Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Coastal region and small island papers 5

Accretion: increase or extension of land by natural forces, such as waves, currents, and winds; a build-up of sand.
Algae: class of almost exclusively aquatic plants including seaweeds and their fresh-water allies. They range in size from single cell forms to giant seaweeds several metres long.
Anthropogenic: caused by man.
Archipelago: large group of islands.
Artifact: object made by human workmanship, usually for a practical purpose.
Atmosphere: the mixture of gases that surround the earth or other planetary body.
Atoll: circular, or near circular coral reef appearing as a low coral island or a ring of closely spaced coral islets encircling a shallow lagoon in which there is no pre-existing land, and surrounded by deep water of the open sea, formed above an underwater volcano.
Barometric pressure: a measure of the force exerted by the atmosphere used to forecast the weather.
Barrier reef: coral reef roughly parallel to the shore and separated from it by a lagoon of considerable depth and width, or in some cases by several kilometres of open sea.
Beach: a zone of loose material extending from the low water mark to a point landward where either the topography abruptly changes or permanent vegetation first appears. Beaches may be composed of clay, silt, sand, gravel, cobbles, boulders, coral pieces or any combination of these.
Beach nourishment: artificial process of replenishing a beach with material from another source which lies either inland or may be dredged from offshore.
Beach structure: man-made construction to protect beaches from erosion.
Biodiversity: totality of genes, species and ecosystems in a region.
Bivalve: mollusc with a shell composed of two distinct and usually movable parts that open and shut.
Brackish water: freshwater mixed with seawater.
Bulkhead: structure that retains or prevents the sliding of land or protects land from water damage.
Catalyst: an agent which helps forward a chemical reaction without itself suffering any chemical change.
Chlorophyll: green pigment contained in the leaves of plants.
Chromosome: minute thread-shaped body, which carries the genetic code, found in the nuclei of all living cells.
Cliff: high steep bank at the water’s edge, usually composed primarily of rock.
Climate: general weather conditions of a region.
Cobble: naturally rounded stone, 77-256 mm (3-10 inches) in diameter, or a size between that of a tennis ball and that of a volleyball.
Commensalism: a type of interaction involving the joint utilisation of food, although the relationship is rarely equal, generally one member provides the food and the other consumes some part of it.
Conservation: the political/social/economic process by which the environment is protected and resources are used wisely.
Convection: transfer of heat through a liquid or gas by the actual movement of the liquid or gas; associated with large-scale, vertical movements within the atmosphere, or movement and mixing of water masses in the ocean, or vertical and lateral movements of a subcrustal material in the earth’s mantle.
Convention: formal agreement, often involving different countries.
Convergence: come together and meet at a point.
Coral reef: complex tropical marine ecosystem dominated by soft and hard (stony) corals, anemones and sea fans. Stony corals are microscopic animals with an outer skeleton of calcium carbonate that form colonies and are responsible for reef building.
Coralline: made of coral.
Crustacean: animal, usually aquatic, with two pairs of antennae on the head, jointed legs and a hard shell.
Current: flow of air, water or other fluid in a given direction.
Deforestation: clearing of trees.
Delta: fan-shaped, depositional area formed at the mouth of a river.
Demersal: (fish) found near the sea/ocean bottom.
Diatom: unicellular algae with shells made of silica.
Dinoflagellate: marine plankton that include luminescent forms, important in marine food chains.
Divergence: act of going in different directions, branching off.
Dredging: excavation, scraping, digging, draglining, suction dredging to remove sand, silt, rock or other underwater sea bottom material.
Drift net: fishing net often miles in extent arranged to drift with the tide or current and buoyed-up by floats or attached to a boat.
Dune: accumulation of wind-blown sand in ridges or mounds that lie landward of the beach and usually parallel to the shoreline.
Earthquake: violent tremor of the earth’s crust which originates naturally and below the surface.
Ecosystem: organisation of the biological community and the physical environment in a specific geographical area.
Environmental impact assessment: detailed studies, which predict the effects of a development project on the environment. They also provide plans for the mitigation of the adverse impacts.
Equator: imaginary circle on the surface of the earth, lying midway between the poles.
Erosion: wearing away of the land, usually by the action of natural forces.
Extinction: dying out of a species.
Famine: desperate shortage of food in an area; starvation, hunger.
Fault: a fracture plane in rocks, along which the rock-mass on the one side has been moved relative to the rock-mass on the other side.
Fertiliser: substance added to the soil to increase its productivity.
Food chain: linear scheme of feeding relationships, which unites members of a biological community. The number of stages in a chain does not usually exceed five, and usually involve plants, herbivores and one or two successive sets of predators.
Food pyramid: pyramid-shaped diagram which shows feeding relationships within a food chain, e.g. that herbivores are smaller, more numerous and faster breeding than the predators that feed on them.
Food web: scheme of feeding relationships, resembling a web, which unite the member species of a biological community, and within which species may occupy different positions during their lives.
Flotsam: wreckage or discarded material e.g. garbage, found floating on the surface of the sea or washed up on the beach.
Frigate: vessel smaller than destroyer; cruiser; fast sailing ship smaller than ship of line.
Fringing reef: coral reef closely associated with the land; it may be joined directly to the beach or separated from the beach by a shallow, narrow lagoon.
Frontal system: weather system where there is a line of separation between cold and warm air masses, usually associated with strong winds.
Furrow: narrow trench cut by a plough.
Gabion: wire mesh rectangular container filled with stones, often used in sea defense structures or to provide slope stability.
Gene: unit of hereditary material, which make up a chromosome.
Geology: science of the composition, history and structure of the earth’s crust.
Global warming: an increase in the earth’s temperature due to man’s activities e.g. the use of fossil fuels, and/or natural processes e.g. air pollution resulting from volcanic eruptions, thus increasing the Greenhouse effect.
Greenhouse effect: term for the role the earth’s atmosphere plays in insulating and warming the earth’s surface. Without this effect the earth would be a frozen planet with an average temperature on the surface of about -18°C (about 0°F). The greenhouse effect is a natural function; however, it is impacted by man’s activities, which are leading to an increase in the atmosphere of gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and water vapor, the so-called “greenhouse gases”, which contribute to Global warming.
Groyne: shore protection structure built perpendicular to the shore, designed to trap sediment.
Habitat: usual natural surroundings and conditions of plants and animals.
Heritage: something possessed as a result of one’s natural situation or birth; something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor.
Hurricane: intense, low pressure weather system with sustained surface wind speeds that exceed 118 km/hr (74 mph).
Hurricane surge: a rise in the sea surface on an open coast, often resulting from a hurricane.
Indentureship: state of being such that a person is bound to an employer for a given period of time.
Indigenous: native, belong naturally to.
Jetty: structure projecting into the sea for the purpose of mooring boats.
Land reclamation: process of creating new, dry land on the seabed.
Long lining: type of fishing involving a heavy fishing line, which may be several miles long and has baited hooks in series.
Limestone: sedimentary rock consisting essentially of calcium carbonate.
Magma: naturally occurring molten rock, generated within the earth’s crust or in the upper mantle and capable of intruding (being thrust into) the earth’s crust or penetrating it and erupting through volcanic craters.
Metamorphic rocks: igneous or sedimentary rocks, which have been altered by high temperature, strong pressure or by a combination of these.
Meteorology: scientific study of the weather and of atmospheric processes.
Midden: pile of refuse.
Middle Passage: the Atlantic crossing between Africa and the Americas where countless enslaved Africans died en route.
Mid-ocean ridges: a common name for a 60,000 km-long system of ridges on the sea floor separating crustal plates; divergent boundaries (see Divergence) in Plate tectonics.
Migration: act of moving from one region to another especially at regular seasonal intervals.
Millennium: one thousand years.
Mitigation plan: a proposal to reduce or alleviate potentially harmful impacts.
Mollusc: common name for members of a phylum (sub-section of the animal kingdom) of soft-bodied animals, with bodies usually covered by a hard external shell. Some molluscs, like the octopus, do not possess a shell.
Monitoring: systematic recording over time.
Mythology: system of traditional stories embodying ancient religious ideas.
Neap tide: tide of small range occurring twice per lunar month during quarter moon phases. See also Tide.
North-east Trade Winds: dominant wind regime in the Caribbean region, the winds blow from directions between north and southeast.
Nuée ardente: cloud of superheated gases generated during a volcanic eruption.
Nutrient: dissolved salts essential to life.
Ozone layer: a layer of the atmosphere between 10 and 40 km above the earth’s surface, called the stratosphere, where ozone molecules absorb dangerous ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
Peat: fibrous substance formed of partly decayed plant material.
Pelagic: (fish) which inhabit the main body of the water mass.
Pesticides: chemical substances used for destroying animal pests in agriculture, forestry, warfare and home gardens.
Petroglyphs: drawings or carvings, usually on the surface of rock or caves, created by past civilisations.
Photosynthesis: process by which green plants form organic compounds from water and carbon dioxide in the presence of sunlight.
Plate tectonics: geological theory whereby the earth’s crust and the upper mantle is divided into seven large and a few tens of small plates, which float on the middle mantle and much of the earth’s seismic and volcanic activity occurs at convergent (see Convergence) or divergent (see Divergence) boundaries of these plates.
Pollution: the action of contaminating (an environment) especially with man-made waste.
Polyp: sedentary form of aquatic animal.
Proclamation: formal announcement.
Productivity: the quantity of organic matter (in the form of living matter, stored food, waste products, and material taken by consumers), or its equivalent in dry matter, carbon or energy content, which is accumulated during a given time period.
Protocol: first draft agreement for a treaty; rules of diplomatic procedure.
Protozoan: animal consisting only of one cell with a well-defined nucleus.
Revetment: shore protection structure made with stones laid on a sloping face.
Rift valley: valley formed by sinking of land between two faults.
Salinity: proportion or amount of salt in water.
Saltpond: low, wet area periodically or continuously flooded by brackish or salt water to a low depth, characterised by specific plants such as grasses, low plants and sometimes mangroves.
Sand: rock particles, 0.08-4.6 mm (0.003-0.18 inches) in diameter.
Sand mining: removal of large or small quantities of sand from the beach, by machine or by hand, usually for building purposes.
Sea level: average height of the sea surface, usually measured over a period of years.
Seagrass bed: area of the offshore sea-bottom colonised by seagrasses.
Seawall: massive structure built along the shore to prevent erosion and damage by wave action.
Sediment: particles of rock covering a size range from clay to boulders (0.004 mm to 256+ mm).
Sedimentary rocks: rocks, which have been deposited in layers, often by water, and consist of material worn away from pre-existing rock.
Seismology: science of earthquakes.
Shore: narrow strip of land in immediate contact with the sea.
Silt: fine rock particles, 0.004-0.08 mm (0.00015-0.003 inches) in diameter.
Sonar: apparatus emitting high-frequency sounds used in locating objects under water by measuring direct and reflected sound pulses.
Spring tide: tide of large range occurring twice per lunar month during full and new moon phases. See also Tide.
Storm surge: a rise in the sea surface on an open coast, often resulting from a hurricane.
Subduction: the process whereby the edge of one crustal plate descends below the edge of another.
Swamp: low-lying area, frequently flooded and supports vegetation adapted to saturated soils e.g. mangrove swamp.
Swell: waves that have traveled out of the area in which they were generated.
Symbiosis: association of dissimilar organisms to their mutual advantage.
Tectonic: natural processes that build up the earth’s crust and are responsible for its various deformations.
Tide: periodic rising and falling of large bodies of water resulting from the gravitational attraction of the moon and sun acting on the rotating earth.
Topography: configuration of a surface including its relief and the position if its natural and man-made features.
Toxic waste: poisonous products.
Transform boundary: a boundary between two crustal plates formed as they slide past one another in opposite directions without converging (see Convergence) or diverging (see Divergence).
Trawler: fishing vessel that uses an open-mouthed fishing net drawn along the sea bottom.
Tropical storm: low pressure system forming in tropical latitudes with sustained surface wind speeds between 61 km/hr and 118 km/hr (38 and 73 mph).
Tsunami: wave caused by underwater earthquake or landslide, can rise to great heights and cause catastrophic damage near coasts.
Turbulence: a state or quality of being violently disturbed or agitated.
Volcano: mountain or hill built up by the eruption of molten rock and ash from the earth’s interior.
Weather: condition of the atmosphere at a certain time and a certain place.
Wind waves: waves formed in the area in which the wind is blowing.
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