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Abiotic - Non living or not containing any living organisms (Dougherty 2000-2001).

Aboriginal People - Refers to the descendants of the original people of Canada. In the Constitution Act (1982), aboriginal people refers to all indigenous people including the Metis, Inuit and Indians. For more information please visit

Abundance - Number of organisms in a defined sampling unit, usually expressed as aerial coverage.

Acid rain - Rain that has a pH of less than 5.6 and is often derived from excess of pollutants such as sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides.

Acute - Acute refers to a stimulus severe enough to rapidly induce an effect; in aquatic toxicity tests, an effect observed in 96 hours or less is typically considered acute. When referring to aquatic toxicology or human health, an acute effect is not always measured in terms of lethality.

Adaptive Management - Ministry of Forests and Range (2006):"Adaptive management is a systematic process for continually improving management policies and practices by learning from the outcomes of operational programs. Its most effective form–"active" adaptive management–employs management programs that are designed to experimentally compare selected policies or practices, by evaluating alternative hypotheses about the system being managed".

ADL - Analytical Detection Limit

AED - Alberta Economic Development

AENV - Alberta Environment

AEP - Alberta Environment Protection

Afforestation - The process of planting trees and/or seeds in areas not previously forested.

Aging Structures - Parts of the fish which are taken for aging analysis. These structures contain bands for each year of growth or maturity which can be counted. Some examples of these structures are scales, fin rays, otoliths and opercula. Most ageing structures can be taken with minimal effect on the fish and vary according to fish species.

Agroforestry - Combines agriculture and forestry technologies to create more integrated, diverse, productive, profitable, healthy and sustainable land use systems.

Albian Sands - Albian Sands Energy Inc.

Algae - A simple, photosynthetic plant usually inhabiting moist or aquatic environments.

Alkalinity - A measure of water’s capacity to neutralize an acid. It indicates the presence of carbonates, bicarbonates and hydroxides, and less significantly, borates, silicates, phosphates and organic substances. It is expressed as an equivalent of calcium carbonate. The composition of alkalinity is affected by pH, mineral composition, temperature and ionic strength. However, alkalinity is normally interpreted as a function of carbonates, bicarbonates and hydroxides. The sum of these three components is called total alkalinity.

Allochthonous - Material introduced into rivers from terrestrial environments. Examples include leaves or branches from trees that fall into a river.

ALPAC - Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc.

Amphibians - A cold-blooded vertebrate animal in the class Amphibia. Some characteristics of amphibians include: 1) adults are land-dwelling but return to water to breed; 2) the skin and mouth lining can be used for oxygen exchange underwater; 3) skin is glandular and lacks hair, scales, or feathers; 4) eggs hatch into an aquatic larval stage. Examples of amphibians include animals such as frogs and salamanders.

Anastomosed channel - A stream channel, consisting of sediments resistant to erosion, containing numerous smaller channels separated by stable islands.

ANC - Acid Neutralizing Capacity

ANCorg - ANC attributable to weak organic acids.

ANCOVA - Analysis of co-variance.

Angiosperm - A flowering plant.

Annual allowable cut - The amount of timber that can be harvested in a year according to the pertitent quota certificate approved by the Minister of Sustainable Resource Development (FMP 2005).

ANOVA - Analysis of variance.

Anoxic - Conditions lacking in oxygen.

AOSERP - Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Research Program

APHA - American Public Health Association

Aquifer - An underground area consisting of water-bearing unconsolidated material and permeable rock from which economically viable amounts of water can be extracted.

ARC - Alberta Research Council

ARC-Vegreville - Alberta Research Council located in Vegreville

ARD - Athabasca River Delta

ASL - acid-sensitive lakes

ASRD - Alberta Sustainable Resource Development

Atmospheric pressure - The pressure experienced at any one point within the Earth’s atmosphere.

AURIVAS - Australian River Assessment System

Autochthonous - Material produced within a river ecosystem, e.g. algae.

Autotroph -
An organism that synthesizes organic matter from inorganic material, typically by the process of photosynthesis.

AWI - Alberta Wetland Inventory

AXYS - AXYS Analytical Services


Bacteria - Microscopic, single-celled prokaryotic organisms.

Bankfull discharge - The level of flow occurring when water overflows the channel banks and begins to spread onto the floodplain.

Baseline - The term used to classify a station/reach and the data collected at that station that is upstream of an approved oil sands project that is some stage of physical development. The data collected at this station will serve as the baseline conditions to which test stations will be compared.

Basin - A river basin includes the river channel and surrounding drainage area, i.e. the land and tributaries that drain precipitation falling within this area to the river.

BCI - Bray-Curtis index

bcm - billion cubic metres

Bedload - Particles carried along a river on the bed. Suspended load refers to particles carried along the river in suspension.

Benthic invertebrates - Invertebrate organisms living on the bottom of lakes, ponds and streams. Examples of benthic invertebrates include the aquatic insects such as caddisfly larvae, which spend at least part of their life on or in bottom sediments. Many benthic invertebrates are major food sources for fish.

Benthos - Organisms that inhabit the bottom substrates (sediments, debris, logs, macrophytes) of aquatic habitats for at least part of their life cycle. The term benthic is used as an adjective, as in benthic invertebrates.

Bering Strait Bridge - A bridge of ice that extended from North America to Siberia several times during the last ice age.

Bioaccumulation - A general term meaning that an organism stores within its body a higher concentration of a substance than is found in the environment. This is not necessarily harmful. For example, freshwater fish must bioaccumulate salt to survive in intertidal waters. Many toxicants, such as arsenic, are not included among the dangerous bioaccumulative substances because they can be handled and excreted by aquatic organisms.

Bioavailability - The amount of chemical that enters the general circulation of the body following administration or exposure.

Bioconcentration - A process where there is a net accumulation of a chemical directly from an exposure medium into an organism.

Biodiversity - Refers to the variety of life on earth. The most widely accepted definition of biodiversity is found in Article 2 of the Convention on Biological Diversity: “Biological diversity means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.”

Biofilm - A thin layer of biota—including algae, fungi, bacteria, and other invertebrates—that forms on river substrate.

Biological Indicator (Bioindicator) - Any biological parameter used to indicate the response of individuals, populations or ecosystems to environmental stress. For example, growth is a biological indicator.

Biomagnification - A process in which concentrations of certain compounds found in tissues of organisms increase in successive levels of the food chain.

Biomass - The mass of all living and dead organic matter in an ecosystem. In certain contexts, the term ‘biomass’ may also refer only to the mass of living organisms in an environment.

Biomonitoring - The use of living organisms as indicators of the quality and integrity of aquatic or terrestrial systems in which they reside.

Biophysical - The biological and physical components of the environment .

Birch Mountain - Birch Mountain Resources Ltd.

Bitumen - A highly viscous, tarry, black hydrocarbon material having an API gravity of about 9º (specific gravity about 1.0). It is a complex mixture of organic compounds. Carbon accounts for 80% to 85% of the elemental composition of bitumen, hydrogen – 10%, sulphur 5%, and nitrogen, oxygen and trace elements the remainder.

BOD - Biochemical Oxygen Demand

Boreal forest - A mixed forest dominated by spruce, fir, aspen and birch with areas of muskeg. The boreal forest makes up 1/3 of the world’s forested land and is connected as a large circumpolar band across the northern hemisphere.

Bottom sediments - Substrates that lie at the bottom of a body of water. For example, soft mud, silt, sand, gravel, rock and organic litter, that make up a river bottom.

Braided channel - Occurs when a river splits into numerous smaller channels separated by islands.


CA - correspondence analyses

CAEAL - Canadian Association for Environmental Analytical Laboratories

Carnivore - An animal that feeds on other animals.

Carrying capacity -The extent to which an ecosystem or resource can withstand pressure from external forces such as degradation, climate variability, development and internal use.

Cascade interaction - Occurs when one group of organisms indirectly affects another group by feeding on the animals that would have eaten them.

Catch-Per-Unit-Effort - A measure which relates to the catch of fish, with a particular type of gear, per unit of time (number of fish/hour). Results can be given for a particular species or the entire catch. The results can reflect both the density and/or the vulnerability of the gear utilized, of a species in a particular system.

Catchment area - Another term for drainage basin or watershed: the area of land drained by a river system.

CBD - Convention on Biological Diversity - An agreement signed by 150 world leaders at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The goals of the CBD include the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from genetic resources.

CCME - Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment

CEA - Cumulative Effects Assessment

CEMA - Cumulative Environmental Management Association

Cenozoic era - The most recent era in history, this spans from 65 million years ago until present and includes the Tertiary and Quaternary periods.

CFIA - Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Chronic - Defines a stimulus that lingers or continues for a relatively long period of time, often one-tenth of the life span or more. Chronic should be considered a relative term depending on the life span of the organism. The measurement of a chronic effect can be reduced growth, reduced reproduction, etc. in addition to lethality.

CL - Critical Load

Climate - The long-term average of weather in a particular region.

Closed Circuit - Closed circuited areas include areas where the impacted land is hydrologically isolated from the original drainage area, and no longer contributes flow to the river system. 

CNRL - Canadian Natural Resources Limited

COC - Chain of Custody

Collectors - Consume fine to very fine organic particles suspended in the water (filtering collectors or filter-feeders) or deposited on the stream bed (collector-gatherers).

Colour - True colour of water is the colour of a filtered water sample (and thus with turbidity removed), and results from materials which are dissolved in the water. These materials include natural mineral components such as iron and calcium carbonate, as well as dissolved organic matter such as humic acids, tannin, and lignin. Organic and inorganic compounds from industrial or agricultural uses may also add colour to water. As with turbidity, colour hinders the transmission of light through water, and thus ‘regulates’ biological processes within the body of water.

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) - A committee responsible for determining the national status of species suspected to be at risk.

Community - A set of taxa coexisting at a specified spatial or temporal scale.

Concentration - Quantifiable amount of a chemical in environmental medium, expressed as mass of a substance per unit volume (e.g. mg/L), or per unit sample mass (e.g. mg/g). Also see ppb, ppm, ppq, ppt.

Condition Factor - A measure of the plumpness or fatness of aquatic organisms. For oysters and mussels, values are based on the ratio of the soft tissue dry weight to the volume of the shell cavity. For fish, the condition factor is based on weight-length relationships.

Conductivity - A measure of a water’s capacity to conduct an electrical current. It is the reciprocal of resistance. This measurement provides an estimate of the total concentration of dissolved ions in the water.

Coniferous - A cone bearing tree with needles that is often referred to as a ‘softwood’ tree.

Connectivity - The measure how well habitats are connected through corridors or stepping stones, be them vegetation or waterways.

CONRAD - Canadian Oil Sands Network for Research and Development

Consumers - An organism that feeds on other organisms or dead organic matter; see also heterotroph.

Contaminant Body Burdens - The total concentration of a contaminant found in either whole-body or individual tissue samples.

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) - An agreement signed by 150 world leaders at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The goals of the CBD include the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from genetic resources.

Covariate - An independent variable; a measurement taken on each experimental unit that predicts to some degree the final response to the treatment, but which is unrelated to the treatment (e.g. body size [covariate] included in the analysis to compare gonad weights of fish collected from reference and exposed areas).

CPUE - Catch-Per-Unit-Effort

Critically endangered - Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

Crown Land - Public lands administered by the Lieutenant Governor.

Cumulative Effect - An environmental effect resulting from the activities of several projects or activities, rather than from a single activity.

Cutblock - An area of mechantable timber that has been designated for harvesting in one cutting operation.

CVAFS - Cold Vapour Atomic Fluorescence Spectrophotometry

CWD - Clean Water Discharge

CWQG - Canadian Water Quality Guidelines

Cyanobacteria - A large and diverse group of bacteria capable of photosynthesis. Also known as blue-green algae.


Decade - A range of 10-years time-period.

Deciduous - Trees that lose their leaves annually and that are often associated with hardwood.

Deer Creek - Deer Creek Energy Ltd.

Deforestation - The conversion of forested area to non-forested area through the removal of trees.

Degradation - A reduction in the biological productivity of an area of land.

Deposit-feeders - Aquatic animals that consume fine particles of organic matter found on and within the bottom sediments.

Detection Limit - The lowest concentration at which individual measurement results for a specific analyte are statistically different from a blank (that may be zero) with a specified confidence level of a given method and representative matrix.

Detailed Forest Management Plan - This plan outlines the long-term management plans to do with timber production and sustainability for the Forest Management Agreement.

Detritivores - Organisms that consume dead organic matter.

Detritus - Dead organic matter; the particulate remains of dead plants and animals.

Development area - Any area altered to an unnatural state. This represents all land and water areas included within activities associated with development of the oil sands leases.

Devon - Devon Canada Corporation

DFO - Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Diatom - A photosynthetic, single-celled organism enclosed in a shell of silica.

DIC - Dissolved Inorganic Carbon

Digital Elevation Model (DEM) - Representation of elevation as a raster grid of regularly spaced elevation values. These grids can be directly computed (derived) from other elevation information such as contours, topographic maps, and irregularly spaced spot heights or from satellite images.

DL - Detection Limit

Discharge - In a stream or river, the volume of water that flows past a given point in a unit of time (i.e. m³/s).

Discharge standards - Standards used to define the maximum acceptable quantity of pollutants that may be discharged into the area from emissions and effluents.

Dissolved Oxygen - is the amount of gaseous oxygen in a liquid.

Disturbance regimes - The spatial and temporal characteristics of disturbances affecting a landscape over time (FMP 2006-2026).

Diurnal - Exhibiting a daily cycle, e.g. over one day and one night.

Diversity - The variety, distribution and abundance of different plant and animal communities and species within an area.

DO - dissolved oxygen

DOC - dissolved organic carbon

Drainage - The removal of water from an area through natural or artificial processes.

Drainage basin - The total area that contributes water to a stream.

Dredging - The removal of sediment and other material from the bottom of waterbodies by a machine equipped with a scoop or suction device. Dredging is often undertaken to maintain sufficient water depth for navigation.

Dwell time - The period during which a dynamic process remains halted in order that another process may occur.


Ecological Indicator - Any ecological parameter used to indicate the response of individuals, populations or ecosystems to environmental stress.

Ecological integrity - The ability of an ecosystem to sustainably maintain its natural processes including biodiversity.

Ecology - The scientific study of: 1) the interactions or relationships between organisms and their environment, 2) the interactions that determine the distribution and abundance of organisms.

Ecoregion - An ecologically and geographically distinct region characterized by community assemblages that distinguish it from other ecoregions (e.g. the Boreal Forest).

Ecosystem - An integrated and stable association of living and non-living resources functioning within a defined physical location.

Ecosystem diversity - Refers to the variety of identifiable ecosystems in which organisms live.

Ecosystem Goods & Services - Benefits derived from ecosystems. Goods provided by ecosystems are usually more tangible benefits such as food products, fuel wood, drinking water or timber. Ecosystem services are usually enabling benefits that people obtain from ecosystems and include provisioning services; regulating services; supporting services; and cultural services.

Ecosystem health - A concept that uses a systematic approach to the preventative, diagnostic, and prognostic aspects of ecosystem management, and to the understanding of relationships between ecosystem health and human health. It seeks to understand and optimize the intrinsic capacity of an ecosystem for self-renewal while meeting reasonable human goals. It encompasses the role of societal values, attitudes and goals in shaping our conception of health at human and ecosystem scales (University of Western Ontario’s Ecosystem Health group).

Ecosystem services - The goods (tangible resources) and services (functions) provided by an ecosystem.

Ecosystems - Groups and communities of organisms (animals, plants, insects and micro-organisms) that form one functioning unit. It also includes all of the non-living physical and chemical factors of the environment that maintain its existence, linked together through nutrient cycling and energy flow.

Ecotone - An area of transition or overlap between two habitat types.

ECp - A point estimate of the concentration of test material that causes a specified percentage effective toxicity (sublethal or lethal). In most instances, the ECp is statistically derived by analysis of an observed biological response (e.g. incidence of nonviable embryos or reduced hatching success) for various test concentrations after a fixed period of exposure. EC25 is used for the rainbow trout sublethal toxicity test.

EEM - Environmental Effects Monitoring

Effluent - An outflow of liquid waste released from a facility such as a sewage treatment plant or industrial operation.

EIA - Environmental Impact Assessment

Endangered - Facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

Endemic - Occurring naturally in only one specific area.

ENGO - Environmental Non-Government Organization

Environmental degradation - The reduction in an environment’s ability to support the biota that live within it through natural changes, the removal of a natural resource or the addition of a deleterious substance.

Environmental Effects Monitoring - The repetitive and systematic measurement of environmental components to test specific hypotheses regarding the effects of human activity on the environment.

Environmental Impact Assessment - A review of the effects that a proposed development will have on the local and regional environment.

Environmental Management - The management of human interaction with and impact on the natural environment. Environmental management is concerned with the links between the natural world and human social, cultural, and economic systems.

Environmental Management Plan - A plan outlining the means of achieving environmental objectives and goals.

Environmental Mitigation Compliance Monitoring - Monitoring conducted to determine whether specified environmental mitigation measures are being implemented properly and are having the intended effect.

Environmental Monitoring - The collection of systematic, geo-referenced observations of the environment to detectchanges over time and space.

EPEA - Environment Protection & Enhancement Act

EPI - External Pathology Index

EPT - Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera

Erosion - The wearing away, detachment, and movement of surface materials by forces of wind, water, or ice.

Ephemeral Stream - A watercourse that only flows during heavy rainfall or snowmelt with little channel development over time.

ETL - Enviro-Test Laboratories

EUB - Alberta Energy and Utilities Board

Eutrophication - The accumulation of nutrients in a waterbody that results in excessive growth of organisms and depletion of oxygen.

Evaporation - The conversion of a liquid substance to a gaseous state.

Evapotranspiration - The loss of water to the atmosphere via the combined effects of evaporation and transpiration.

Evenness - A measure of the similarity, in terms of abundance, of different species in a community. When there are similar proportions of all species then evenness is one, but when the abundances are very dissimilar (some rare and some common species) then the value increases.

Excludability - Refers to the possibility of controlling access to a natural resource or service.

Exposure - The contact reaction between a chemical and a biological system, or organism.

Exploitation - The improper or overuse of a resource.

Extinct - No longer in existence.


Facies - Rock or a stratified layer with distinct characteristics.

Fauna - A term referring to an association of animals living in a particular place or at a particular time.

Fecundity - The number of offspring produced by a female.

Fecundity Index - The most common measure of reproductive potential in fishes. It is the number of eggs in the ovary of a female fish. It is most commonly measured in gravid fish. Fecundity increases with the size of the female.

Filling - Adding to and building up with material such as soil or gravel.

Filter-feeders - Organisms that feed by straining small organisms or organic particles from the water column.

Fish anomalies - Fish anomalies are any changes to the fish's appearance that are obvious on the outside or the inside of the fish.

Fish Radio Telemetry - Fish radio telemetry involves tracking the movement of fish using surgically implanted radio transmitters.

Flett - Flett Research Ltd.

Floodplains - The lands bordering the river that become covered with water during a flood. A 50-year floodplain is the extent of area that will be covered during the largest flood in a 50-year time period.

FMA - Forest Management Agreement

Food chain - A model or diagram describing the idea that organisms are dependent upon others for food and are linked to each other by this dependence. The chain begins with a primary producer and ends with the largest carnivore. This is for educational purposes only as it does not encompass the true complexity of interactions. See food web below.

Food web - A conceptual diagram that represents the feeding relationships of organisms within an ecosystem. It consists of a series of interconnected food chains because often prey can be eaten by several predators.

Forage fish - Small fish that provide food for larger fish (e.g. longnose sucker, fathead minnow).

Foreshore - The intertidal zone where the bottom is covered by water during high flows and exposed to the air during low flows.

Forest Management Agreement - A contract between the Province of Alberta and the FMA holder, whereby the province provide an area-based Crown timber supply. In return, the FMA holder commits to the following:

  • Managing the timber resource on a perpetual sustained-yield basis, taking into consideration a broad range of forest values in determining forest management practices; and
  • Meeting defined economic objectives, including capital investment and job creation, and seeking out new business opportunities that provide measurable economic benefits for both the province and the FMA holder. The FMA gives the FMA holder the right to access Crown fibre. In return, the FMA holder commits to forest management responsibilities, which may change from time to time (FMP 2006-2026).

Forest Management Plan - A generic term for all of the plans that identify objectives and strategies for managing the timber in a specified area.

Fossil record - Fossil record the accumulation of fossils and related geological data that give us clues about the past and its taxonomic history.

Frontal rainfall - Occurs when a warm air mass rises over a cold air mass, leading to cooling, condensation, and rainfall.

FSA - Focus Study Area

Fungi - A eukaryotic, multicellular organism that functions as a primary decomposer of dead plants and animals.

FWI - Field Work Instructions

FWIN - Fall Walleye Index Netting


Genetic diversity - Refers to variety in genes or gene pools that exists within a species.

Geographic Information System (GIS) - Computer-based system for capturing, storing, checking, integrating, analysing and displaying geographic data.

Geography - The study of the earth’s surface.

Geology - A branch of science that examines the earth’s physical history.

GIC - Goose Island Channel

Glacial cycle - is defined by reoccurring glacial events over time interspersed by interglacial events, such as the one we are currently experiencing.

Global warming - possibly one of the most serious global environmental issues of our time, global warming is the term given to the warming effect on the earth from trapped gases in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide and methane.

Gonad - A male or female organ producing reproductive cells or gametes (i.e. female ovum, male sperm). The male gonad is the testis; the female gonad is the ovary.

Gonadosomatic Index (GSI) - The proportion of reproductive tissue in the body of a fish. It is calculated by expressing gonad weight as a percentage of whole body weight. It is used as an index of the proportion of growth allocated to reproductive tissues in relation to somatic growth.

Government - The system of governing (democratic, socialist, etc.) and the structure and arrangement of the government office. The government of a nation usually consists of three sets of power, namely the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary.

GPS - Global Positioning System

Grazer-scraper - Animals that graze the organic layer of algae, microorganisms and associated organic matter on stone and other substrates in streams; includes species which pierce plant cells and suck out the fluids.

Greenhouse effect - As heat from the earth’s surface tries to escape into the atmosphere it is trapped and radiated back to earth by greenhouse gases in the lower atmosphere (troposphere). If greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the troposphere and are not removed the earth’s average temperature will gradually increase.

Greenhouse gases - A number of gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global climate change.

Gross production - Total production of organic matter in a given area per unit time.

Gross Domestic Product - The total market value of all goods and services produced in a country in a given year. GDP is measured by: total consumer, investment and government spending, plus the value of exports minus the value of imports.

Ground resolution - It is a measure of the resolving power of a sensor when expressed as cycles per unit length on the ground from a given altitude.

Groundwater - The water stored below the earth’s surface in pore spaces of bedrock and superficial mineral deposits located above the bedrock.

GSI - Gonadosomatic Index


Habitat - A place or type of place where an organism, population or entire community lives (Dougherty 2000-2001).

HAI - Health Assessment Index

Hardness - Total hardness is defined as the sum of the calcium and magnesium concentrations, both expressed as calcium carbonate, in milligrams per litre.

Herbivore - An animal that consumes living plants or their parts.

Heterotroph - An organism that requires organic molecules as a source of energy and nutrients because it is unable to manufacture their own food using the sun’s energy.

HI - Hazard Index

Horizon - A layer of soil with physical and chemical properties distinct from layers above and below.

Hotspot - An area of extraordinarily high biodiversity.

HQ - Hazard Quotient

Husky - Husky Energy

Hydrograph - A graph showing an aspect of the river (velocity, flow, discharge) with respect to time. The portion of the graph leading up to peak (velocity, flow, discharge) is known as the rising limb with the recession limb representing the decrease after the peak.

Hydrological cycle - Refers to the cycling of water from the ocean to the land and back again, including all the pathways and processes connected with the storage and movement of water in solid, liquid, and gaseous states.

Hydrological regime - The long - term history of flow levels in a river.

Hydrometric data - Hydrological data collected and recorded often at a fixed site in order to determine changes over time.

Hydroqual - Hydroqual Laboratories

Hyphae - Long, thread-like branching filament found on fungus.


IBI - Index of Biotic Integrity

Ice jam - occurs when melting ice upstream is pushed into solid ice downstream.

ICp - A point estimate of the concentration of test material that causes a specified percentage impairment in a quantitative biological test which measures a change in rate, such as reproduction, growth, or respiration.

Impact Analysis - The portion of an EIA that presents and discusses predicted impacts of a project.

Imperial Oil - Imperial Oil Resources

Indigenous - Naturally occurring in or native to a specific place.

Indirect use value - Value arising from ecosystem functions that support and maintain human activity. The value obtained from the flood regulation services of a wetland is an example of indirect use value.

Infiltration - The movement of surface water into soil or rock through cracks and pores.

Inorganics - Pertaining to a compound that contains no carbon.

Inundation - Synonymous with flood.

Insect - An invertebrate animal of the Class Insecta. Insects comprise the most diverse group of animals on earth.

Invasive Species - A non-native species that under advantageous conditions can dominate its environment and inhibit the survival of native species.

Invertebrate - An organism without a backbone.

IQR - Inter-Quartile Range

IRC - Industry Relations Corporation

Irrigated Agriculture - Agriculture that depends on irrigation to provide sufficient water for successful and often economic production of a crop.

ISQG - Interim Freshwater Sediment Quality Guidelines


JACOS - Japan Canada Oil Sands Limited


KIR - Key Indicator Resource


Land-use planning - The process used to determine the best present and future use of parcels of land (Dougherty 2000-2001).

Law List Regulations - These regulations identify those federal statutory and regulatory approvals that will trigger an environmental assessment (CEAA 2008).

LC50 - Median lethal concentration. The concentration of a substance that is estimated to kill half of a group of organisms. The duration of exposure must be specified (e.g. 96-hour LC50).

LCS - Laboratory Control Sample

Lesions - Pathological change in a body tissue.

Lethal - Causing death by direct action.

Levee - A raised bank, natural or man-made, that contains the water within a river channel. Natural levees are formed by the deposition of sediments during floods.

Lithofacies - Rock facies with distinct lithological (physical) characteristics.

Littoral Zone - The zone in a lake that is closest to the shore.

Liver Somatic Index (LSI) - Calculated by expressing liver weight as a percent of whole body weight.

Local Study Area - the geographic area where direct effects of a specific project under review may occur.

Lower quartile flow - The recorded flow value such that 75% of the recorded flows for that day are greater, and 25% of the recorded flows are less.

LSI - Liver Somatic Index


Macro-invertebrates - Those invertebrate (without backbone) animals that are visible to the eye and retained by a sieve with 500 µm mesh openings for freshwater, or 1,000 µm mesh openings for marine surveys (EEM methods).

Macrophyte - A plant that can be seen with the unaided eye.

Mass wasting
- Movement of large quantities of sediment, rock, and organic matter downslope by gravity, and includes landslides, rockfalls, and debris flows and avalanches.

Maximum flow - The maximum flow recorded for that day from all years of flow records.

MDL - Method Detection Limit

Mean annual flood - The average of the series of annual maximum daily discharges.

Median flow - The recorded flow value such that 50% of the recorded flows for that day are greater, and 50% of the recorded flows are less.

Mesozoic era - Includes the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous Periods and extends from 245 million years ago until 65 million years ago.

Microorganism - The collective term for organisms that cannot be seen by the unaided human eye. Examples of microorganisms include bacteria, yeasts, protozoa, blue-green algae, and some fungi.

Microtox® - A toxicity test that includes an assay of light production by a strain of luminescent bacteria (Photobacterium phosphoreum).

Minimum flow - the minimum flow recorded for that day from all years of flow records.

Mitigation - Activities to avoid, prevent, reduce, or minimize predicted negative impacts of a project.

Mitigation measures - Actions undertaken to reduce or eliminate potential negative effects or consequences.

Molluscs - Invertebrate animals with a soft body and, usually, a hard shell. Examples include snails, clams, mussels and related animals.

Monitoring - The process of checking, observing, and measuring outcomes for key variables or specific ecological phenomena against a predefined quantitative objective or standard. It takes place after an event or process has been initiated or completed to evaluate if the anticipated or assumed results of a management plan have been or are being realized, and/or if implementation is proceeding as planned. Monitoring is the systematic measurement or analysis of change (FMP 2005-2026).

MRRT - McMurray Resources (Research and Testing) Ltd.

MS-222 - Tricaine Methane Sulfonate

MSC - Meteorological Service of Canada


Natural resource - Any matter or energy obtained from the environment that is used and valued by humans. Forests, water, soils, and air are examples of natural resources.

Negative control - Material (e.g. water) that is essentially free of contaminants and of any other characteristics that could adversely affect the test organism. It is used to assess the ‘background response’ of the test organism to determine the acceptability of the test using predefined criteria.

Net production - The rate of gross accumulation of organic matter minus the losses of organic matter to respiration and other processes.

Nexen - Nexen Inc.

Nitrogen cycle - The cycle of nitrogen in different forms from the environment to organisms that depend on nitrogen for survival and then back to the environment.

Nitrogen fixation - The process of chemically converting nitrogen gas (N2 ) from the air into compounds, such as nitrates (NO3 ), nitrites (NO2 ), or ammonia (NH3 ), that can be used by plants in building amino acids and other nitrogen-containing organic molecules (Dougherty 2000-2001).

NOx - A measure of the oxides of nitrogen comprised of nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Non-native species - Species of a foreign origin.

Non-point source pollution (or diffuse pollution) - Pollution that cannot be attributed to a single source or human activity, although it may result from many individual point sources.

Non-renewable resource - Resources found in the earth’s crust that have been formed over millions or even billions of years through chemical, physical and biological processes. Oil is an example of a non-renewable resource that is being used at a faster rate than it is being formed.

Non-Closed Circuit (Open Circuit) - Non-closed circuited areas includes impacted land that is hydrologicaly connected with the original drainage area, and contributes flow to the river system.

NRBS - Northern River Basins Study

NSMWG - NOx and SOx Management Working Group

Nutrients - Environmental substances (elements or compounds) such as nitrogen or phosphorus, which are necessary for the growth and development of plants and animals.

NWRI - National Water Research Institute

OCA - Objective Classification Analysis


Oil Sands - A sand deposit containing a heavy hydrocarbon (bitumen) in the intergranular pore space of sands and fine-grained particles. Typical oil sands comprise approximately 10 wt% bitumen, 85% coarse sand (>44 µm) and a fines (>44 µm) fraction, consisting of silts and clays.

Omnivore - A heterotroph that feeds on both plants and animals.

OPTI - OPTI Canada Inc.

Orbit - The path of a body or particle under the influence of a gravitational or other force. For instance, to go around the Earth or other body in an orbit.

Organic material - Any material composed of living or dead carbon based organisms.

Organics - Chemical compounds, naturally occurring or otherwise, which contain carbon, with the exception of carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbonates (e.g. CaCO3).

Orographic rainfall - Occurs when warm, moist air is forced to rise over elevated land. The air is cooled as it rises, leading to condensation, cloud formation, and rainfall.

Overfishing - Harvesting a fish species to the point where there are not enough mature fish to replenish the species making in unprofitable to continue to harvest (commercial extinction).


PAH - Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon

PAI - Potential Acid Input

Palaearctic - One of the eight ecozones into which the world is divided. This ecozone includes the terrestrial ecoregions of Europe, Asia north of the Himalaya foothills, northern Africa, and the northern and central parts of the Arabian Peninsula.

Paleogeography - The study of what the geography was in past times.

Pathological Index - A quantitative summary of pathology where variables examined are assigned numerical values (either 0, 10, 20 or 30) to indicate normal or abnormal condition. In this system, variables that exhibit an increasing degree of pathology are assigned higher values. The PI is calculated by summing the index values for each variable. The PI value increases as the number and severity of abnormalities increases. Based on the Health Assessment Index (HAI) developed by Adams et al. (1993).

Pathology - The science which deals with the cause and nature of disease or diseased tissues.

PC - Principal Component

PCA - Principal Component Analysis

Peat - A material composed almost entirely of organic matter from the partial decomposition of plants growing in wet conditions.

PEL - Probable Effect Level

Periphyton - The layer of algae, microorganisms and organic material coating the surface of stones, plants, and hard objects on the beds of streams, rivers, and reservoirs. See also biofilm.

Petro-Canada - Petro-Canada Oil and Gas

pH - A measure of the acid or alkaline nature of water or some other medium. Specifically, pH is the negative logarithm of the hydronium ion (H30+) concentration (or more precisely, activity). Practically, pH7 represents a neutral condition in which the acid hydrogen ions balance the alkaline hydroxide ions. The pH of the water can have an important influence on the toxicity and mobility of chemicals in pulpmill effluents.

Phosphorus cycle - The cycle of phosphorus from the environment to the organisms that require phosphorus and back into the environment.

Photosynthesis - The process by which plants use energy from the sun to transform carbon dioxide (CO2) and water into carbohydrates and other compounds.

Phytoplankton - Microscopic plants suspended in the open water.

PI - Pathology Index

Point Source Pollution - is pollution that can be attributed to a single outlet, such as a municipal sewage outfall or industrial discharge pipe.

Pollutant - A particular chemical or form of energy that can adversely affect the health, survival, or activities of humans or other living organisms (Dougherty 2000-2001).

Pool - An area in a river characterized by deeper water, lower slopes, and lower flow velocities.

Population - A group of organisms belonging to a particular species or taxon, found within a particular region, territory or sampling unit. A collection of organisms that interbreed and share a bounded segment of space.

ppb - abbr. for concentration unit expressed in: μg/kg or ng/g or μg/L

ppm - abbr. for concentration unit expressed in: mg/kg or μg/g or mg/L

ppq - abbr. for concentration unit expressed in: pg/kg or fg/g or pg/L

ppt - abbr. for concentration unit expressed in: ng/kg or pg/g or ng/L

Predator - An animal that kills and eats other animals.

Primary consumer - An animal that eats autotrophs.

Primary producer - Produces the first form of organic carbon from inorganic compounds. Primary producers are found at the bottom of the food chain. See also autotroph.

Primary production - The rate of production of organic matter by autotrophs.

Private resources - Resources for which consumption is subtractive and to which access can be controlled (access is exclusive).

Producer - See autotroph.

Production - The amount of organic matter produced by an organism over a period of time.

Project Description - A description of the proposed project, provided by the Proponent, that includes technical details of the siting, operation.

Proponent - The entity proposing the development (for example, an oil company).

Protected area - An area in which resource use and access is managed to protect valued environmental and natural resources.

Protists - A collective term for eukaryotes that are not considered true animals, plants, or fungi; or, members of the kingdom Protista.

Protozoa - A large group of single-celled eukaryotic and often microscopic organisms.

Public good - A resource with non-subtractive consumption and unlimited access. Protection from UV radiation by the ozone layer is an example of a public good.


QA - Quality Assurance

QAP - Quality Assurance Plan

QC - Quality Control

Quality Assurance (QA) - Refers to the externally imposed technical and management practices which ensure the generation of quality and defensible data commensurate with the intended use of the data; a set of operating principles that, if strictly followed, will produce data of known defensible quality.

Quarternary Period - A geologic period roughly 2.588 million years ago to the present.


Rainshadow - An area of reduced precipitation commonly found on the leeward side of a mountain.

RAMP - Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program

RCA - Reference Condition Approach

Reach - A comparatively short length of river, stream channel or shore. The length of the reach is defined by the purpose of the study.

Receptor - The person or organism subjected to exposure to chemicals or physical agents.

Recharge rate - The time required to replenish groundwater that it extracted from aquifers.

Regional Study Area - The geographic area larger than the local study area, where effects of a specific project may contribute indirectly to cumulative effects of multiple projects or other human activities.

Reference toxicant - A chemical of quantified toxicity to test organisms, used to gauge the fitness, health, and sensitivity of a batch of test organisms.

Reforestation - The process of restoring and replacing tree cover from areas where deforestation of forested areas has occurred.

Relative abundance - The proportional representation of a species in a sample or a community.

Remote Sensing - The science, technology and art of obtaining information about objects or phenomena from a distance (i.e. without being in physical contact with them).

Renewable water supply - The water supply that can be used sustainably at its present consumption rate.

Replacement rate - The period of time required to replace the entire volume of water in a lake or reservoir.

Replicate - Duplicate analyses of an individual sample. Replicate analyses are used for measuring precision in quality control.

Residence time - The length of time water remains in a reservoir or lake before evaporation or outflow.

Residual Effects - predicted effects of a project on the environment after proposed mitigation measures have been adopted; in other words, the predicted actual effects of the project.

Resilience - Refers to the ability of a community to return to its former state after some displacement.

Resistance - Refers to the ability of a community to avoid displacement after some disturbance.

Respiration - A metabolic process that releases energy through the oxidation of molecules.

Review Team - the team of government review agencies and individuals responsible for technical review of the contents of the EIA.

RIC - Resources Inventory Committee

Riffle habit - Shallow rapids where the water flows swiftly over completely or partially submerged materials to produce surface agitation.

Riparian Area - A band of vegetation surrounding a waterbody that is influenced by and has an influence on the waterbody.

Riffle - An area in a river characterized by faster flowing, shallow water.

Rivalry - Competition for resource use resulting from the subtractability of resource consumption.

RIVPACS - River Invertebrate Prediction and Classification System

RMWB - Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

RSA - Regional Study Area

RSDS - Regional Sustainable Development Strategy

Run Habitat - Areas of swiftly flowing water, without surface waves, that approximates uniform flow and in which the slope of water surface is roughly parallel to the overall gradient of the stream reach.

Runoff - Surface water effluent that travels over the ground too quickly to infiltrate below the surface. The water flows over the land, picking up chemicals and debris until it either reaches a stream, river or an area where it can settle.

Runoff depth - Streamflow volume divided by catchment area.


SAGD - Steam Assisted Gravity Discharge

Saline seep - A crust layer that appears at a low spot in bedrock formation, rich in minerals and salts, as a result of evaporated water.

SBC - Ratio of Alkalinity to Base Cations

SD - Standard Deviation

SE - Standard Error

Secondary consumer - An animal that feeds on other animals.

Secondary production - The assimilation of organic material and building of tissue by heterotrophs; expressed as a rate of biomass production.

Sediment load - The total amount of suspended load, dissolved load, and bed load carried by a river.

Sedimentation - The deposition of sediment. Also known as siltation.

Sentinel Species - A monitoring species selected to be representative of the local receiving environment.

Shannon-Weiner Diversity Index - A calculation used to estimate species diversity using both species richness and relative abundance. A basic count of the number of species present in a community represents species richness. The number of individuals of each species occurring in a community is the species relative abundance.

Shell - Shell Canada Limited.

Shredders - Stream animals that feed on coarse organic particles, thereby reducing particle size.

Siltation - The deposition of sediment. Also known as sedimentation.

Sinuosity - Refers to the amount of curving in a river channel.

Species at risk - Any species known to be ”at risk” after formal detailed status assessment and designation as provincially “Endangered” or “Threatened” .under the Alberta Wildlife Act or as nationally Extinct, Extirpated, Endangered, Threatened or Special Concern by COSEWIC under the Species at Risk Act (FMP 2006-2026).

Species diversity (organism diversity) - Refers to the variety of species that exists (or is thought to exist) within a region. Species diversity can refer to either the actual number of species (known as species richness) or to other indices of diversity that account for the relationships between species (e.g. relative abundance).

Spawning habitat - A particular type of area where a fish species chooses to reproduce. Preferred habitat (substrate, water flow, temperature) varies from species to species.

Species - A group of organisms that actually or potentially interbreed and are reproductively isolated from all other such groups; a taxonomic grouping of genetically and morphologically similar individuals; the category below genus.

Species Richness - The number of different species occupying a given area.

Sport/Game Fish - Large fish that are caught for food or sport (e.g. northern pike, trout).

Stakeholder - Any individual or group affected by and with an interest in a specific resource, project, program, or policy.

STP - Sewage Treatment Plant

Stratified refers to a clear distinction between layers and in a lake can indicate no mixing from one depth to the next.

Stream channelization - The process of re-structuring the natural course of a river for navigation or flood protection.

Stressor - An agent, a condition, or another stimulus that causes stress to an organism.

Sub-basin - A smaller basin included within a larger basin.

Sublethal - A concentration or level that would not cause death. An effect that is not directly lethal.

Subtractive consumption - Consumption of a resource that limits or prevents resource use by another because it is used up or degraded.

Succession - The replacement of one plant and animal community by another and often more complex community.

Suncor - Suncor Energy Inc.

Supplemental Information Requests (SIR) - requests by the technical Review Team for further details or clarification of technical materials in the EIA; provided after initial review of the EIA by the review team.

Surface erosion by water - Occurs when surface runoff detaches particles from the surface washing them into a waterbody.

Surface water - Water on the surface of the earth.

Suspended sediments - Particles of matter suspended in the water. Measured as the oven dry weight of the solids in mg/L, after filtration through a standard filter paper. Less than 25 mg/L would be considered clean water, while an extremely muddy river might have 200 mg/L of suspended sediments.

Sustainability - Refers to the ability to maintain a defined state over time. In terms of resource use and development, sustainability refers to the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability to meet the needs of the future.

Sustainable development - Defined by the Brundtland Report as “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Sustainable management - A process of leading or directing in a way that allows the needs of the present to be met without compromising the ability to meet the needs of the future.

SWE - Snow Water Equivalent

SWI - Specific Work Instruction

Syncrude - Syncrude Canada Ltd.


Taiga - Coniferous forest lying between tundra and steppe in Russian Siberia.

Taxonomy - The classification of living organisms according to the hierarchy of relationships (Dougherty 2000-2001).

TCU - Total Colour Units

TDG - Transportation of Dangerous Goods

TDN - Total Dissolved Nitrogen

TDP - Total Dissolved Phosphorus

TDS - Total Dissolved Solids

Tectonic - Refers to structures and features resulting from changes in the earth’s crust.

TEEM - Terrestrial Environmental Effects Monitoring Committee

TEH - Total Extractable Hydrocarbon

Terms of Reference - A document prepared and finalized before the impact analysis, which outlines the government's technical expectations and requirements of a specific EIA.

Tertiary Period - 70 to 2 million years ago.

Test -  The term used to classify a station/reach and the data collected at that station that is downstream of an approved oil sands project that is some stage of physical development. Data from these stations will be compared against baseline data to assess potential environmental change.

Thalweg - The (imaginary) line connecting the lowest points along a streambed or valley. Within rivers, the deep channel area.

TIE - Toxicity Identification Evaluation

TKN - Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen

TM - Thematic Mapper

TN - Total Nitrogen

TOC - Total Organic Carbon

Tolerance - The ability of an organism to subsist under a given set of environmental conditions. Organisms with high tolerance to pollution are usually indicators of poor water quality.

Topography - The shape and configuration of the land surface as described by the position of physical features, elevation, slope, and orientation.

Total Dissolved Solids - The total concentration of all dissolved compounds solids found in a water sample. See filterable residue.

Total E&P - Total E&P Canada Ltd.

Toxic - A substance, dose, or concentration that is harmful to a living organism.

Toxicity - The inherent potential or capacity of a material to cause adverse effects in a living organism.

TP - Total Phosphorus

Trade winds - Surface winds that generally dominate air flow in the tropics, blowing from about 30° north and south latitude to the equator.

Transboundary resource - A resource that is not confined within existing administrative boundaries.

Transect - A line drawn perpendicular to the flow in a channel along which measurements are taken.

Transpiration - The evaporation of water from plants through stomata, tiny pores on the surface of plant leaves.

TRH - Total Recoverable Hydrogen

Tributary - A stream or other watercourse that flows into a larger stream or river.

Trophic level - Artificial classification of organisms according to feeding relationships and the transfer of food-energy. The first trophic level includes primary producers (green plants); the second trophic level includes herbivores; the third includes animals which feed on herbivores.

Trophic surge - Refers to a sudden input of high levels of nutrients, as seen when an area is flooded.

TrueNorth - TrueNorth Energy L.P.

TSS - Total Suspended Solids

Turbidity - Turbidity in water is caused by the presence of matter such as clay, silt, organic matter, plankton, and other microscopic organisms that are held in suspension.

TVH - Total Volatile Hydrocarbon


Unsustainable - Unable to continue indefinitely.

Upper quartile flow - The recorded flow value such that 25% of the recorded flows for that day are greater, and 75% of the recorded flows are less.

USEPA - United States Environmental Protection Agency

UTF - Underground Test Facility

UTM - Universal Transverse Mercator


Vertebrate - An animal that has a backbone.

VOC - Volatile Organic Compounds

Vulnerable - Facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.


Watercourse - The area of land drained by a river system. Synonymous with Drainage basin and Catchment area.

Water governance - The political, economic and social processes and institutions by which governments, civil society, and the private sector make decisions about how best to use, develop, and manage water resources.

Watershed - The entire surface drainage area that contributes water to a lake or river.

WBEA - Wood Buffalo Environmental Association

Weather - Refers to manifestations of atmospheric activity at a specific time and place.

Weathering - Physical and chemical changes in soils or rock due to atmospheric processes and conditions. Physical weathering include changes in soils or rock due to temperature changes (e.g. expansion and contraction of rock) and abrasion by water, ice and wind. Chemical weathering includes the reaction of mineral particles with water or chemical substances in water, as well as the reaction of mineral particles with atmospheric gases or substances in the soil.

Well-being - Has multiple constituents, including access to basic material needs, freedom and choice, health, good social relations, and security. Well-being is at the opposite end of a continuum from poverty, which has been defined as a “pronounced deprivation in well-being.” The constituents of well-being, as experienced and perceived by people, are situation-dependent, reflecting local geography, culture, and ecological circumstances.

Wetlands - Term for a broad group of wet habitats. Wetlands are transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems, whether the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water. Wetlands include features that are permanently wet, or intermittently water-covered such as swamps, marshes, bogs, muskeg, potholes, swales, glades, slashes and overflow land of river valleys.

Wetland degradation - The impairment of wetland ecosystems as a result of human activity.

Wetland loss - The loss of wetland area due to the conversion of wetland to non-wetland areas, as a result of human activity.

WHMIS - Workplace Hazardous Information Materials Information Systems

Worm - An invertebrate animal with an elongated, soft, flexible, rounded or flattened body.

WRS - Western Resource Solutions Ltd.

WSC - Water Survey of Canada

WWG - Water Working Group (CEMA)


YOY - Young of the Year


Zooplankton - Small, usually microscopic animals or non-photosynthetic protists that are suspended in water, float, or weakly swim.


Dougherty, J. C 2000-2001. Biodiversity and Human Health: Glossary of Ecology Terms.



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