Adaptation is the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. In human systems, adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects (IPCC, 2014).

A disaster constitutes a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources (UNISDR, 2009).

Disaster Risk Reduction is the concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyze and manage the causal factors of disasters, including through reduced exposure to hazards, lessened vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improved preparedness of adverse events (UNISDR, 2009).

Ecosystems are dynamic complex of plants, animals and other living communities and the non-living environment interacting as a functional unit. Humans are an integral part of ecosystems (United Nations, 1992).  

Ecosystem services are the direct and indirect benefits that people and communities obtain from ecosystems. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment classifies ecosystem services in:

  • providing services: food, raw materials, freshwater, medical resources),
  • regulating services: natural hazard control, erosion control, air quality regulation, climate regulation, water purification, disease and pest regulation, pollination
  • cultural services (recreation, tourism, spiritual fulfilment, aesthetic and cultural inspiration)
  • supporting services: soil formation, nutrient cycling (Arico et al., 2005).

Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) is the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services to help people adapt to the adverse effects of climate change (SCBD, 2009).

Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR) is the “sustainable management, conservation and restoration of ecosystems to reduce disaster risk, with the aim of achieving sustainable and resilient development” (Estrella, Renaud, & Sudmeier-Rieux, 2013).

Exposure is expressed as the number of people, the amount of infrastructure or other elements of value that are present in a hazard zone and therefore subject to losses. As more and more people and their assets (livelihoods, property, infrastructure, etc.) become concentrated in hazard-prone zones, they increase their exposure; thus, their risk of potential losses increase. Managing exposure is therefore about improving land-use planning and zoning and, when needed, evacuation people from a hazard zone (Estrella et al., 2013).

A hazard is a dangerous phenomenon of environmental origin that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage (adapted from UNISDR, 2009).

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are defined by IUCN as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”.


Risk is the probability of harmful consequences – or loss in lives, health status, livelihoods, assets and services – resulting from interactions between natural or human-induced hazards and vulnerable conditions (adapted from UNISDR, 2009). Risk is conventionally expressed by the equation: Risk = Hazard × Vulnerability × Exposure (UNDP, 2004), although, for some, exposure is integrated in the vulnerability component.

Resilience is the ability of a system and its component parts to anticipate, absorb, accommodate or recover from the effects of a hazardous event in a timely and efficient manner, including through ensuring the preservation, restoration or improvement of its essential basic structures and functions.

Vulnerability is the intrinsic and dynamic feature of an element at risk (community, region, state, infrastructure, environment, etc.) that determines the expected damage/harm resulting from a given hazardous event and is often even affected by the harmful event itself. Vulnerability changes continuously over time and is driven by physical, social, economic and environmental factors.

Glossary for institutions, networks, partnerships and others: to be amended at a later stage

ISDR: International Strategy for Disaster Reduction

MDG: Millennium Development Goals

M&E: Monitoring and Evaluation

CMB: Crisis Management Branch

PEDRR: Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction

SDG: Sustainable Development Goals

UNEP: United National Environment Programme


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