Skip to Content
VIRGINIA NATURALLY

XIII. Glossary

Acid Rain - precipitation that is more acidic than normal, usually caused by emissions of sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides (Air).

Air Pollution - any particles or gases that are in the air, but not part of the air's natural composition (Air).

Assimilation - process through which plants absorb ammonia and nitrate into their roots from soil or water (Land Use and Natural Hazards).


Best Management Practices (BMP) - mandatory and voluntary practices farmers and others use to reduce erosion and prevent or control NPS pollution (Agriculture).

Biodiesel - a conventional diesel fuel mixed with biologically derived oils in order to cut down on the use of fossil fuels (Energy).

Biodiversity - many varieties of plants and animals (Forestry and Wildlife).

Biofuels - a conventional gasoline fuel mixed with biologically derived alcohols in order to cut down on the use of fossil fuels (Energy).

Biome - geographic area characterized by certain types of plant and animal communities that contains smaller ecosystems (Forestry and Wildlife).

Boreal - pertaining to the arctic and Antarctic tundras (Forestry and Wildlife).

Brownfield - a term used to classify abandoned or under-used plots of land or buildings (Land Use and Natural Hazards).


Carbon Cycle - the combined processes, including photosynthesis, decomposition, and respiration, by which carbon as a component of various compounds cycles between its major reservoirs (Energy).

Cluster Zoning - planning development to be concentrated and dense in some areas, leaving open space and environmentally sensitive lands undisturbed (Land Use and Natural Hazards).

Cogeneration - a process in which an industrial facility uses its waste energy to produce heat or electricity (Energy).

Conservation Easements - arrangement where the owner of a piece of property donates the development rights to that property to the government, thereby preventing development on the land (Land Use and Natural Hazards).


Deciduous - type of trees found in temperate forests that shed their leaves seasonally (Energy).

Deforestation - cutting or over-harvesting of trees, in which case the cutting down of trees occurs at a rate that surpasses re-growth (Forestry and Wildlife). 

Denitrification - process in which bacteria turn nitrate back into atmospheric nitrogen (Land Use and Natural Hazards)


Electricty - electric current used or regarded as a source of power (Energy).

Endangered Species - organisms that face extinction, often because of loss of habitat (Curriculum Overview).

Erosion - wearing away of soil caused by wind or rain (Water).

Eutrophication - the buildup of nutrients in freshwater lakes and ponds that leads to an increase in algae growth (Forestry and Wildlife).


Fecal Coliform - bacteria that live in the intestines of humans and animals and become infectious when released through feces (Water).

Fertilizer - nutrients added to the soil to increase productivity (Water).

Fossil Fuel - ancient underground deposits of organic matter, such as coal or oil (Energy).


Generator - a machine that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy (Energy).

Geothermal Reservoirs - underground pools of water heated by the earth (Energy).

Green Building Design - process of using "green" features such as recycled materials and energy efficient heating systems when planning buildings (Green Building).

Green Roof - relatively flat roof with plants growing on it; the plants serve as a natural source of insulation (Energy).

Greenfield - open, natural, or agricultural lands that provide habitats for wildlife, ecosystem benefits, timber and food production, and aesthetics of a community (Land Use and Natural Hazards).

Greenhouse - structure designed to collect heat from the sun's rays (Green Building).

Greenhouse Gases - any of the atmospheric gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect, i.e., global warming (Energy).

Groundwater - water beneath the earth's surface, often between saturated soil and rock, that supplies wells and springs (Water).

Growth Management - using government policies to plan development in a community (Land Use and Natural Hazards).


Habitat - living area that includes the resources necessary to support wildlife (Forestry and Wildlife).

Hydric - characterized by, relating to, or requiring an abundance of moisture (Water).

Hydrophytic - adapted to grow in water (Water).


Impervious Surfaces - surfaces that water cannot penetrate (Land Use and Natural Hazards).


Land Trust - non-profit organizations that work to conserve land by purchasing or accepting donations of land or conservation easements (Land Use and Natural Hazards).


Methane - an odorless, colorless, flammable gas, CH4, the major constituent of natural gas, that is used as a fuel and is an important source of hydrogen and a wide variety of organic compounds (Energy).

Mixed-Use Development - occurs when buildings for different purposes (such as homes and stores) are located in the same area (Land Use and Natural Hazards).


Natural Lighting & Cooling - the use of the sunlight indoors through building design instead of relying on artificial lighting, as well as design and technology that limit the need for air conditioning (Green Building).

Nitrification - the formation of nitrite (NO2-) and then nitrate (NO3-) as bacteria get their energy from ammonia (Land Use and Natural Hazards).

Nitrogen Fixation - the process in which atmospheric nitrogen is converted into nitrate by bacteria in the soil, water, or in the roots of some plants (Land Use and Natural Hazards).

Non-Point Source Pollution - a form of pollution with an unidentifiable specific origin of release (Water).

Non-Renewable Resources - resources that are in finite supply (Energy).

Nutrient - substance assimilated by organisms that promotes growth (Water).


Organic Matter - relating to or derived from living organisms (Energy).


Particulates - small particles of dust and soot that may be found in the atmosphere (Air).

Passice Solar Homes - homes that are positioned to face southward and passively collect the sun's warmth for heat (Energy).

Percolation - the seeping of surface and groundwater through soil and subsurface strata (Agriculture).

Point Source Pollution - a form of pollution in which the specific origin of release into the environment is identifiable (Water).

Proffers - agreements and modifications developers make to protect the environment in order to get a permit to build a new subdivision, malls, office buildings, etc. (Land Use and Natural Hazards).

Property Rights - legal ownership of the rights to engage in a certain activity (Air).

PV (Photovoltaic) Cells - small cells or panels capable of producing a voltage when exposed to radiant energy, especially light (Energy).


Radioactive Elements - any materials of, exhibiting, or caused by radioactivity (Energy).

Recharge - the replenishment of groundwater or an aquifer with surface water (Water).

Recycling - practice of reusing materials for new purposes (Energy).

Renewable Energy - energy that comes from a source that is constantly renewed; e.g., the wind keeps blowing, the sun keeps shining, water continuously flows in a river (Energy).

Renewable Resource - a natural resource that may be replenished through natural cycles and sound management. The sun, wind, wetlands, forests, and croplands are examples of renewable resources (Energy).

Reservoir - natural or artificial pond or lake used for the storage and regulation of water (Energy).

Retrofitting - to substitute new or modernized parts or systems for older equipment (Energy).

Rural Area - area with a low population and building density (Agriculture).


Segregated Use - zoning by allowable land use function (Land Use and Natural Hazard).

Smart Growth - development that protects natural resources while creating healthier human habitat (Land Use and Natural Hazard).

Smog - mixture of pollutants in the air that reduces visibility and can have negative effects on health and the environment (Air).

Solar Energy - our ability to convert the sun's power into electricity (Energy).

Sprawl - the resulting spread of developed areas when metropolitan areas grow and expand at the fringes, pushing development into rural areas (Agriculture).

Subsidize - to provide money, or another incentive, to encourage people to engage in a particular activity, such as buying energy-efficient appliances (Air).

Surface Water - water that exists in bodies on the Earth such as rivers, lakes, ponds, oceans (Water).

Sustainable Agriculture - a production and distribution system that minimizes the negative impacts on health, safety, wildlife, water quality and the environment, as well as optimizing use of available resources (Agriculture).

Sustainable Development - a production and distribution system that minimizes the negative impacts on health, safety, wildlife, water quality and the environment, as well as optimizing use of available resources (Agriculture).

Sustainability - has enough resources and small enough impact to be used for a long time (Energy).


Temperate - area between tropical and polar zones, characterized by seasonal weather changes (Forestry and Wildlife).

Topographic - referring to the shape of the surface (natural features) of the land, determined by elevation, relief, and land forms (Land Use and Natural Hazards).

Tributary - a stream that flows into a larger stream or other body of water (Water).

Tropical - type of forests found in an area near the equator, receives direct sunlight all year so temperatures are warm (Forestry and Wildlife).

Turbine - a device with propeller blades and an axle turned by water, wind, or steam (Energy).


Urban Area - area with a higher population and building density (Agriculture).


Watershed - geographic area in which water, sediments, and other materials drain into a common body of water (Water).

Wetland - land areas that contain hydric soils and hydrophytic plants and are saturated with water for a portion of every year (Water).