A glossary page containing some common environmental terms associated with Waterton Lakes National Park and its surrounding ecosystem.

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Terms starting with the letter A
Alluvial fan
A fan-shaped deposit of gravel, sand and silt dropped by a stream where there is a decrease in slope e.g. from mountains onto a level plain or into a lake or stream.
A sharp mountain ridge created between two glacier cirques sitting back to back.
Terms starting with the letter C
A living being that feeds on other animals.
A deep, steep-walled hollow on a mountainside in which an alpine glacier forms. The walls and floor of the cirque are carved by glacial ice to form a bowl shape.
Continental Divide
Is the line in North America that separates the waters which flow into the Atlantic Ocean from those flowing into the Pacific.
Crown of the Continent
Named by George Bird Grinell to describe a region roughly centered on the point where the Rocky Mountains straddle the Canada-USA international boundary; where waters flow in three separate drainages to Hudson Bay, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
are aquatic, photosynthesizing bacteria. They are often called "blue-green-algae," but are not algae. Cyanobacteria generated the oxygen atmosphere that we breathe today. Their fossils are the oldest on the planet.
Terms starting with the letter D
Natural process of dropping and accumulating sediments which have been eroded and transported from their original location by water, ice or wind.
Biological diversity (biodiversity) is the total genetic, species and landscape variety within an area. Ecological diversity is the variety of relationships between organisms, and between organisms and their environment. Genetic diversity is the variety within a species.
Terms starting with the letter E
Ecological footprint
Is an estimate of the total area of land and water needed to produce all the resources consumed and to assimilate the wastes discharged by a population. In the context of a national park, it is the portion of the park's natural ecosystem which is used and impacted by human activities.
Ecological integrity
A condition that is determined to be characteristic of its natural region and likely to persist, including physical elements (e.g. water and rocks) and the composition and abundance of native species (e.g. black bears, lodgepole pine) and biological communities (e.g. grasslands, montane forest), rates of change and processes (e.g. fire, flood).
An area characterized by having similar climate, landforms, plants and animals.
An area characterized by having similar climate, landforms, plants and animals.
A natural community of living organisms interacting with one another and with their physical environment.
Is the surroundings in which an organization operates, including air, water, land, flora, fauna, natural resources, humans and their interrelations
The wearing away of the land's surface.
A winding ridge of gravel and sand formed by a stream underneath a glacier.
a species which no longer exists in a particular geographic location but occurs elsewhere.
Terms starting with the letter F
dividing a landscape into smaller portions with varying types of development; often leaving the natural portions reduced in size and separated from each other.
Terms starting with the letter G
Glacial till
rock, gravel and sand (sediments) carried and deposited by a glacier.
Terms starting with the letter H
The place that provides the food, water and shelter that a species needs to survive.
Hanging valley
A side valley that joins the main valley at a higher level (because it was formed by a smaller glacier, less able to erode as deeply as the main glacier).
organism that feeds primarily on vegetation.
A term meaning both reptiles and amphibians.
Home range
The area in which an animal normally lives.
Terms starting with the letter K
A hill of sorted and layered gravel and sand, deposited in openings in stagnating or retreating glaciers.
Terms starting with the letter M
A shallow lake and wetlands at the north end of the Waterton Lakes chain.
Terms starting with the letter N
National park
is a representative natural area of Canadian significance, which is protected for all time as part of a country-wide system of national parks, and as a place where we encourage public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of this national heritage.
Native plants
A plant species that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, and habitat without direct or indirect human actions.
Natural process
A recurring natural event which shapes the landscape over time e.g. fire, water.
Non-native plants
When plants are moved from their natural range to new ecosystems, they are considered to be non-native. If such species become established, they can cause serious damage to the receiving ecosystem because they often aggressively expand in the absence of their natural predators and parasites.
Terms starting with the letter P
Pacific Northwest
Geographical region which includes British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and northern California.
An animal that kills and feeds on other animals (prey).
Aquatic plant life that is not rooted but instead floats or drifts in the water.
Terms starting with the letter S
Site Restoration
The process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed.
Terms starting with the letter U
An animal with hooves (e.g. deer, bison, bighorn sheep).
Terms starting with the letter V
Vascular plant
A plant that contains a special system of tissue (vascular tissue) for transporting water and nutrients throughout all its parts. This is the feature underlying the success of plants on land.
Animal that posses a backbone.
Terms starting with the letter W
The whole catchment area of a river system.
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
Created in 1932 as a symbol of peace and goodwill between Canada and the United States. It has evolved to be a model of cooperation and shared management across boundaries to protect the parks' ecosystem.
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