In order to be a good steward or educator within the context of land conservation, it is important to develop an understanding of several basic concepts. The concepts and definitions below are provided for this purpose, and they reflect local and regional nuance. We have purposefully given them a strong bent toward application and function in the broader world of education and conservation. The effective application of such words as “native” or “natural” is often skipped in deference to the use of generic and outdated versions. Our standard is to keep an ear to the ground of current ecological work and adopt the most recent iteration of these definitions, without the noise of political wind (for example, the overly broad and ecologically meaningless “native to Virginia”), and to adopt and adjust definitions so that, while they are theoretical, they are relevant, reliable, and empowering in application.

Click on a term to expand its definition.



Natural Plant Communities vs. Ecological Communities, in the context of human disturbance


Non-Native / Exotic / Invasive

Natural Community Trajectory

Data Definitions

Three additional definitions are integral to generating specific goals, objectives, and targets for restoration, and for tracking the overall ecological well-being of the land over time. These essential data points are: richness, diversity index, and exotic species importance index. A reasonable goal is to improve these three variables in all parts of the region, for the benefit of wildlife, for ecosystem function, and to enhance the natural aesthetic.



Exotic Species Importance