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Glossary of technical terms

Accuracy: a measure of the degree of agreement between a measured quantity value and a true quantity value[25]

Active/non-active (status): this field applies to spring features only and identifies whether springs are currently active or inactive (inactive springs are only included for GAB region. (Inactive refers to a spring where no free water was visible at the ground surface, with the exception of some mounded mud springs within the Eulo district)

Aggregations (birds): see

Allochthonous: derived from outside a system such as the leaves of terrestrial plants that fall into a stream

Alluvial aquifer: a deposit of gravel sand, silt and/or clay particles laid down by physical processes in river channels or on floodplains that stores and transmits water through intergranular voids[19]

Alluvium: soil, clay, silt or gravel deposited by flowing water as it slows in a river bed, delta, estuary or flood plain

Anthropogenic: environmental alterations or perturbations resulting from the presence or activities of humans

Aquifer: a geologic unit that can store and transmit water at rates fast enough to supply reasonable amounts to wells[16]

Assessment: see Assessment page

Attribute: descriptive characteristics or features of ecosystems. An attribute may be a mathematical or statistical indicator, or characteristic used in the Interim Australian National Aquatic Ecosystem Classification Framework to describe characteristics of aquatic ecosystems in order to classify them[6]

Attribute-based classification: a set of biophysical (biological, physical and chemical) attributes for describing and defining ecosystem types. The step of attribute-based classification separates the classification of attributes (e.g. depth, sediment size) from the designation of types (i.e. combinations of attributes) for a particular purpose (e.g. ecosystems). Examples of attributes include lithology, geology, substrate consolidation, water clarity, pH, and the presence and form of flora and fauna species[3]

Attribute classification: defines and categorises components of the environment into attributes and categories, and is not hierarchical within a level

Attribute Themes: are broad groups used to describe attributes e.g. terrain, substrate, energy, hydrology (physical/chemical) and biota.

Autochthonous: derived from within a system such as organic matter in a stream resulting from photosynthesis by aquatic algae and plants

Available soil water holding capacity: This is a measure of the capacity of soils to store water[35]. Soil water is measured as a percentage of the soil dry weight (% by weight) but sometimes as the volume of water as a percentage of the soil volume (% by volume) or as the depth of water per metre depth of soil (m/m)[11]

Base flow: the groundwater contribution to a stream[16]

Basin: The entire geographical area drained by a river and its tributaries or an area characterised by all run-off being conveyed to the same outlet. This area is often referred to as a catchment area, catchment basin, drainage area, river basin or watershed

Beneficiaries : see Wetland values and services page

Bioregion: refers to a biogeographic region or an area of land that is dominated by similar broad landscape patterns that reflect major structural geologies and climate, as well as major floristic and faunal assemblages[37]

Benthic: pertaining to the seafloor (or bottom) of a river, coastal waterway, or ocean (modified from OzCoasts 2015[33]). Benthic material can refer to substrate or sediment and it can be used to describe the organisms that live on, or in, sea floor, or at the bottom of a water column (Modified from Mount & Prahalad 2009[33])

Capillary zone: pores are filled with capillary water so that the saturation approaches 100%; however, the water is held in place by capillary forces[16]

Catchment: the total area draining into a river, reservoir, or other body of water[2]

Catchment constriction: a narrowing in the width and/or a decrease in the depth of the catchment resulting in the formation of a catchment throat which acts as a 'bottle-neck'[8]

Cave(s): a natural cavity in rock large enough to be entered by a person. It may contain water[28]

Channel(s): linear, generally sinuous open depression, comprising of a bed and banks which is in parts eroded, excavated, or built up by channelled stream flow[36]

Classification: the process of simplifying complex, and sometimes continuous, data and information and converting it into practical categories to make it more usable. Through classification, attributes can be classified into categories, independent of one another, enabling synthesis of the parts (components) and processes of different ecosystems[14]

Commonwealth land: Commonwealth land includes land owned or leased by the Commonwealth or a Commonwealth agency

Further information is available at Geoscience Australia or in A Guide to land tenure in Queensland

Components: see components, processes and drivers

Confidence: degree of confidence that inventory information reflects what is present in the field. There are a number of measures of confidence: spatial accuracy (an object is where specified); attribute accuracy (an object is accurately identified); the surrogate's own confidence measures; or an expert's confidence in a model

Confined aquifer: aquifer that is overlain by a confining layer[16]

Decision rule: a combination of conditions that describe where ecosystems are or are likely to be dependent on groundwater at a specific site or local area according to expert knowledge[27]

Dependency: where the biodiversity and/or ecological processes are determined by the quality, quantity and/or timing of groundwater supplies[27]

Derived high confidence: according to expert knowledge, there is a high confidence in the mapping rule-set and a high confidence in the prediction that the mapped ecosystem has some degree of groundwater dependence[27]

Derived low confidence: according to expert knowledge, there is a low confidence in the mapping rule-set and a low confidence in the prediction that the mapped ecosystem has some degree of groundwater dependence[27]

Derived moderate confidence: according to expert knowledge, there is a moderate confidence in the mapping rule-set and a moderate confidence in the prediction that the mapped ecosystem has some degree of groundwater dependence[27]

Discharge: the removal of water from the saturated zone across the water table surface[19]

Disturbance: has been defined as '...any relatively discrete event in time that disrupts ecosystem, community, or population structure and changes resources, substrate availability or the physical environment'[41] However, to permit realistic comparisons to be made between studies, Lake (2000) promotes the definition of disturbance in purely physical terms, incorporating properties such as intensity, seasonality, extent, frequency and type. Under this definition 'perturbation” is used to describe the combination of cause and effect, 'disturbance” is the cause, and the effect is termed the 'response”[7][20][26]

Drainage basin: subsurface volume through which groundwater flows toward a specific discharge zone[16]

Drivers:see components, processes and drivers

Ecology: see Wetland ecology page

Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM): A management approach that considers the relationships between systems, the consequences of impacts on systems and informs decision-making around initiatives and actions to successfully manage systems[17]

Ecological character: ecological character is the combination of the ecosystem components, processes and benefits/services that characterise the wetland at a given point in time (where, within this context, ecosystem benefits are defined in accordance with the MEA definition of ecosystem services as the “benefits that people receive from ecosystems”)[1]

Ecosystem: a dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their nonliving environment interacting as a functioning unit[13]

Ecosystem components : see Components, processes and drivers page

Ecosystem drivers : see Components, processes and drivers page

Environment: as defined in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

(a) ecosystems and their constituent parts, including people and communities; and

(b) natural and physical resources; and

(c) the qualities and characteristics of locations, places and areas; and

(d) heritage values of places; and

(e) the social, economic and cultural aspects of a thing mentioned in paragraph (a), (b), (c) or (d).

Environmental processes : Components, processes and drivers page

Ecosystem services: see Wetland values and services page

Electrical conductivity: the ability of water or soil solution to conduct an electric current[2]

Epipelic: living on/in fine sediments, namely mud or sand 

Ephemeral: lasting only a short time; short lived; transitory[27]

Estuarine: freshwaters sometimes diluting oceanic waters, usually semi-enclosed by land[5][10].

Estuarine groundwater dependent ecosystem see GDE FAQ page

Euphotic: the near-surface part of a water body where photosynthesis is possible

Evaporation: the total loss of moisture as water vapour from all sources, including open water, plant surfaces, and from soil surfaces, and excluding transpiration[11]

Evapotranspiration: the movement of water from the landscape to the atmosphere, calculated as the sum of evaporation and transpiration[11]

Existence value: the origin of existence value can be traced to John Krutilla who in 1967 proposed that economists should not just assign values to goods and services that are directly consumed, but should also attribute a value to the knowledge that a particular wilderness, endangered species or other object in nature exists[29].

The existence value is the value that individuals may attach to just knowing of the existence of something, as opposed to having direct use of that thing.For example, knowledge of the existence of wetlands may have value to environmentalists who do not actually see them.

Existence benefit: the benefit provided by an environmental entity the existence of which is considered desirable to be maintained although it has no prospect of being of use to humans now or in the future[21]

Freehold: Freehold land is held outright by a private owner. Ownership by the titleholder is not absolute because the state is empowered to withhold certain rights, such as the right to any minerals or petroleum

Gaining channel(s): a stream that receives groundwater discharge[16]

Generalisation: the process of spatially simplifying information - by abstraction, reduction and simplification of features to accommodate change of scale or resolution[17].

Geographical Information System (GIS): a computer system that can capture, store, analyse, and present in various ways data that locates places on the earth's surface[27]

Geomorphology: the branch of geology dealing with the characteristics, origin, and development of landforms[27]

Gleyed soil: A soil having one or more neutral gray horizons as a result of waterlogging and lack of oxygen. The term "gleyed" also designates gray horizons and horizons having yellow and gray mottles as a result of intermittent waterlogging.[38]

Groundwater: water that is present in the pores and cracks of the saturated or capillary zone and water that has been present in caves[27]

Groundwater dependent ecosystem (GDE): see GDE ecology page

Groundwater flow system (GFS): the pattern of groundwater flow within a catchment[9]

Guild: see

Habitat classification: A level of the ANAE classification, defined as aspects of the landscape (or seascape) that are dependent on water, including the major aquatic systems based on Cowardin et al. (1979) for surface waters (marine, estuarine, lacustrine, palustrine, riverine and floodplain.)[5]

Herbaceous: referring to a herb, which is a plant that usually has soft leaves and stems that are not secondarily thickened and lignified, and which dies annually

Hydraulic conductivity: generally, the rate at which a material allows water to move through it. The larger the hydraulic conductivity, the smaller the resistance to water movement and the greater the ease with which water flows in response to pressure gradients[11]

Hyporheic zone: the zone of mixing between surface and groundwater below the bed of a stream[40]

ICOLLs: Intermittently Closed and Open Lakes and Lagoons, referring to Coastal Lagoons and some Wave-Dominated Estuaries under low runoff conditions.[31]

Infiltration: entry into the soil of water made available at the ground surface, together with the associated flow away from the ground surface within the unsaturated zone[19]

Intermediate groundwater flow system: are intermediate in extent between local and regional systems, generally occurring within individual catchments but also sometimes flow between smaller sub-catchments. They tend to occur in valleys typically over a horizontal extent of 5 to 10 kilometres[9]

Intermittent: recurrent; showing water only part of the time[27]

Interoperability: able to connect with each other for the exchange of data, programs, etc

Intertidal: part of the shoreline that is found between the high tide and low tide, experiencing fluctuating influences of land and sea[15]

Inventory: see inventory page

Isotope: any of two or more forms of a chemical element, having the same number of protons in the nucleus and, hence, the same atomic number, but having different numbers of neutrons in the nucleus and, hence, different atomic weights[27]

Karst: a terrain with distinctive landforms and drainage arising from greater rock solubility in natural water that is found elsewhere[24]

Known GDE: groundwater dependent ecosystems accurately identified according to expert knowledge and supporting evidence[27]

Lacustrine groundwater dependent ecosystem see GDE FAQ page

Land zone: a simplified geology/substrate-landform classification[37]

Landform: any of the numerous features which make up the surface of the earth leakage. Outflow from an aquifer into adjacent beds[19]

Landscape ecology: see landscape page

Lentic: of or relating to standing water such as ponds, lakes and reservoirs, etc. as opposed to moving water such as rivers and streams

Littoral: of or pertaining to the shore

Local government areas: Local government is a form of government in which responsibility for the regulation of certain matters within particular local government areas is delegated by statute to locally elected councillors.

The Queensland Consolidated Acts, Local Government Act 1993 – Sect 35 defines a local government as a body corporate with perpetual succession which has a common seal and may sue and be sued in its name.

The Queensland Consolidated Acts, Local Government Act 1993 – Sect 15 defines a local government area as the fundamental geographical basis of Queensland's local government system.

A local government area (LGA) included in the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) structure is a spatial unit which represents the whole geographical area of responsibility of an incorporated local government council or an Aboriginal or Island council in Queensland (Australian Bureau of Statistics). For more information see Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC)

Local groundwater flow system: local groundwater flow systems have recharge and discharge areas within a few kilometres of one another. They tend to occur within individual sub-catchments, in areas of higher relief such as foothills to ranges[9]

Losing channel(s): where the bottom of the stream channel is higher than the local water table and water drains from the stream into the ground[16]

Lotic: of or relating to an aquatic environment where there is moving water such as rivers and streams (compare with lentic)

Macrophyte: an aquatic plant large enough to be seen with the naked eye; either emergent, submerged, or floating

Marine: oceanic waters[4][10]

Map(s): graphic representations that facilitate a spatial understanding of things, concepts, conditions, processes or events in the human world[23]

Mapping rule set: a combination of related decision rules with similar groundwater dependent ecosystem drivers and processes that when applied to spatial data sets through Geographical Information System (GIS) analysis delineate where ecosystems are or are likely to be dependent on groundwater

Mapping rule set part: a component of a mapping rule set that describes a specific portion of the total groundwater dependent ecosystems identified in the mapping rule set

Marine groundwater dependent ecosystem see GDE FAQ page

Marine system: see wetland systems definitions page

Meteoric: of the atmosphere; meteorological

Monitoring: see monitoring page

Mound spring: see sedimentary rocks (Great Artesian Basin)

NRM regions: regional natural resource management (NRM) bodies are responsible for protecting and managing Australia's natural resources in specific NRM regions. To do this, regional NRM plans were developed which outline how a regional body will identify and achieve the region's NRM targets

There are 56 bodies in Australia of which 14 are based in Queensland. For information on other regional bodies around Australia, visit the Australian Government NRM website

NRM regions are the regions that a Regional NRM body would look after. For example Terrain is the name of the Regional NRM body for Far North Queensland Region

Palaeochannel: an ancient stream or riverbed, cut into the rock or soil and overlaid by sediment after the stream has changed its course or dried up[27]

Palustrine groundwater dependent ecosystem see GDE FAQ page

Para-karst: terrain that consists of a mixture of karstic and fluvial due to the mix of karst and non-karst rocks in an outcrop[18]

Perched aquifer: a saturated lense that is bounded by a perched water table[19]

Perennial: lasting for an indefinitely long time; enduring. Lasting or continuing throughout the year, as a stream[27]

Permanent: lasting or intended to last indefinitely; remaining unchanged. Providing water throughout all seasons[27]

Permeability: the ability of a rock to transmit water[16]

pH: value that represents the acidity or alkalinity of an aqueous solution. It is defined as the negative logarithm of the hydrogen ion concentration of the solution[2]

Phreatic zone: see zone of saturation

Pictorial conceptual model: pictorial conceptual models are representations of observed objects, phenomena and processes in a logical and objective way with the aim of constructing a formal system whose theoretical consequences are not contrary to what is observed in the real world[39]

Porosity: percentage of the rock and soil that is void of material[16]

Processes: Components, processes and drivers page

Propagules: any part of an organism that is liberated from the adult form and which can give rise to a new individual, such as a fertilised egg or spore

Pseudokarst: distinct landform with features similar to karst forms, however these landforms evolve in response to dominant processes other than rock dissolution[27]

Recharge: the entry into the saturated zone of water made available at the water table surface, together with the associated flow away from the water table within the saturated zone[19]

Region: broad scale, high level of regionalisation to characterise aquatic ecosystems at a national /regional scale, broadly placing aquatic ecosystems into regions using an ecological underpinning. This provides an overall framework for subsequent finer scale levels[6]

  • In groundwater dependent ecosystem mapping: group of catchments with similar landscape processes controlling the interaction between groundwater and ecosystems[27]

Regional ecosystem (RE): vegetation communities in a bioregion that are consistently associated with a particular combination of geology, landform and soil[37]

Regional groundwater flow system: regional groundwater flow systems are characterised by laterally extensive aquifers, which may be thicker than 300 metres, and recharge and discharge areas separated by distances of fifty or more kilometres. They occur in areas of low relief such as alluvial plains. The aquifers in regional systems are usually wholly or partly confined, and can be overlain by local and intermediate flow systems. The time for groundwater discharge to occur following post-clearing increases in groundwater recharge may be as great as one hundred years[9]

Remote sensing: the identification of data, usually about features of the earth or other bodies in space, from a satellite, aeroplane etc[27]

Require access: ecosystems may require either facultative access to groundwater(opportunistic use of groundwater to satisfy at least some proportion of their environmental water requirements) or obligate access (require groundwater to survive)[42][12]

Riverine groundwater dependent ecosystem: see GDE FAQ page

Roost: see

Run-off: total flow in a stream[16]

Salinity: the presence of soluble salts in or on soils or in water[2]

Saturated zone: see 'Zone of saturation'

Scale: the parameter that describes the level of geographic resolution and extent, the context of space and time and helps define the positional accuracy[34]

Sclerophyllous: leaves which are hard and thickened, characteristic of many Australian native plants, in particular Eucalyptus species

Seasonal: relating to or dependent on the seasons of the year or some particular season; periodical[27]

Shorebird: see birds

seep: subset of springs, see spring

Soak: subset of springs, see spring

Soil water: water in the vadose zone that is available to growing plants[16]

Spring: see GDE FAQ page

State land: State land is under the control of the State of Queensland, but may be subject to a lease, permit or licence, reserved for a community purpose, dedicated as a road, or subject to no tenure at all

Stygofauna: groundwater fauna[22]

Structural macrobiota: Sessile (attached) flora and fauna which increase spatial complexity (rugosity) and alter local environmental conditions of ecosystems, creating living space for other animal and plant species. Consequently ecosystems having structural macrobiota are biodiverse assemblages (after Lilley and Schiel, 2006 in: Mount et al., 2007;[5])

Substrate: The sediment and other material that comprises the seabed (or floor)[5].

Subterranean: existing, situated, or operating below the surface of the earth; underground[11]

Subterranean GDE: is a shorthand term used in the GDE mapping to refer to aquifer and cave ecosystems occurring below the surface of the ground which requires access to groundwater on a permanent or intermittent basis to meet all or some of their water requirements so as to maintain their communities of plants and animals, ecological processes and ecosystem services[27]

Subtidal: permanently below the level of low tide, i.e. continuously submerged within tidal waters[32]

Surface expression GDE: is a shorthand term used in the GDE mapping to refer to an ecosystem occurring on the surface of the ground which requires access to groundwater discharge on a permanent or intermittent basis to meet all or some of their water requirements so as to maintain their communities of plants and animals, ecological processes and ecosystem services[27]

Surficial: occurring on or near the Earth's surface

Terrestrial groundwater dependent ecosystems(GDEs): is a shorthand term used in the GDE mapping to refer to an ecosystem which requires access to groundwater present below the surface on a permanent or intermittent basis to meet all or some of their water requirements so as to maintain their communities of plants and animals, ecological processes and ecosystem services[27]

Total dissolved solids (TDS): a measure of the inorganic salts (and organic compounds) dissolved in water[2]

Transpiration: the process of water loss from leaves to the atmosphere[11]

Troglofauna: see aquifers and caves page

Type: a kind, class, or group as distinguished by a particular characteristic

Typology: a set of rules that are applied in a hierarchy to the attribute classification to identify types for a specific purpose. Different typologies can be developed from the same attribute classification to fulfil different purpose[5]

Unknown confidence: according to expert knowledge, the confidence in the mapping rule-set and in the prediction that the mapped ecosystem has some degree of groundwater dependence is yet to be determined[27]

Unique Or Rare Ecosystem Types: ecosystems that rarely occur, due to either a rare combination of biophysical attributes or reduced extent due to human changes.

Unsaturated zone: see vadose zone

Vadose zone: region below the land surface where the soil pores contain both air and water[16]

Values: see values and services page

Vent: see spring

Wader: see birds

Water Column: is the vertical water mass between the surface of the water and the substrate. Includes physical, chemical and biological attributes including water, including: water temperature and salinity conditions, biogeochemical features. These suite of attributes can vary concurrently, forming vertical layering or water masses (see also 'hydroforms' of the Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS)[15]).

Water quality: the chemical characteristics of water in terms of suitability of the water for various intended uses[19]

Water table: the level of groundwater; the upper surface of the zone of saturation for underground water[2]

Waterbird: see birds

Weathered: worn, disintegrated, or changed in colour or composition, by the action of the elements[27]

Wetland: see wetland definition page

Wetland bird: see birds

Wetland systems: wetland system definitions can be found on the wetland systems definitions page

Wise Use: the wise use of wetlands is the maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development (where the phrase in the context of sustainable development is intended to recognise that while some wetland development is inevitable and that many developments have important benefits to society, developments can be facilitated in sustainable ways by approaches elaborated under the Ramsar Convention, and it is not appropriate to imply that development is an objective for every wetland)[1]

Zone of saturation: the pores of soil or rock are saturated with water[30]


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Last updated: 30 October 2017

This page should be cited as:

Glossary of technical terms, WetlandInfo 2015, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland, viewed 20 December 2017, <>.

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Heritage Protection