(in rivers) erosion caused by the river picking up stones and rubbing them against the bed and banks of the channel in the flow
Accessible countryside/rural areas countryside within easy reach of urban areas 
Adaptation changes that take place to react to a situation or condition. (They may or may not be successful) 
Ageing population a population with a rising average age
Agribusiness commercial agriculture that is owned and managed by large corporations
Air masses large bodies of air (many thousands of km2 in area) that form over polar or tropical source regions such as North Africa
Alternative energy energy sources that provide an alternative to fossil fuels 
Altitude the height of the land 
Alternative fuels fuel sources that provide an alternative to fossil fuels.
Amenities things like restaurants, health clubs, shops and cinemas that people want access to
Anti-natalist policies that seek to limit population growth by birth control. 
Appropriate technology equipment that the local community is able to use relatively easily and without much cost 
Aquaculture commercial fish farming, e.g.: rearing fish or prawns in ponds or submerged cages 
Aquifer an underground store of water, formed when water-bearing (permeable) rocks lie on top of impermeable rocks 
Asteroid collision a large extra-terrestrial object - such as a meteor - passes intact through the atmosphere and impacts with the Earth's surface
Asthenosphere the upper part of the Earth's mantle, where the rocks are more fluid
Atlantic depressions weather systems that bring stormy conditions and frontal rainfall to the western coastlines of Europe. (Depressions form when polar and continental air masses meet over the Atlantic ocean.) 
Attrition (in rivers) gradual wearing down of the particles by erosion as they collide with each other, making them smaller and rounder. 
Automation the use of machinery, rather than people, in manufacturing and data processing 
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Backwash water from a breaking wave which flows under gravity down a beach and returns to the sea
Bay a feature produced when erosion creates an indent in the coastline 
Biodiversity the number and variety of living species found in a specific area 
fuel sources derived from agricultural crops 
Biome a plant and animal community covering a large area of the Earth's surface 
Biosphere the living part - plants and animals - of the Earth. 
Birth Rate the number of births per 1,000 people in a year
Bleaching degradation of coral reefs under conditions if increased acidity in sea water 
Boserupian Theory the view that when population grows it stimulates technological changes that produce increases in output, ensuring that living standards can be maintained for the growing population. 
Bottom-up strategy development projects that originate in local communities rather than in central government or external agencies 
Branch plant a subsidiary business (usually a factory) set up by a company to meet an increasing demand or need. They are often located away from the parent company, but near some new market or cheap resource. 
Brownfield site a piece of land that has been used and abandoned, and is now awaiting some new use 
Bus lane a marked lane in a road in which only public transport vehicles such as buses and taxis are permitted. 


Call Centre an office equipped to handle a large volume of telephone calls (especially for taking orders or serving customers)
Carbon footprint a measurement of all the greenhouse gases we individually produce, through burning fossil fuels for electricity, transport, etc., expressed as tonnes (or kg) of carbon-dioxide equivalent.
Carrying capacity the maximum number of people that can be supported by the resources and technology of a given area
Chocolate box village a rural settlement that appears to match the picturesque, pretty image sometimes used on boxes of chocolate, etc.
CITES Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora - an international agreement
Clark-Fisher model a generalised description of how societies' employment structures change as they develop
Climate Change long-term changes in temperature and precipitation
Coastal flooding the inundation of low-lying areas in coastal areas and regions
Coastal management the processes and plans applies to coastal areas by local authorities and agencies
Collision plate boundary a tectonic margin at which two continental plates come together
Commercial farming a type of agriculture producing crops and livestock for sale and processing 
Commodity/production chains the linkages between a product and the sources of its basic materials and/or its components 
Commune a group of people with common interests, living as a community and sharing benefits equally (often based on farming).
Commuter belt a residential area within relatively easy reach of (and often surrounding) a city, where many of the residents travel to and from the city daily. 
Commuter dormitories largely residential settlements lying within the commuting catchments of towns or cities
Commuters people who travel from their home to their place of work, the distance being such that the journey most often involves some sort of transport
Concordant coast a coastline created when alternating hard and soft rocks occur parallel to the coast, and are eroded at different rates. 
Congestion charging a system of traffic control that charges drivers who enter the congested central areas of a city 
Conservation managing the environment in order to preserve, protect or restore it 
Conservative plate boundary where two tectonic plates slide past each other
Constructive plate boundary tectonic plate margin where rising magma adds new material to the diverging plates 
Constructive waves small, weak waves with a low frequency that tend to add sand and other sediment to the coastline because they do not break with much force 
Consumer industries industries that produce goods for people to use/consume 
Consumption the using up of something 
Continental crust the part of the crust dominated by less dense granitic rocks 
Continental shelf the submerged edge of a continental land-mass. 
Convection currents (in tectonics) circulating movements of magma in the mantle caused by heat from the core 
Coral reef a hard stony ridge, just above or below the surface of the sea, formed by the external skeletons of millions of tiny creatures called polyps. 
Core (in tectonics) the central part of the Earth, consisting of a solid inner core and a more fluid outer core, and mostly composed of iron and nickel 
Core region the most important social, political and economic area of a country or global region - the centre of power 
Corrosion chemical erosion caused by the dissolving of rocks and minerals by water 
Corruption Perception Index a measure, produced by Transparency International, to show how corrupt the public sector of a country is, based on judgements by experts 
Counterurbanisation the movement of people and employment from major cities to smaller settlements and rural areas located just beyond the city, or to more distant smaller cities and towns.
Cultural background the origins of an individual's or group's belief system 
Cultural dilution where a particular culture is changed and weakened, usually by exposure to other competing cultures. 


Death rate the number of deaths per 1,000 people in a year
Deforestation the chopping down and removal of trees to clear an area of forest.
Degradation the social, economic and environmental decline of an area, often through de-industrialisation
De-industrialisation the decline in industrial activity in a region or an economy
Dependence a condition in which something (e.g. a country) is only able to survive by relying on outside support (e.g. from another a country)
Dependency theory a theory that suggest that the poorer countries of the world supply resources, and also wealth, to the richer countries through an economic system, involving finance and trade, that favours the developed countries. Colonialism was a stage of this and, today, free trade, loans, and the role of big corporations continue this relationship, so that the poor countries are dependent on the rich countries.
Depopulation the decline of a population, both by natural processes and, occasionally, by government policy
Deposition the dropping of sediment that was being carried by a moving force
Deprived area an area in which there is a damaging lack of the material benefits that are considered to be basic necessities - employment, housing etc.
Deregulation removing state regulations. Often applied to the financial institutions in England after 1986 when many regulations about banks, building societies and other financial intuitions were relaxed or abolished
Derelict land land on which factories or houses have been demolished 
Desertification the process by which land becomes drier and degraded, as a result of climate change or human activities, or both.
Destructive plate boundary tectonic plate margins where oceanic plate is subducted
Destructive waves large, powerful waves with a high frequency that tend to take sediment away from the beach, because their backwash is greater than their swash.
Developed countries countries at a late stage of development. They are generally quite rich, with a high proportion of people working in secondary and, especially, tertiary occupations. Also known as More Economically Developed Countries (MEDCs)
Developing countries countries at an early stage of development. They are generally poor, with a high proportion of people working in primary occupations. Also known as Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs)
Development economic and social progress that leads to an improvement in the quality of life for an increasing proportion of the population
Discordant coast a coastline created when alternating hard and soft rocks occur at right angles to the coast, and are eroded at different rates.
Disparity a great difference - e.g. between parts of a country in terms of wealth.
Disposable income the amount of money which a person has available to spend on non-essential items, after they have paid for their food, clothing and household running costs.
'Do nothing' (in coastal management) an approach that allows natural processes to take their course without any intervention
Drainage basin the area of land drained by a river and its tributaries


Eco footprint a measure of how much land is needed to provide a place (e.g. a city) with all the energy, water and materials it needs, including how much is needed to absorb its pollution and waste.
Economic development the progress made by a country or area in creating wealth through businesses, industry and trade.
Economic recession a time of decline in business and industry, usually marked by a decrease in wealth, an increase in unemployment, and closure of businesses.
Economic migrant a person who moves in order to find employment
Ecosystem a community of plants and animals that interact with each other and their physical environment.
Emerging countries countries that have begun to experience high rates of economic growth, as for example Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa (the so-called BRICS countries); also known as the recently industrialising countries (RICs)
Emigrant A person leaving a country or region to live somewhere else (for at least a year)
Employment Structure The proportion of people who work in primary, secondary, tertiary or quaternary jobs.
Enhanced Greenhouse Effect The increased greenhouse effect resulting from human action (emission of greenhouse gases) and leading to global warming
Enterprise Zones areas designated by the government to promote economic growth, by being able to offer financial benefits such as grants for buildings and machinery and a relaxation of planning regulations.
Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) a method of evaluating the effect of plans and policies on the environment
Environmental degradation negative impacts on the natural environment, generally through human action.
Environmental Performance Index a measure, produced by Yale University, that looks at the environmental conditions that people live and the health of ecosystems
Environmental pollution the degradation of the environment through the emission of toxic waste material
Erosion the wearing away and removal of material by a moving force, such as a breaking wave
Estuary a river mouth that is wide and experiences tidal conditions
Eutrophication the loss of oxygen in water after too much nutrient enrichment has taken place
Evacuation the removal of people from an area, generally in attempt to avoid a threatened disaster (or escape from an actual one)
Exploitation making full use of something (often implying that the use is unfair and has a negative impact
Extinction the permanent loss of something, generally used with reference to species of plants or animals, when there are no living examples left
Extreme Climate a climate that is unusually challenging, usually in terms of its temperature conditions or type and extent of precipitation.
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Farmers' Market a set of stalls run by farmers and food growers from the local area
Fauna  Animals 
Fetch the distance of sea over which winds blow and waves move towards the coastline 
Flood plain the relatively flat area forming the valley floor on either side of a river channel, which is sometimes flooded 
Flood risk the predicted frequency of inundation (floods) in an area 
Flora plants 
Flows the movement of objects, people and ideas between places 
Food chains the interconnections between different organisms (plants and animals) that rely upon one another as their source of food 
Food miles the distance covered supplying food to consumers
Food web  an illustration of the grouping of animals and plants found in an ecosystem, showing the sources of food for each organism 
Foreign direct investment (FDI) when a business from one country invests money in a company in another country or builds its own factory or office in another country 
Formal Sector (of the economy) work where the people are formally employed, with permanent jobs and regular pay (and they pay their taxes) 
Fragile (environment) easily disturbed and difficult to restore therefore lacking in natural resilience. Plant communities in fragile areas have evolved in highly specialised ways to deal with challenging conditions. As a result, they cannot tolerate environmental changes.
Frontal rainfall precipitation formed when a warm (tropical) air mass rises above a denser, colder (polar) air mass. As the tropical air cools, condensation and precipitation occur. 


GDP per Capita Gross Domestic Product per person, is the total wealth created within a country divided by its population
GECF Gas Exporting Countries Forum 
Gender Inequality Index the part of the UN Development Programme reporting system that considers the disadvantages (e.g. health, education) facing females in all countries.
Gene Pool the genetic material contained by a specific population
Geological climate events climate changes that result from major geological events such as volcanic eruptions 
Geological structure the way that rocks are arranged, both vertically and horizontally 
Geology the science and study of the Earth's crust and its components 
Glacial region an area that is covered by ice (either a valley glacier or much larger ice sheets)
Global economy the evolving economic system that increasingly links the countries of the world; it involves the exploitation of resources and the production and marketing of goods and services
Global city a major urban area that has a significant role in controlling the international flows of capital and trade
Global shift the movement of manufacturing from developed countries to cheaper production location in developing countries 
Global warming a trend in whereby global temperatures rise over time, linked in modern times with the human production of greenhouse gases. 
Globalisation the process, led by transnational companies, whereby the world's countries are all becoming part of one vast global economy 
GNI per capital a measurement of economic activity that is calculated by dividing the gross (total) national income by the size of the population. GNI takes into account not just the value of goods and services, but also the income earned from investments overseas. 
Goods produced items and materials 
Gradient the slope of the land 
Grassroots scheme a scheme that originates within a local community rather than being imposed from above 
Green belt an area around a city composed mainly of farmland and parkland in which development is strictly controlled. Its purpose is to stop the outward spread of the city 
Green sector that part of economic activity that pays attention to environmental issues 
Greenfield site a piece of land that has not been built on before, but is now being considered for development 
Greenhouse gases those gases in the atmosphere that absorb outgoing radiation, hence increasing the temperature of the atmosphere 
Groundwater water contained beneath the surface, as a reserve 
Gulf stream a warm ocean current in the North Atlantic that flows from the coast of Florida (USA) towards northern Europe 


Habitat an animal or plant's natural home
Happy Planet Index a measure, produced by the New Economics Foundation, that measures sustainable progress towards the well-being of people
Hard engineering using solid structures to resist forces of erosion
Hard rock coast a coastal region composed of resistant materials. 
Headland a part of the coastland that protrudes into the sea 
Holistic approach an approach to environmental management that treats the whole area as an interrelated system 
Honeypot a place of special interest or appeal that attracts large numbers of visitors and tends to become overcrowded at peak times 
Hot arid regions parts of the world that have high average temperatures and very low precipitation 
Human Development Index a measure of development that uses four economic and social indicators to produce an index figure that allows comparison between countries
Hydroelectric Power (HEP) the use of fast flowing water to turn turbines which produce electricity. 
Hydrogen Economy a proposed system based on the delivery of energy that is derived from hydrogen and so avoids the negative aspects of using fossil fuels 
Hydrograph a graph which shows the the discharge of a river, related to rainfall, over a period of time. 
Hydrological cycle the global stores of water and linking processes that connect them 
Hydropower electricity generated by turbines that are driven by moving water 


Ice age a period in the Earth's past when the polar ice caps were much larger than today
Immigrant a person arriving in a country or region to live (for at least a year)
Impermeable not allowing water to pass through 
Industrial stage the economic stage when manufacturing industry develops 
Industrialisation the process whereby industrial activity (particularly manufacturing) assumes a greater importance in the economy of a country or region
Infant Mortality Rate the number of deaths of children (under the age of one) per thousand live births a year 
Infiltration the process whereby water soaks into the soil and rock 
Informal sector (of the economy) forms of employment that are not officially recognised, e.g. people working for themselves on the streets of developing cities 
Infrastructure the basic physical and organisational structure that are required to support the development of businesses and industry (e.g. roads, power supplies). 
Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) the system of dividing the UK coastline into zones that can be manages holistically 
Integrated river management a holistic system of managing rivers that takes an overview of the whole river basin and the relationship between its different parts
Interlocking spurs areas of high land which stick out into a steep-sided valley 
Intermediate technology a technology that the local community is able to use relatively easily and without much cost 


Joints lines of weakness in a rock that water can pass along



Land degradation the declining quality of and quantity of land. generally because of human action
Landfill disposal of rubbish by burying it and covering it over with soil
Latitude the position of a place north or south of the Equator, expressed in degrees 
Levees natural embankments of sediment along the banks of a river 
Life expectancy the average number of years a person might be expected to live 
Little Ice Age a period of slight global cooling that lasted from around the mid-fifteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century 
Long profile the gradient of a river, from its source to its mouth
Long-term planning planning that looks beyond immediate costs and benefits by exploring impacts in the future 
Longshore drift the movement of material along a coast by breaking waves 
Lower course that part of a river system that is close to the mouth of the river 


Magnitude the size of something
Malthusian Theory the view that population growth is the main reason why a society would collapse 
Mangrove swamp a tidal swamp dominated by mangrove trees and shrubs that can survive in the salty and muddy conditions found along tropical coastlines. 
Marine ecosystem the web of organisms that live in the ocean or a part of an ocean 
Maritime a coastal environment or climate that lacks extremes of temperature, and experiences higher rainfall, when compared with land-locked areas at a similar latitude (distance from the equator) 
Market economy a system for business, industry and people based on free trade which is influenced by supply and demand (with little or no government intervention) 
Mass movement the downslope movement, by gravity, of soil and/or rock by the processes of slumping, falling, sliding and flowing. 
Meanders the bends formed in a river as it winds across the landscape 
Megafauna very large mammals, such as those that lived during the last ice age 
Micro-finance the provision of financial help (mainly capital) to small businesses and private enterprises which do not have access to banking services 
Mid-course the central section of a river's course 
'Middle-Income' a World Bank category for countries that are not very rich ('High-Income') nor very poor ('Low-Income')
Migration the process of people changing their place of residence, either within or between countries 
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) the development goals agreed by world governments at the UN summit in September 2000 


Natural causes those processes and forces that are not controlled by humans
Natural change the change (an increase or a decrease) in population numbers resulting from the difference between birth and death rates over one year
Natural increase the difference between birth rate and death rate 
Natural resources those materials found in the natural world that are useful to man, and that we have the technology and willingness to use 
Net in-migration the increase in a country's population as a result of more people arriving than leaving 
Network a system of linkages between objects, places or individuals 
Newly industrialised countries (NICs) countries which experienced rapid economic growth during the second half of the twentieth century as a result of industrialisation, as for example Malaysia, Hong Kong (now part of China), Taiwan and Singapore. 
New economy the emergence of new types of economic activity and employment in the last few decades 
Nomadic pastoralism a type of farming where farmers have no permanent land and migrate with their cattle, etc. from one place to another 
Non-renewable resource those resources - like coal or oil - that cannot be 'remade', because it would take millions of years for them to form again 
Nutrient cycle a set of processes whereby organisms extract minerals necessary for growth from soil or water, before passing them on through the food chain - and ultimately back to the soil and water.


Oceanic Crust the part of the crust dominated by denser basaltic rocks
OPEC Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries 
Orbital changes changes in the the pathway of the Earth around the Sun and in its axial geometry 
Organic agriculture farming systems that use no artificial chemicals
Orographic rainfall precipitation formed when an air mass rises above a relief obstacle (mountains) leading to cooling and the condensation of water vapour
Outsourcing a process in which a company subcontracts part of its business to another company 
Over-abstraction when water is being used more quickly that its being replaced 
Overfishing taking too many fish (or other organisms) from the water before they have had the time to reproduce and replenish stocks for the next generation.
Overpopulation a situation where the population of an area cannot be fully supported by the available resources. The symptoms include a low (even declining) standard of living, overcrowding and high unemployment.
Ox-bow lake an arc-shaped lake which has been cut off from a meandering river 


Periphery the outer limits or edge of an area, often remote or isolated from its core
Permaculture an intensive form of food production that is both high-yielding and sustainable because it is based on natural ecological processes.
Permafrost permanently frozen ground, found in polar (glacial and tundra) regions 
Permeable allowing water to pass through 
Plate margin the boundary between two tectonic plates 
Players individuals and groups who are interested in and affected by a decision-making process. 
Polar relating to the North or South Pole. In polar regions the land is covered with ice (glacial) or frozen (tundra) 
Polar continental an air mass whose source region is an area of land in cold, northern latitudes (Siberia) and which may move westwards, bringing cold, dry conditions to Europe in winter.
Political freedom (index) a measure calculated by several organisations (e.g. Freedom House) that looks at the level of democracy in each country. 
Pollution the presence of chemicals, noise, dirt or other substances which have harmful or poisonous effects on an environment 
Population pyramid a diagrammatic way of showing the age and sex structure of a population
Population structure the composition of a population, usually in terms of its age and gender 
Pores small air spaces found in a rock or other material that can be filled with water 
Post-industrial stage that period in the development of a society when manufacturing industry declines in importance, and is replaced by other forms of employment. 
Poverty a state of shortage of money and goods, usually measured in terms of average wealth and income in a society. 
Poverty cycle a set of processes that maintain a group or society in poverty 
Pre-industrial stage that period in the development of a society when manufacturing industry has yet to develop 
Precipitation when moisture falls from the atmosphere - as rain, hail sleet or snow 
Prediction forecasting future changes 
Preparation the process of of getting ready for an event. 
Preserve maintain (something) in its existing state 
Primary employment working in the primary sector - extracting and exploiting raw materials 
Primary sector the economic activities that involve the working of natural resources - agriculture, fishing, forestry, mining and quarrying. 
Production chain the sequence of activities needed to turn raw materials into a finished product
Pro-natalist policies that encourage human reproduction and population growth 
Pull factor something that attracts people to a location 
Push factor something that makes people wish to leave a location 
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Quality of life the degree of well-being (physical and psychological) felt by an individual or a group of people in a particular area. This can relate to their jobs, wages, food, amenities in their homes, and the services they have access to, such as schools, doctors and hospitals.
Quaternary Period the most recent major geological period of Earth's history, consisting of the Pleistocene and the Holocene.
Quaternary sector the economic activities that provide intellectual services - information gathering and processing, universities, and research and development 


Ramsar The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands
Rebranding the creation of a new name, term, or design, for an existing organisation or place.
Redevelopment development that aims to stimulate growth in areas that have experienced decline 
Regeneration growth in areas that have experienced decline in the past 
Regulated flow the steady movement of water through a drainage basin that will not bring flash flooding 
Renewable resource resources, such as forests, that can be maintained by management 
Remote countryside/rural area rural areas that are distant from and thus little affected by urban areas and their populations. 
Response the way in which people react to a situation 
Retirement communities settlements where most of the residents are retired 
River cliff steep outer edge of a meander where erosion is at its maximum 
River pollution the emission of harmful or poisonous substances into river water (or their presence in the river) 
Run-off water that flows directly over the land towards rivers or the sea after heavy rainfall 
Rural depopulation the decline of population in rural areas and regions 
Rural idyll the common perception that rural areas are quiet and attractive - and therefore good places to live in
Rural-urban migration the movement of people from the countryside into towns and cities. 


Sea-level rise the increase in the level of the sea, relative to the land
Seasonality marked differences in temperatures and/or precipitation occurring during different seasons of the year.
Secondary sector the economic activities that involve making things, either by manufacturing (TV, car, etc.) or construction (a house, road, etc.). The sector also includes public utilities, such as producing electricity and gas.
Sediment usually sand, mud or pebbles deposited by a river
Services those things that are provided, bought and sold that are not tangible 
Short-term emergency relief help and aid provided to an area to prevent immediate loss of life because of shortages of basics, such as water, food and shelter. 
Siltation the deposition of silt (sediment) in rivers and harbours 
Slip-off slope inner gentle slope of a meander where deposition takes place 
Socialist describes a political approach where a government takes control of businesses, industries, and infrastructure for the benefit of the community as a whole. 
Socio-political development the progress made by a country in terms of improving the lives of people, and also establishing ways in which people can participate in decision-making 
Soft rock coast a coastal area made up of easily eroded materials 
Soils the weathered remains of rock (sand, silt and clay) to which decayed organic matter (such as the remains of leaves) has been added. 
Solar output the energy emitted by the Sun 
Solifluction the movement downhill of soggy soil when the ground layer beneath is frozen. It often occurs in tundra regions 
Spit material deposited by the sea which grows across a bay or the mouth of a river 
Stack a detached column of rock located just-off shore 
Stakeholder a person, group or organisation that has a direct or indirect interest in the outcomes of a particular development or decision. Stakeholders can either influence the outcomes or be affected by them. 
Strategic realignment the reorganisation of coastal defences that is often part of a managed retreat 
Stump a stack that has collapsed, leaving a small area of rock above sea-level. 
Sub-aerial processes weathering and mass movement 
Subsistence farming a type of agriculture producing food and materials for the benefit only of the farmer and his family 
Suburbanisation the outward spread of the built-up area, often at lower densities compared with the older parts of a town or city.
Superpower countries the world's most powerful and influential nations - the USA and, increasingly, China and India 
Supply chain a sequence of steps or stages involved in moving a product or service from the supplier to the customer. In the case of a product, the chain may involve the processing of raw materials into components, and the assembly of components into finished products. Such a sequence is often referred to as a 'production chain'. 
Sustainability the ability to keep something (such as the quality of life) going at the same rate or level. From this stems the idea that current generation of people should not damage the environment in ways that will threaten future generations' environment (or quality of life) 
Sustainable development development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the (limiting) the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 
Sustainable resources resources - such as wood - that can be renewed if we act to replace them as we use them. 
Swash the forward movement of water up a beach after a wave has broken 
Sweatshop a place of work where very poorly paid employees work long hours in unsatisfactory and often unsafe conditions 


Tectonic hazards threats posed by earthquakes, volcanoes and other events triggered by crustal processes
Telecottaging working from home in the country, using computer communication
Teleworking any form of work in which telecommunications replace work-related travel (commuting) 
Temperate climate a climate that is not extreme (in terms of heat, cold, dryness or wetness)
Tertiary sector the economic activities that provide various services - commercial (shops and banks), professional (solicitors and dentists), social (schools and hospitals), entertainment (restaurants and cinemas) and personal (hairdressers and fitness trainers) 
Thermal growing season the number of months of the year when it is warm enough for the crops to grow (6oC or above) 
Throughflow water that flows slowly through the soil until it reaches a river 
Tipping point the point at which the momentum of a change becomes unstoppable 
Top-down projects projects set up and organised by governments often with little consultation with local communities 
Transnational company/corporation (TNC) a large company operating in several countries 
Tropical continent an air mass whose source region is an area of land in the tropics (north Africa) and which may move northwards, bringing hot, dry conditions to Europe in summer. 
Tundra the flat, treeless Arctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America, where the ground is permanently frozen.


Underpopulation a situation where the resources of an area could support a larger population without any lowering of the standard of living or where a population is too small to develop its resources effectively.
Unsuitable unable to be kept going at the same rate or level 
Upper course the source area of a river, often in an upland or mountainous region 
Urban development corporations organisations set up by central government to coordinate rapid improvements in derelict urban areas. Their aims were to improve the environment, to give cash grants to attract firms, to renovate buildings and to give advice to firms thinking of moving in. 
Urban fringe the countryside adjacent to or surrounding an urban area 
Urban sprawl urban growth, usually weakly controlled, into surrounding rural and semi-rural area. 
Urbanisation the development and growth of towns or cities


Volcanic activity the escape of molten rock, ash and gases from an opening in the Earth's surface (or when there is evidence that it is imminent)


Water flow movement processes of the Earth's water, including evaporation, precipitation and overland flow
Water harvesting storing rainwater or used water ('grey water') for use in periods of drought 
Water insecurity when safe water availability is insufficient to ensure the population of an area enjoys good health, livelihood and earnings. The condition can be caused by water insufficiency or poor water quality
Water insufficiency a lack of adequate water supplies needed to meet a society's economic and social needs 
Water management schemes programmes to control rivers, generally organised by local or central government 
Water store a build-up of water that has collected on or below the ground, or in the atmosphere 
Water table the level in the soil or bedrock below which water is usually present 
Water transfers movements of water and water vapour through the biosphere, lithosphere and atmosphere 
Waterfall sudden descent of a river or stream over a vertical or very steep slope in its bed 
Water unreliability when rainfall and/or river flows vary from season to season, sometimes unpredictably, resulting in periods of water scarcity. 
Weathering the breakdown and decay of rock by its natural processes, without the involvement of any moving forces 
Wilderness uncultivated, uninhabited and inhospitable regions 
World cities the leading cities of the world, such as London, New York and Tokyo; major centres in the economic networks being produced by globalisation. They are major centres of finance, business and political influence, and are home to the headquarters of many TNCs 



Youthful population a population in which there is a high percentage of people under the age of 16 (or sometimes 18)


Zero population growth when natural change and migration change cancel each other out, and there is no change in the total population.