Glossary of Environmental Terms

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beach closure - the closing of a beach to swimming, usually because of pollution.

bill - a proposed law, to be debated and voted on.

billfish - pelagic fish with long, spear-like protrusions at their snouts, such as swordfish and marlin.

biodegradable - waste material composed primarily of naturally-occurring constituent parts, able to be broken down and absorbed into the ecosystem. Wood, for example, is biodegradable, for example, while plastics are not.

biodiversity - a large number and wide range of species of animals, plants, fungi, and microorganisms. Ecologically, wide biodiversity is conducive to the development of all species.

biomass - (1) the amount of living matter in an area, including plants, large animals and insects; (2) plant materials and animal waste used as fuel.

biosphere - (1) the part of the earth and its atmosphere in which living organisms exist or that is capable of supporting life; (2) the living organisms and their environment composing the biosphere.

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Biosphere Reserve - a part of an international network of preserved areas designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Biosphere Reserves are vital centers of biodiversity where research and monitoring activities are conducted, with the participation of local communities, to protect and preserve healthy natural systems threatened by development. The global system currently includes 324 reserves in 83 countries.

biotic - of or relating to life.

birth control - preventing birth or reducing frequency of birth, primarily by preventing conception.

birth defects - unhealthy defects found in newborns, often caused by the mother's exposure to environmental hazards or the intake of drugs or alcohol during pregnancy.

birth rate - the number of babies born annually per 1,000 women of reproductive age in any given set of people.

bloc - a group of people with the same interest or goal (usually used to describe a voting bloc, a group of representatives intending to vote the same way).

blood lead levels - the amount of lead in the blood. Human exposure to lead in blood can cause brain damage, especially in children.

bottled water - purchased water sold in bottles.

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brownfields - abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.

budget - a formal projection of spending and income for an upcoming period of time, traditionally submitted by the President or Executive for consideration and approval.

budget reconciliation - legislation making changes to existing law (such as entitlements under Social Security or Medicare) so that it conforms to numbers in the budget resolution.

budget resolution - the first step in the annual budget process. This resolution must be agreed to by the House and Senate. It is not signed by the President and does not have the effect of law, but instead sets out the targets and assumptions that will guide Congress as it passes the annual appropriations and other budget bills.

bycatch - fish and/or other marine life that are incidentally caught with the targeted species. Most of the time bycatch is discarded at sea.

bycatch reduction device (bdr) - a devise used to cut bycatch while fishing. These gear modifications are most commonly used with shrimp trawls. They are also called "finfish excluder devices" (feds) or, when specifically designed to exclude sea turtles, they are called "turtle excluder devices" (teds).

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