Cumulative Effects Assessment Practitioners' Guide

Appendix A: Glossary

Action:
Any project or activity of human origin.
Activity:
Any action that is not a physical work. Activities do not involve the construction of an object and may lead to an environmental effect (e.g., a highway is a physical work, but traffic on the highway is an activity).
Assessment Framework:
A description of a process that organizes actions and ideas, usually in a step-by-step fashion. Frameworks help to guide practitioners in carrying out an assessment.
Baseline Information:
A description of existing environmental, social and economic conditions at and surrounding an action.
Cause-effect Relationship:
The connection between an action's disturbance (cause) and its effect on the environment.
Combined Effects:
The effects caused by various components of the same action.
Connectivity:
A landscape feature that facilitates the movement of biota between blocks of habitat (i.e., in a fragmented landscape).
Cumulative Effects Assessment:
An assessment of the incremental effects of an action on the environment when the effects are combined with those from other past, existing and future actions.
Decision Record:
A description of various aspects of an assessment, such as what assumptions were made, uncertainties in the data or analysis, and confidence in the reliability of the data.
Direct effect:
An effect in which the cause-effect relationship has no intermediary effects.
Direction:
The degree to which an effect on a valued environmental component will worsen or improve as the action proceeds (i.e., adverse, beneficial or neutral).
Duration:
The period of time in which an effect on a valued ecosystem component may exist or remain detectable (i.e., the recovery time for a resource, species or human use).
Effect:
Any response by an environmental or social component to an action's impact. Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, "environmental effect" means, in respect of a project, "(a) any change that the project may cause in the environment, including any effect of any such change on health and socio-economic conditions, on physical and cultural heritage, on the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by aboriginal persons, or on any structure, site or thing that is of historical, archaeological, paleontological or architectural significance and (b) any change to the project that may be caused by the environment, whether any such change occurs within or outside of Canada".
Environmental Components:
Fundamental elements of the natural and human environment. Examples of components include: social, air, water, soils, terrain, vegetation, wildlife, fish, avifauna and land use.
Environmental Protection Plan:
A description of what will be done to minimize effects before, during and after project construction and operation. This includes protection of the environment and mitigation of effects from project activities.
Evaluation:
The determination of the significance of effects. Evaluation involves making judgements as to the value of what is being affected and the risk that the effect will occur and be unacceptable.
Focusing:
See Scoping.
Footprint:
See Project Footprint.
Fragmentation:
The breaking up of contiguous blocks of habitat into increasingly smaller blocks as a result of direct loss and/or sensory disturbance (i.e., habitat alienation). Eventually, remaining blocks may be too small to provide usable or effective habitat for a species.
Frequency:
The number of occurrences of an event within a specific period of time.
Impact:
Any aspect of an action that may cause an effect; for example, land clearing during construction is an impact, while a possible effect is loss and fragmentation of wildlife habitat.
Impact Attribute:
Features of an effect (e.g., magnitude, scope, duration, frequency, direction, likelihood, significance) that assist in evaluating the nature and significance of the effect.
Impact Model:
A formal description of a cause-effect relationship that allows the assessing of various components of that relationship through the use of an Impact Statement, a Pathways Diagram, and the validation of linkages and pathways.
Impact Statement:
The description of a suspected cause-effect relationship through the use of a formal scientific hypothesis.
Indicators:
Anything that is used to measure the condition of something of interest. Indicators are often used as variables in the modelling of changes in complex environmental systems.
Indirect effect:
An effect in which the cause-effect relationship (e.g., between the project's impacts and the ultimate effect on a VEC) has intermediary effects. As an interaction with another action's effects is required to have a cumulative effect (hence, creating intermediary effects), cumulative effects may be considered as indirect.
Induced Action:
An action that occurs as a consequence of another action. The induced action is not an intended component of the initiating action.
Interaction Coefficient:
A numerical representation of the magnitude of interaction between an action and environmental components
Interaction Matrix:
A table in which the cell elements are rankings.
Interactions:
An action or influence resulting from the mutual relationship between two or more actions or an action and a VEC.
Issue:
A subject of concern to anyone involved in the assessment or affected by the action. A concern usually has adverse implications to either the environment or people.
Likelihood:
The degree of certainty of an event occurring. Likelihood can be stated as a probability.
Linkage:
The relationship between a cause and effect in impact models. Linkages are illustrated in Pathway Diagrams as arrows between boxes.
Local Study Area:
The spatial area within which local effects are assessed (i.e., within close proximity to the action where direct effects are anticipated).
Magnitude:
A measure of how adverse or beneficial an effect may be.
Mitigation:
A means of reducing the significance of adverse effects. Under CEAA, mitigation is "the elimination, reduction or control of the adverse environmental effects of the project, and includes restitution for any damage to the environment caused by such effects through replacement, restoration, compensation or any other means".
Monitoring:
A continuing assessment of conditions at and surrounding the action. This determines if effects occur as predicted or if operations remain within acceptable limits, and if mitigation measures are as effective as predicted.
Network Diagram:
An illustration of cause-effect relationships between an action's impact and an effect (also see "Pathway Diagram").
Non-trivial Effect:
A high probability of occurrence or an unacceptable magnitude (i.e., significant) of an effect.
Pathway Diagram:
A simple diagrammatic representation of a cause-effect relationship between two related states or actions that illustrates an impact model. Pathway diagrams take network diagrams one-step further by evaluating each linkage and assessing the cause-effect relationship in the context of a scientific hypothesis.
Pathway:
A series of consecutive valid linkages in a Pathways Diagram.
Project:
Any action or activity requiring the design, construction and operation of structures or equipment. Projects are usually defined with a specific name, function and description. Under the CEAA, a "project" means (s. 2(1)): "(a) in relation to a physical work, any proposed construction, operation, modification, decommissioning, abandonment or other undertaking in relation to that physical work, or (b) any proposed physical activity not relating to a physical work that is prescribed or is within a class of physical activities that is prescribed pursuant to regulations made under paragraph 59 (b)."
Project Footprint:
The land or water area covered by a project. This includes direct physical coverage (i.e., the area on which the project physically stands) and direct effects (i.e., the disturbances that may directly emanate from the project, such as noise).
Qualitative Analysis:
Analysis that is subjective (i.e., based on best professional judgement).
Quantitative Analysis:
Analysis that uses environmental variables represented by numbers or ranges, often accomplished by numerical modelling or statistical analysis.
Reclamation:
The alteration of a landscape, usually as mitigation for an action, to re-create conditions prior to the project.
Recovery:
The return of environmental conditions to the state they were prior to the action.
Region:
Any area in which it is suspected or known that effects due to the action under review may interact with effects from other actions. This area typically extends beyond the local study area; however, how far it extends will vary greatly depending on the nature of the cause-effect relationships involved.
Regional Planning and Land Use Study:
An assessment of existing environmental and social conditions due to the combined influence of all actions, usually within a large geographic area. These studies differ from CEAs in that they are not focussed on only one project application, are often conducted prior to the review of future actions to assist in decisions on future applications, and may propose regional thresholds against which incremental changes may be compared for use in future project applications.
Regional Study Area:
The spatial area within which cumulative effects are assessed (i.e., extending a distance from the project footprint in which both direct and indirect effects are anticipated to occur).
Residual Effects:
Effects that remain after mitigation has been applied.
Scenario:
A description of environmental and development conditions at a certain time to allow comparisons of change (e.g., pre-development, current, and reasonably foreseeable).
Scoping:
A consultative process for identifying and possibly reducing the number of items (e.g., issues, VECs) to be examined until only the most important items remain for detailed assessment. Scoping ensures that assessment effort will not be expended in the examination of trivial effects.
Significance:
A measure of how adverse or beneficial an effect may be on a VEC.
Spatial Boundary:
The area examined in the assessment (i.e., study area).
Spatial Overlap:
An overlap of zones of influence from different actions.
Study Area:
The geographic limits within which an impact to a VEC is assessed.
Temporal Boundary:
The period of time examined in the assessment.
Temporal Overlap:
A period of time in which activities from different actions occur simultaneously.
Threshold:
A limit of tolerance of a VEC to an effect, that if exceeded, results in an adverse response by that VEC.
Trivial Effect:
A low probability of occurrence or acceptable magnitude (includes case of no effect) (i.e., insignificant).
Validation:
A confirmation of the validity of an impact hypothesis, linkage or pathway.
Valued Ecosystem Component:
Any part of the environment that is considered important by the proponent, public, scientists or government involved in the assessment process. Importance may be determined on the basis of cultural values or scientific concern.
Zone of Influence:
A geographic area, extending from an action, in which an effect is non-trivial.