Interdisciplinary research features significant interactions between two or more disciplines and moves beyond established disciplinary foundations. Interdisciplinary research often refers to the full spectrum of interdisciplinary activity, including cross-disciplinary and transdisciplinary work.

Research Excellence Framework 2021 & Research England

Nature and biodiversity are often used interchangeably but more specifically nature refers to the whole natural world that is not manufactured by people (including plants, animals, geological and physical processes), whereas biodiversity is the diversity of the living world.

Natural capital refers to the elements of nature that produce value (directly and indirectly) to people, such as the stock of forests, rivers, land, minerals and oceans. It includes the living aspects of nature (such as fish stocks) as well as the non-living aspects (such as minerals and energy resources). Natural capital underpins all other types of capital (man-made, human and social) and is the foundation on which our economy, society and prosperity is built.

Natural Capital Committee (2014)

A natural capital approach to policy and decision making considers the value of the natural environment for people and the economy.

Enabling a Natural Capital Approach (Defra 2020)

Natural capital accounts provide a structured set of information relating to the stocks of natural capital and the flows of services supplied by them. These can be physical accounts, classifying and recording the extent, condition and annual service flow, or monetary accounts, assigning a monetary valuation to selected services.

Principles of Natural Capital Accounting (ONS 2017)

Natural resources are assets (raw materials) occurring in nature that can be used for economic production or consumption.

OECD (2007)

By policymaker we mean a person with power to influence or determine policies and practices at an international, national, regional, or local level.

The value of nature is not the same as its price. The IPBES conceptual framework recognises three broad types of values: intrinsic, instrumental and relational values. Nature is valued for its own sake, for its contributions to people and for good quality of life. Economic valuation is used in political and business decision making to highlight the benefits of nature.


Systems thinking is a set of synergistic, analytic skills used to improve the capability to identify and understand systems, predict their behaviours, and devise modifications to them in order to produce desired effects.

Ross & Wade (2015)

Other terms

Please see UNEP-WCMC Biodiversity A-Z for a more concise list of terms relating to biodiversity, ecosystem services and conservation.

The UK Government has also published a guidance on the natural capital terminology used by its Natural Capital Committee (2019).