Glossary of terms
Here you will find definitions of terms used in resources on the Foodsource website. You will also find these definitions on the right-hand side within chapters. If you have any suggestions for new glossary items, let us know here.
all human activity aimed at the preservation of both the variety and variability of living organisms in a particular area of concern, or on earth in general. People value different aspects of biodiversity in different ways, and can have different priorities in biodiversity conservation e.g. to protect an endemic species or a species that supports an ecological process important to human wellbeing such as pollination.
Biomass refers to dry weight of plant-based material that has been harvested or is available on an area of land. Typically, it refers to the use of plants not for food or fibre, but rather for (bio)energy.
is defined by the United Nations as “any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use”. Applied to agriculture, biotechnology involves controversial as well as uncontroversial practices. Examples of biotechnology are the genetic engineering of crops (GMOs), conventional cross-breeding, breeding based on individual plants’ and animals’ genetic traits (molecular marking), cloning animals, and the production of new vaccines using microbiological methods.
C3 plants are those whose method of photosynthesis is adapted to cooler and wetter climates. They represent the majority of plants globally and include rice, soybean, and wheat. C3 plants are less efficient at creating energy for growth than C4 type plants in hot and dry climates.
C4 plants are those whose method of photosynthesis is adapted to hotter and dryer climates. They represent only a small fraction of plants globally. Examples include some grasses, maize, sugar cane, millet, and sorghum. In hot and dry climates, it is more efficient at creating energy for growth than C3 plants
Carbon dioxide equivalent
Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2.eq) is a measure used to compare and combine the warming effect of emissions from different greenhouse gases, using single measure of impact. This is done on the basis of a conversion factor known as the Global Warming Potential (GWP), which is the ratio of the total energy trapped by a unit of greenhouse gas (e.g. a tonne of methane) over a specific period of time (normally 100 years), to that trapped by carbon dioxide over the same time period.
Carbon dioxide equivalents
A commonly used means of expressing different greenhouse gas emissions (i.e. methane) as an ‘equivalent’ quantity of carbon dioxide (CO2). This is generally calculated using the 100-year Global Warming Potential, but other methods have also been proposed, and can give a very different picture of the impacts of different activities.
The amount of carbon emissions that are produced to achieve a specific outcome. For example, the carbon intensity of electricity is the emission produced per unit of electricity supply.
A carbon price is a cost that must be paid for the right to produce a unit of carbon pollution. This may take the form of a carbon tax on pollution or an obligation to buy permits from a carbon market. In either case, the goal is to promote investment by polluters to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Carbon sequestration is any process by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and stored elsewhere, whether by biological or technological means. There are two main types of carbon sequestration, terrestrial (carbon plants and soils), and geologic (carbon stored in rock formations) . One classic example of carbon sequestration is reforestation.
A carbon sink is a reservoir (natural or artificial) which accumulates and stores carbon over time. The process of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by increasing the sink capacity of the reservoir (which could be a soil) is called carbon sequestration
Carbon stock refers to the amount of carbon stored in plants, soils, and ecosystems.
Choice architecture refers to the design of which choices are made available or not to people in a given context, and how these different choices are presented to them. In any context, there is always a choice architecture affecting decision making, whether deliberately designed or not. For example people's purchasing decisions in a shop are dictated by the products available to buy in a grocery shop, their price, their presentation and visibility, the extent to which they are advertised and promoted and so forth: these collectively constitute the choice architecture.
Climate smart agriculture
often discussed in the context of low-income countries, CSA was first introduced by the FAO in 2010 as an integrated approach geared at reorienting and redesigning agricultural systems to address and build resilience to climate change. CSA involves three interconnected elements: increasing agricultural productivity and incomes; adapting and building resilience to climate change; and the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. It aims to identify context specific agricultural strategies supporting these elements and guide coordinated actions among stakeholders (e.g. farmers, researchers, private sector, civil society and policy makers) from the farm to the global level. CSA is criticised for justifying nearly any form of agriculture (thereby ‘greenwashing’ unsustainable practices) and for failing to address enduring inequalities in food production and distribution. CSA is closely related to the concepts of sustainable intensification and ecological intensification but differs from them in its strong focus on planning and implementation for climate change adaptation and mitigation, and less on reducing environmental impacts beyond emissions.
Commonly used in medical and nutritional epidemiology, a cohort study is a longitudinal study that samples a cohort (a group of people that is defined by having experienced the same event, e.g. birth or graduation, in a selected time period) and follows it over time to investigate people’s exposure to certain factors (e.g. the consumption of certain foods) and the occurrence of particular health outcomes. For example, a cohort study may measure the dietary patterns over time of a group of people who were born between 1960 and 1970 to find out which dietary patterns are associated with the development of diabetes or particular cancers. There are two types of cohort studies. Prospective studies follow a cohort of people who differ by certain factors (e.g. smokers and non-smokers) to study which medical conditions appear in what part of the cohort (e.g. after 20 years more smokers than non-smokers have developed lung cancer). Retrospective studies study a cohort after a medical condition (e.g. lung cancer) has occurred in a part of the group to trace back which factors (e.g. smoking) may have contributed to this.