Rewilding returns lost species to strengthen ecosystems


apex predator: An animal at the top of the food chain. Such predators also have no predators themselves.

Arctic: A region that falls within the Arctic Circle. The edge of that circle is defined as the northernmost point at which the sun is visible on the northern winter solstice and the southernmost point at which the midnight sun can be seen on the northern summer solstice. The high Arctic is that most northerly third of this region. It’s a region dominated by snow cover much of the year.

atmosphere: The envelope of gases surrounding Earth, another planet or a moon.

biodiversity: (short for biological diversity) The number and variety of species found within a localized geographic region.

biologist: A scientist involved in the study of living things.

birds of prey: Birds, such as falcons and owl, that hunt for their food.

carbon: A chemical element that is the physical basis of all life on Earth. (in climate studies) The term carbon sometimes will be used almost interchangeably with carbon dioxide to connote the potential impacts that some action, product, policy or process may have on long-term atmospheric warming.

carbon dioxide: (or CO2) A colorless, odorless gas produced by all animals when the oxygen they inhale reacts with the carbon-rich foods that they’ve eaten. Carbon dioxide acts as a greenhouse gas, trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere. Plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen during photosynthesis, the process they use to make their own food.

carnivore: An animal that either exclusively or primarily eats other animals.

climate: The weather conditions that typically exist in one area, in general, or over a long period.

climate change: Long-term, significant change in the climate of Earth. It can happen naturally or in response to human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests.

conservation biologist: A scientist who investigates ways to help preserve ecosystems and especially species that are in danger of extinction.

continent: (in geology) The huge land masses that sit upon tectonic plates. In modern times, there are six established geologic continents: North America, South America, Eurasia, Africa, Australia and Antarctica. In 2017, scientists also made the case for yet another: Zealandia.

downstream: Further on in the direction in which a stream is flowing or the path at which stream water will flow in its trek to towards the oceans.

ecosystem: A group of interacting living organisms — including microorganisms, plants and animals — and their physical environment within a particular climate. Examples include tropical reefs, rainforests, alpine meadows and polar tundra. The term can also be applied to elements that make up some an artificial environment, such as a company, classroom or the internet.

endangered: An adjective used to describe species at risk of going extinct.

eucalyptus: Several species of tall and aromatic trees found naturally only in Australia. Their wood is valued for timber. The oil found in the leaves has been used in medicine. And these trees are perhaps best known as the only thing adult koalas will eat.

extinct: An adjective that describes a species for which there are no living members.

feral: Animals that were once domesticated but now run wild. Examples may include feral dogs, horses or pigs.

food web: (also known as a food chain) The network of relationships among organisms sharing an ecosystem. Member organisms depend on others within this network as a source of food.

fry: (in biology) Hatchling fish that are tiny and defenseless.

generation: A group of individuals (in any species) born at about the same time or that are regarded as a single group. Your parents belong to one generation of your family, for example, and your grandparents to another.

greenhouse gas: A gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect by absorbing heat. Carbon dioxide is one example of a greenhouse gas.

habitat: The area or natural environment in which an animal or plant normally lives, such as a desert, coral reef or freshwater lake. A habitat can be home to thousands of different species.

hatchery: A facility where eggs are hatched and then reared until the animals are old enough to survive on their own, at which point they typically are released into the wild (fish) or slaughtered as human food (chickens).

herbivore: A creature that either exclusively or primarily eats plants.

insect: A type of arthropod that as an adult will have six segmented legs and three body parts: a head, thorax and abdomen. There are hundreds of thousands of insects, which include bees, beetles, flies and moths.

invasive species: (also known as aliens) A species that is found living, and often thriving, in an ecosystem other than the one in which it evolved. Some invasive species were deliberately introduced to an environment, such as a prized flower, tree or shrub. Some entered an environment unintentionally, such as a fungus whose spores traveled between continents on the winds. Still others may have escaped from a controlled environment, such as an aquarium or laboratory, and begun growing in the wild. What all of these so-called invasives have in common is that their populations are becoming established in a new environment, often in the absence of natural factors that would control their spread. Invasive species can be plants, animals or disease-causing pathogens. Many have the potential to cause harm to wildlife, people or to a region’s economy.

juvenile: Young, sub-adult animals. These are older than “babies” or larvae, but not yet mature enough to be considered an adult.

mammal: A warm-blooded animal distinguished by the possession of hair or fur, the secretion of milk by females for feeding their young, and (typically) the bearing of live young.

marsupial: A type of mammal that carries its young for a period after birth in external pouches. There the developing babies have access to their mother’s nipples — and milk. Most of these species evolved in Australian and have especially long hind-legs. Examples of marsupials include kangaroos, opossums and koalas.

methane: A hydrocarbon with the chemical formula CH4 (meaning there are four hydrogen atoms bound to one carbon atom). It’s a natural constituent of what’s known as natural gas. It’s also emitted by decomposing plant material in wetlands and is belched out by cows and other ruminant livestock. From a climate perspective, methane is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is in trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere, making it a very important greenhouse gas.

model: A simulation of a real-world event (usually using a computer) that has been developed to predict one or more likely outcomes. Or an individual that is meant to display how something would work in or look on others.

native: Associated with a particular location; native plants and animals have been found in a particular location since recorded history began. These species also tend to have developed within a region, occurring there naturally (not because they were planted or moved there by people). Most are particularly well adapted to their environment.

New South Wales: One of the Eastern states that make up Australia. Home to some 8 million people, it’s the oldest, largest and most urban of those states. Located in the east-central and southeastern part of the nation, most of its residents live in or near the state capital of Sydney.

oxygen: A gas that makes up about 21 percent of Earth’s atmosphere. All animals and many microorganisms need oxygen to fuel their growth (and metabolism).

Pacific: The largest of the world’s five oceans. It separates Asia and Australia to the west from North and South America to the east.

permafrost: Soil that remains frozen for at least two consecutive years. Such conditions typically occur in polar climates, where average annual temperatures remain close to or below freezing.

Pleistocene: The earlier epoch of the Quaternary Period. It ranged from 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago. The term can also refer to rocks that from this period. During this time, periods of Ice Ages and interglacial warming occurred. The mammoth was one of the largest land animals from this time.

pollinate: To transport male reproductive cells — pollen — to female parts of a flower. This allows fertilization, the first step in plant reproduction.

population: (in biology) A group of individuals from the same species that lives in the same area.

potent: An adjective for something (like a germ, poison, drug or acid) that is very strong or powerful.

prairie: A type of fairly flat and temperate North American ecosystem characterized by tall grasses, fertile soils and few trees.

predator: (adjective: predatory) A creature that preys on other animals for most or all of its food.

prey: (n.) Animal species eaten by others. (v.) To attack and eat another species.

PVC: Short for polyvinylchloride, a type of plastic used in many building and plumbing applications.

rewilding: (v. to rewild) The careful and planned reintroduction of animals to an environment from which they have disappeared.

risk: The chance or mathematical likelihood that some bad thing might happen. For instance, exposure to radiation poses a risk of cancer. Or the hazard — or peril — itself. (For instance: Among cancer risks that the people faced were radiation and drinking water tainted with arsenic.)

rodent: A mammal of the order Rodentia, a group that includes mice, rats, squirrels, guinea pigs, hamsters and porcupines.

salmon: A popular game fish that tends to live most of its life in the ocean, then enters coastal rivers (and freshwater) to breed and lay eggs.

scavenge: To collect something useful from what had been discarded as waste or trash.

shrub: A perennial plant that grows in a generally low, bushy form.

Siberia: A region in northern Asia, almost all of which falls within Russia. This land takes its name from the language of the Tatar people, where Siber means sleeping land. This region is vast. It has become famous for its long, harsh winters, where temperatures can fall to −68° Celsius (−90° Fahrenheit).

species: A group of similar organisms capable of producing offspring that can survive and reproduce.

steppe: The term for a vast, wild grassland that is typically devoid of trees (except near rivers), especially in Southeastern Europe or Asia.

sustainable: An adjective to describe the use of resources in a such a way that they will continue to be available long into the future.

system: A network of parts that together work to achieve some function. For instance, the blood, vessels and heart are primary components of the human body’s circulatory system. Similarly, trains, platforms, tracks, roadway signals and overpasses are among the potential components of a nation’s railway system. System can even be applied to the processes or ideas that are part of some method or ordered set of procedures for getting a task done.

Tasmanian: Of or referring to Tasmania, a major, mountainous island of Australia. It is south of the eastern part of the mainland across the Bass Strait. Until 1856, Tasmania had been known as Van Diemen’s Land. Home to nearly 500,000 people, its capital city is Hobart. The name also refers to a state in Australia that comprises this island and several smaller ones.

tundra: A cold, usually lowland area in far northern regions. The subsoil is permanently frozen. In summer, a tundra’s top layer of soil thaws and can support low-growing mosses, lichens, grasses, shrubs and trees (some only a few centimeters high).

upstream: The direction from which water flows, or portions of a stream from which water has flowed.

wetland: As the name implies, this is a low-lying area of land either soaked or covered with water much of the year. It hosts plants and animals adapted to live in, on or near water.


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