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NRI Glossary

Cultural services:

benefits provided by ecosystems that include recreational, aesthetic, and spiritual benefits.

Eastern temperate forest ecological region:

an ecoregion of the United States that includes much of the Eastern US and the Midwest and enjoys a mild and moist climate. It is generally warmer as latitude decreases and drier as longitude increases.


a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.

Ecosystem services:

the functions performed by ecosystems that directly or indirectly benefit humans.

Geologic processes:

all types of processes affecting geologic structures (e.g. erosion, weathering).

Greenhouse gases:

a gas that absorbs and emits radiant energy at thermal infrared wavelengths, causing the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.


the place or environment where an organism spends all or part of its life, defined by both biological (e.g. plants and animals) and non-biological (e.g. soil, water, sunlight) components.


an organism that can be seen only through a microscope. Microorganisms include bacteria, protozoa, algae, and fungi. Although viruses are not considered living organisms, they are sometimes classified as microorganisms.


sustained action that reduces or eliminates long-term risk to people and property from natural hazards and their effects.

Natural resources:

living things and naturally occurring materials in the environment that sustain human life and economies.

Provisioning services:

goods obtained from ecosystems that provide material benefits to people, including food, water, timber, fiber, and other natural resources.

Regulating services:

benefits provided by ecosystem processes that moderate natural phenomena (e.g. climate, floods, disease, wastes, and water quality).


the capacity to withstand, recover from, and adapt to stresses such as those caused by floods, climate change, or other catastrophic events.

Smart growth:

planned economic and community development that attempts to curb urban sprawl and worsening environmental conditions.


the rapid spreading of the geographic extent of urban developments on undeveloped land.

Supporting services:

natural cycles which support all ecosystem services (e.g. the water cycle, soil formation).