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Terms are defined in the sense that they are used in these guidelines. Unless otherwise specified, the definitions were made by the editor, by modifying and adapting several definitions available in the literature to the needs of the guidelines. In the following definitions, words that appear in bold italics are defined elsewhere in the glossary.


Non-living (Lawrence, 1995).


Build-up of the coastal land area as a result of accumulation of sediment from the sea. Horizontal accretion occurs when sediments accumulate against coastal land and extend it outward. Vertical accretion occurs when sediments accumulate on coastal land and raise its level (and, thus, counteract subsidence).

Anadromous species

Fish that spend their adult life in the sea but swim upriver to freshwater spawning grounds in order to reproduce (e.g. salmon).


The farming of aquatic organisms, including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Farming implies some sort of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators. Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated. For statistical purposes, aquatic organisms that are harvested by the individual or corporate body that has owned them throughout their rearing period contribute to aquaculture, while aquatic organisms that are exploitable by the public as a common property resource, with or without appropriate licences, are the harvest of fisheries (the definition currently used by FAO for statistical purposes).

Avoidance costs

The actual or imputed costs of preventing environmental deterioration by alternative production and consumption processes, or by reduction of or abstention from economic activities (UN, 1997).


The total weight of all the biological material or the combined mass of all the animals and plants inhabiting a defined area; usually expressed as dry weight per area (grams per square metre, kilograms per hectare). Biomass should not be confused with productivity, the actual rate at which organic matter is created. For example, a redwood forest has a high biomass and low productivity, while phytoplankton have a low biomass (because they are continually consumed by predators) but high productivity.

Brackish water

Water containing salts at a concentration significantly lower than that of sea water. The concentration of total dissolved salts is usually in the range of 1 000 to 10 000 milligrams per litre (UN, 1997).

Carrying capacity

The point of balance between reproduction potential and environmental resistance, which is the maximum population of a species that a specific ecosystem can support indefinitely without deterioration of the character and quality of the resource(s). Carrying capacity is the level of use, at a given level of management, at which a natural or human-induced resource can sustain itself over a long period of time. For example, the maximum level of recreational use, in terms of numbers of people and types of activity, that can be accommodated before the ecological value of the area declines.

Catadromous species

Fish that spend their adult life upriver but descend to the lower river or the sea to spawn.


Condition of the atmosphere at a particular location (microclimate) or in a particular region over a long period of time. Climate is the long-term summation of atmospheric elements (e.g. solar radiation, temperature, humidity, frequency and amount of precipitation, atmospheric pressure, speed and direction of wind) and their variations (UN, 1997).


The geographical area of contact between the terrestrial and marine environments, a boundary area of indefinite width, appreciably wider than the shore.

Coastal area

A geographic entity of land and water affected by the biological and physical processes of both the terrestrial and the marine environments, and defined broadly for the purpose of natural resources management. Coastal area boundaries usually change over time without regard to enabling legislation.

Coastal zone

A geographical entity including both terrestrial and submerged areas of the coast, defined legally or administratively for coastal zone management.

Command and control policy instruments

Mechanisms (often laws) for implementing policies that rely on prescribing modes or standards of behaviour and using sanctions to enforce compliance with them.


Includes protection, maintenance, rehabilitation, restoration and enhancement of populations and ecosystems.


The process of bringing different parts or entities into functioning relationships with each other. In these guidelines, the term is used to describe the process of bringing together concerned government agencies, research institutions, municipalities, NGOs and resource users to agree on objectives, formulate strategies and subsequently implement them.

Deposit refund system

A policy instrument in which a surcharge is levied on the price of products that cause resource depletion or pollution; the surcharge is refunded if the product (or its residuals) are recycled.


The number of different species, their relative abundance and the number of habitats existing in a particular area. Diversity is a measure of the complexity of an ecosystem and often an indication of its relative age, measured in terms of the number of different plant and animal species (often called species richness) it contains, their distribution and the degree of genetic variability within each species. Biological diversity is the term used to designate the variety of life in all its forms, levels and combinations and includes ecosystem, species and genetic diversity.

Earth Summit

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 3 to 14 June 1992. Texts of agreements negotiated by more than 178 governments at the Conference were Agenda 21 (the Programme of Action for Sustainable Development), the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Statement of Forest Principles. The Conference also presented the Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Economic policy instruments

Policy instruments that create the economic incentives for individuals to choose freely to modify or reduce their activities, thus indirectly producing an environmental improvement (Barbier, 1992).


A natural entity (or a system) with distinct structures and relationships that interlink biotic communities (of plants and animals) to each other and link them to their abiotic environment. The study of an ecosystem provides a methodological basis for complex synthesis between organisms and their environment. A complex of ecosystems is constituted of many ecosystems and is characterized by a common origin or common dynamic processes (for example, the complex of ecosystems of a watershed).


Of or pertaining to the soil; resulting from or influenced by factors in the soil or other substrate rather than by climatic factors (Canadian Society of Soil Science, 1972). An edaphic requirement is a requirement of the crop for a particular condition or range of conditions in the soil environment (FAO, 1996a).


In general, the ratio of a system's output (or production) to the inputs that it requires, as in the useful energy produced by a system compared with the energy put into that system. In ecology, efficiency is the percentage of useful energy transferred from one trophic level to the next (such as the ratio of production of herbivores to that of primary producers). Used in the context of production, efficiency is the ratio of useful work performed to the total energy expended, thus it does not count any wastage that is generated. In the context of the allocation of resources, efficiency is the condition that would make at least one person better off and no one worse off. This implies that some may get richer and others not improve their status.

Environmental impact assessment (EIA)

A sequential set of activities designed to identify and predict the impacts of a proposed action on the biogeophysical environment and on human health and well being, and to interpret and communicate information about the impacts, including mitigation measures that are likely to eliminate risks. In many countries, organizations planning new projects are required by law to conduct EIA.


Term used for the administration of justice according to principles of fairness and conscience, balancing the hardships in those cases where legal remedies and monetary damages would not suffice. Intragenerational equity is the principle by which all sections of the community share equitably in the costs and benefits of achieving sustainable development. Intergenerational equity is the principle by which each generation utilizes and conserves the stock of natural resources (in terms of diversity and carrying capacity) in a manner that does not compromise their use by future generations.


Geologically, erosion is defined as the process that slowly shapes hillsides, allowing the formation of soil cover from the weathering of rocks and from alluvial and colluvial deposits. Erosion caused by human activities, as an effect of careless exploitation of the environment, results in increasing runoffs and declined arable layers (Roose, 1996).


Generally the broad portion of a river or stream near its outlet that is influenced by the marine water body into which it flows. The demarcation line is generally the mean tidal level (UN, 1997).

Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)

A concept adopted at the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (1982), whereby a coastal state assumes jurisdiction over the exploitation of marine resources in its adjacent section of the continental shelf, which is taken to be a band extending 200 miles from the shore (UN, 1997).


An outside force, such as a social and/or environmental benefit or cost, not included in the market price of the goods and services being produced; i.e. costs not borne by those who occasion them, and benefits not paid for by the recipients. Some economists suggest that externalities should be internalized, if they are known to have a significant effect on the demand or cost structure of a product, that is, corrections should be made, to allow for externalities when calculating marginal cost. Marginal cost thus becomes a social opportunity cost, or true cost.


The place or type of site where species and communities normally live or grow, usually characterized by relatively uniform physical features or by consistent plant forms. Deserts, lakes and forests are all habitats.


The time during which radioactivity or some other property of substances falls to half of its original value (UN, 1997).

Human settlements

An integrative concept that comprises (a) physical components of shelter and infrastructure and (b) services to which the physical elements provide support, that is, community services such as education, health, culture, welfare, recreation and nutrition (UN, 1997).


Signals of processes Ð inputs, outputs, effects, results, outcomes, impacts, etc. Ð that enable them to be judged or measured. Both qualitative and quantitative indicators are needed for management learning, policy review, monitoring and evaluation.


The rules that operate in a society or, more formally, the humanly devised constraints that shape human interactions. An institution is formed when at least two individuals or groups create arrangements that bind more than themselves. Institutions therefore structure incentives in human exchange, whether political, social or economic. Institutions can be formal (i.e. devised rules) or informal (i.e. socially transmitted conventions and codes of behaviour). Thus, they can be created or may simply evolve over time, as does the common law. Institutions determine the opportunities in a society; organizations are created to take advantage of those opportunities and, as organizations evolve, they alter institutions (after North, 1990).


The process of bringing together separate components as a functional whole that involves coordination of interventions. In ICAM, integration may take place at three levels, system, functional and policy systems integration refers to the physical, social and economic linkages of land and water uses and ensures that all relevant interactions and issues are considered; functional integration ensures that programmes and projects are consistent with ICAM goals and objectives; and policy integration ensures that management actions are consistent with other development and policy initiatives.

Integrated coastal area management (ICAM)

A dynamic process by which actions are taken for the use, development and protection of coastal resources and areas to achieve national goals established in cooperation with user groups and regional and local authorities. In this definition, integrated management refers to the management of sectoral components as parts of a functional whole with explicit recognition that it is the users of resources, not the stocks of natural resources, that are the focus of management. For the purpose of integrated management, the boundaries of a coastal area should be defined according to the problems to be resolved. The definition thus implies a pragmatic approach to the defining of coastal areas in which the area under consideration might change over time as additional problems are addressed that require resolution over a wider geographical area.

Land-use planning

The systematic assessment of land and water potential, alternative patterns of land use and other physical, social and economic conditions, for the purpose of selecting and adopting the land-use options that are most beneficial to land users without degrading the resources or the environment, together with the selection of measures most likely to encourage such land uses (Choudhury and Jansen, 1997).

Liability legislation

Law requiring polluters or resource users to pay damages to those individual or corporate bodies affected by their actions. Damaged parties collect settlements through litigation and the court system. Examples include long-term performance bonds posted for potential or uncertain hazards from infrastructure construction and "zero net impact" requirements for road alignments or water crossings.


Upper layer of the earth, including its crust and upper mantle.

Natural resources

Any portion of the natural environment, such as air, water, soil, botanical and zoological resources and minerals. A renewable resource can potentially last indefinitely (provided stocks are not overexploited) without reducing the available supply because it is replaced through natural processes (either because it recycles rapidly, as water does, or because it is alive and can propagate itself or be propagated, as some organisms and ecosystems do). Non-renewable resources (such as coal and oil) may eventually be replaced by natural processes, but these processes occur over long periods of geologic time rather than within the time-frame of current generations, and their consumption necessarily involves their depletion.

Non-governmental organization (NGO)

Any organization that is not a part of federal, provincial, territorial or municipal government. The term usually refers to non-profit organizations involved in development activities.

Non-compliance fees

"Additional" prices to be paid to meet the social costs arising from environmental damages caused by failure to comply with environmental requirements.

Non-point source of pollution

Pollution sources that are diffused and do not have a single point of origin or are not introduced into a receiving stream from a specific outlet. The pollutants are generally carried off the land by storm-water runoff. Non-point sources of pollutants include agriculture, urban areas and mining (UN, 1997).


The aims of an action, or what is intended to be achieved. Any objective will include explicit statements against which progress can be measured, and will identify which outcomes are truly important and the way that they interrelate; quantified objectives are referred to as targets.

Open access

A situation in which access to a natural resource (e.g. a fishery or grazing land) is, for practical purposes, free, unlimited and available to everyone. This situation arises either where no one is legally entitled to deny others access (e.g. to fish on the high seas) or where the owner or manager of the resource fails to control access effectively. Because these resources are freely available or at minimal cost, they are frequently overexploited and degraded.

Performance bonds

Similar to a deposit refund system but categorized as an economic policy instrument, a bond is placed that is equal to the estimated social costs of possible environmental damage as a surety for complying with environmental requirements and is forfeited if these requirements are not met.


Amplification of the strategy showing the precise means by which objectives will be reached; the policy instruments to be employed; the financial and human resources required; and the time frame for implementation. See also Rolling plan.


The plotting of a course of action (involving executive action or enforcement) that is proposed to carry out some proceeding, devising the relative positions and timing of a set of actions.


The course of action for an undertaking adopted by a government, a person or some other party. The instruments that exist to support policy and the tools used to achieve policy objectives comprise some or all of the following societal instruments; economic or market-based instruments; command and control instruments; direct government involvement; and institutional and organizational arrangements. It is to be mentioned that, although law may be used as a policy instrument, there are cases where law may impose constraints on what policies can be adopted. For example, if the constitution states that the shore is the patrimony of the nation or requires the payment of compensation for the expropriation of the land, the policies that could be adopted for ICAM are restricted.

Policy process

The whole process of defining goals and objectives, and the means to achieve them, that are formulated in strategies and plans.


Descriptive notice of series of events, including an indication of the intended proceedings. In these guidelines, the term is used for an undertaking structured around a defined objective, usually consisting of a number of projects.

Protected area

A geographically defined area that is designed and managed to achieve specific conservation objectives.

Rolling plan

The practice of preparing a plan for a number of years in annually sequentially less detail, revising the plan annually and maintaining the number of years covered by the plan.

Stumpage value

The economic value of a standing tree, equivalent to the amount concessionaries earn when a log is sold to the sawmill or the exporter, less the cost of logging. It is used as the net-price valuation in environmental accounting (UN, 1997).

Subnational government

Any level of government below the national level. In large, federally organized countries (e.g. Australia, Brazil, India and the United States), the ICAM responsibility rests on the state governments; in unitary countries (e.g. Kenya), there may also be a devolution of responsibility.


Sinking of the earth's surface in response to geological or human-induced causes (e.g. mining, extraction of water or petroleum by wells). When subsidence occurs over large areas, the resulting features are termed geosynclines. Non-linear subsidence produces basins and irregular depressions. Subsidence may be counteracted by vertical accretion where sediment-loaded floodwater enters the area.


Individuals and groups of individuals (including government and non-governmental institutions, traditional communities, universities, research institutions, development agencies, banks and donors) with an interest or claim (whether stated or implied) that has the potential of being affected by or affecting a given project and its objectives. Stakeholder groups that have a direct or indirect "stake" can be at the household, community, local, regional, national or international level.


A coherent statement indicating how resources will be deployed and the approach that will be taken to achieve one or more objectives successfully (often set out in a policy or plan).


Transfer of certain tasks of general interest to the civil society with responsibilities at a hierarchical level (minimizing economic costs and maximizing social welfare). Subsidiarity entails that each member of the social group involved shall organize their own actions towards an end that must remain part of the objectives pursued by the entire group (Babin et al., 1998).

Sustainable development

"Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (Bruntland Report, 1987) or "...the management and the conservation of the natural resource base and the orientation of the technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human need for present and future generations. Such sustainable development in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors concerns land, water, plant and animal genetic resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable." (FAO Council, 1989).


Cooperative interaction of two or more elements, producing a greater total effect than the sum of their individual effects.


Limit below which a stimulus ceases to be perceptible or signal, indicating that a critical state of a resource has been reached. In ICAM, thresholds are used (e.g. in fisheries) as an early warning when a resource is approaching a target reference point or a limit reference point, suggesting that a certain type of action (usually agreed beforehand) needs to be taken. Thresholds therefore add precaution to natural resource management, especially for resources or situations (e.g. uncertainty of available information, inherent inertia of the management system) involving high risk (Garcia, 1996).

Tidal flat

Level, muddy surface bordering an estuary, alternatively submerged and exposed to the air by changing tidal levels (UN, 1997).

Tradable permits

An economic policy instrument under which the rights to discharge pollution or exploit resources can be exchanged through either a free or a controlled "permit" market. Examples include individual transferable quotas in fisheries, tradable depletion rights to mineral concessions, tradable pollution or resource use permits, and marketable discharge permits for water-borne effluents.


The value of something that has to be given up in order to get something else that is desired (e.g. the environmental cost incurred to obtain economic development). Sustainability can be evaluated by the sum of the various social, economic and natural resources where the degrees of use, exchange and trading among resources will vary according to the values given to each. Trade-off patterns are therefore determined by the different properties of a system and their importance to different groups. The understanding of social dynamics and resource-use systems and the evaluation of related trade-offs, in terms of equity, productivity, resilience and environmental stability, are useful to envision alternative development scenarios.

Trophic levels

Classification of natural communities or organisms according to their place in the food chain.


As used in these guidelines, the process of working at the national (or subnational) and area levels simultaneously.


Right of enjoying the use and advantages of another's property (e.g. land) short of destruction or waste of its substance.

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