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34 Terms on Species Extinction: What I Should Learn

(Photo: Phys/Shutterstock)

(Photo: Phys/Shutterstock)

It’s important to know the meaning and understand the concepts of many terms, abbreviations, and acronyms relevant to species extinction topics to fully understand the information, science, and myths on species extinction.

Some terms definition are easy to follow but the concepts behind it can be overwhelming to be fully understood. Here is a list of some of the most used terms on species extinction topics with its simple definitions that you should learn.


Species refers to a population of individuals that are more or less alike, and that can breed and produce fertile offspring under natural conditions.

Endemic species

Endemic species refers to the population of a species native and confined to a certain geographic region.

Keystone species

Keystone species is a species that plays a large or critical role in supporting the integrity of its ecological community.

Invasive alien species

Invasive alien species is a species introduced and/or spread by human action outside their natural distribution. Invasive alien species threaten biological diversity, human health and well-being, and food security.

Extirpated species

Extirpated species refers to a species no longer surviving in regions that were once part of their range.


Biodiversity refers to the variety of living organisms, the genetic differences among them, and the ecosystems in which they occur.


Ecosystem refers to the complex relation of plant and animal communities and their environment.


Habitat refers to the location where a particular plant or animal lives, the surrounding (living and nonliving) and environmental conditions (air, water, soil, temperature, etc.)

Historic range

Historic range refers to the geographic areas a species was known or believed to occupy in the past.


Extinction is an irreversible process whereby a species or a distinct biological population ceases to exist forever.


Coextinction is the loss of a species as a consequence of the extinction of another species. An example is the loss of interacting species such as herbivores with their food source and predators with their prey.

Background extinction rate

Background extinction rate or normal extinction rate is the number of species that expected to go extinct over a period of time based on non-human factors.

Mass extinction

Mass extinctions refers to any substantial increase in the amount of extinction suffered by more than one geographically widespread higher taxon during a short interval of geologic time. Mass extinction resulting in an at least temporary decline in their standing biodiversity.

Sixth mass extinction

The sixth mass extinction or the Holocene extinction or the Anthropocene extinction is an ongoing extinction event of species during the Holocene epoch as a result of human activity.


Adaptation refers to the ability to adjust in natural or human systems to a changing or new environment, whether through behavioral or genetic change.


Evolution is the change in the characteristics of a species over several generations and relies on natural selection.


Conservation refers to the procedures and methods used to bring any endangered or threatened species to the point where it no longer endangered or threatened.


Vulnerable (VU) is a conservation status from the IUCN Red List that means a species is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.


Endangered (EN) is a conservation status from the IUCN Red List that means a species is facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

Critically Endangered

Critically Endangered (CR) is a conservation status from the IUCN Red List that means a species is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

Extinct in the Wild

Extinct in the Wild (EW) is a conservation status from the IUCN Red List that means a species is known only to survive in cultivation, captivity, or as a naturalized population outside its historic range.


Extinct (EX) is a conservation status from the IUCN Red List that means there is no reasonable doubt that the last individual of a species has died.

Genetic pollution

Genetic pollution is a term for uncontrolled gene flow into wild populations. Genetic pollution can negatively affect the fitness of a population and lead to extinction.

Lazarus taxon

Lazarus taxon refers to a disappeared taxon that reappears again. It can refer to species or populations that were thought to be extinct and are rediscovered.


Overexploitation is the harvest of species from the wild at rates faster than natural populations can recover. It includes overfishing and overgrazing.

Bushmeat hunting

Bushmeat hunting refers to a form of hunting of wild animals for food and non-food purposes such as medicinal use.


Bycatch refers to the commercially undesirable species caught during a fishing process.

Bottom trawling

Bottom trawling or dragging is the act of trawling along the seafloor. It can affects endangered fish and vulnerable deep-sea corals.

Habitat degradation

Habitat degradation refers to the set of processes by which habitat quality is reduced through natural processes (e.g., heat, drought) or human activities (e.g., agriculture, urbanization).

Habitat fragmentation

Habitat fragmentation refers to the set of processes by which habitat loss results in the division of continuous habitat into a greater number of smaller patches of lesser total and isolated from each other. It may occur through natural processes (e.g., forest fires, flooding) or human activities (e.g., agriculture, urbanization).


The IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) is an intergovernmental body which assesses the state of biodiversity and of the ecosystem services it provides to society, in response to requests from decision-makers.


The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) is a membership union composed of government and civil society organizations that work in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

IUCN Red List

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species.


The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international convention that restricted international commerce for animal and plant species believed to be harmed by trade.

Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. “Glossary.”

IUCN. “IUCN Glossary of Definitions.”

IUCN Species Survival Commission. 2012. “IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria Version 3.1 Second Edition.”

US Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Region. 2019. “Glossary.” May 29.


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