Environmental degradation is the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as quality of air, water and soil; the destruction of ecosystems; habitat destruction; the extinction of wildlife; and pollution. It is defined as any change or disturbance to the environment perceived to be deleterious or undesirable.
Environmental concerns can be defined as the negative effects of any human activity on the environment. The biological as well as the physical features of the environment are included. Some of the primary environmental challenges that are causing great worry are air pollution, water pollution, natural environment pollution, rubbish pollution, and so on.
Environmental degradation is one of the ten threats officially cautioned by the high-level PaneI on Threats, Challenges and Change of the United Nations. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction defines environmental degradation as "the reduction of the capacity of the environment to meet social and ecological objectives, and needs".Environmental degradation comes in many types. When natural habitats are destroyed or natural resources are depleted, the environment is degraded. Efforts to counteract this problem include environmental protection and environmental resources management. Mismanagement that leads to degradation can also lead to environmental conflict where communities organize in opposition to the forces that mismanaged the environment.
Scientists assert that human activity has pushed the earth into a sixth mass extinction event.The loss of biodiversity has been attributed in particular to human overpopulation, continued human population growth and overconsumption of natural resources by the world's wealthy. A 2020 report by the World Wildlife Fund found that human activity – specifically overconsumption, population growth and intensive farming – has destroyed 68% of vertebrate wildlife since 1970. The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services , published by the United Nation's IPBES in 2019, posits that roughly one million species of plants and animals face extinction from anthropogenic causes, such as expanding human land use for industrial agriculture and livestock rearing, along with overfishing.
Since the establishment of agriculture over 11,000 years ago, humans have altered roughly 70% of the earth's land surface, with the global biomass of vegetation being reduced by half, and terrestrial animal communities seeing a decline in biodiversity greater than 20% on average.A 2021 study says that just 3% of the planet's terrestrial surface is ecologically and faunally intact, meaning areas with healthy populations of native animal species and little to no human footprint. Many of these intact ecosystems were in areas inhabited by indigenous peoples.
The implications of these losses for human livelihoods and wellbeing have raised serious concerns. With regard to the agriculture sector for example, The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2019,states that “countries report that many species that contribute to vital ecosystem services, including pollinators, the natural enemies of pests, soil organisms and wild food species, are in decline as a consequence of the destruction and degradation of habitats, overexploitation, pollution and other threats” and that “key ecosystems that deliver numerous services essential to food and agriculture, including supply of freshwater, protection against hazards and provision of habitat for species such as fish and pollinators, are declining.”
On the way biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation impact livelihoods, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations finds also that in contexts of degraded lands and ecosystems in rural areas, both girls and women bear heavier workloads.
Women's livelihoods, health, food and nutrition security, access to water and energy, and coping abilities are all disproportionately affected by environmental degradation. Environmental pressures and shocks, particularly in rural areas, force women to deal with the aftermath, greatly increasing their load of unpaid care work.
This implies, for example, longer journeys to get primary necessities and greater exposure to the risks of human trafficking, rape, and sexual violence.
One major component of environmental degradation is the depletion of the resource of fresh water on Earth.Approximately only 2.5% of all of the water on Earth is fresh water, with the rest being salt water. 69% of fresh water is frozen in ice caps located on Antarctica and Greenland, so only 30% of the 2.5% of fresh water is available for consumption. Fresh water is an exceptionally important resource, since life on Earth is ultimately dependent on it. Water transports nutrients, minerals and chemicals within the biosphere to all forms of life, sustains both plants and animals, and moulds the surface of the Earth with transportation and deposition of materials.
The current top three uses of fresh water account for 95% of its consumption; approximately 85% is used for irrigation of farmland, golf courses, and parks, 6% is used for domestic purposes such as indoor bathing uses and outdoor garden and lawn use, and 4% is used for industrial purposes such as processing, washing, and cooling in manufacturing centres.It is estimated that one in three people over the entire globe are already facing water shortages, almost one-fifth of the world population live in areas of physical water scarcity, and almost one quarter of the world's population live in a developing country that lacks the necessary infrastructure to use water from available rivers and aquifers. Water scarcity is an increasing problem due to many foreseen issues in the future including population growth, increased urbanization, higher standards of living, and climate change.
Industrial and domestic sewage, pesticides, fertilizers, plankton blooms, silt, oils, chemical residues, radioactive material, and other pollutants are some of the most frequent water pollutants. These have a huge negative impact on the water and can cause degradation in various levels.
Climate change affects the Earth's water supply in a large number of ways. It is predicted that the mean global temperature will rise in the coming years due to a number of forces affecting the climate. The amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) will rise, and both of these will influence water resources; evaporation depends strongly on temperature and moisture availability which can ultimately affect the amount of water available to replenish groundwater supplies.
Transpiration from plants can be affected by a rise in atmospheric CO2, which can decrease their use of water, but can also raise their use of water from possible increases of leaf area. Temperature rise can reduce the snow season in the winter and increase the intensity of the melting snow leading to peak runoff of this, affecting soil moisture, flood and drought risks, and storage capacities depending on the area.
Warmer winter temperatures cause a decrease in snowpack, which can result in diminished water resources during summer. This is especially important at mid-latitudes and in mountain regions that depend on glacial runoff to replenish their river systems and groundwater supplies, making these areas increasingly vulnerable to water shortages over time; an increase in temperature will initially result in a rapid rise in water melting from glaciers in the summer, followed by a retreat in glaciers and a decrease in the melt and consequently the water supply every year as the size of these glaciers get smaller and smaller.
Thermal expansion of water and increased melting of oceanic glaciers from an increase in temperature gives way to a rise in sea level. This can affect the freshwater supply to coastal areas as well. As river mouths and deltas with higher salinity get pushed further inland, an intrusion of saltwater results in an increase of salinity in reservoirs and aquifers.Sea-level rise may also consequently be caused by a depletion of groundwater, as climate change can affect the hydrologic cycle in a number of ways. Uneven distributions of increased temperatures and increased precipitation around the globe results in water surpluses and deficits, but a global decrease in groundwater suggests a rise in sea level, even after meltwater and thermal expansion were accounted for, which can provide a positive feedback to the problems sea-level rise causes to fresh-water supply.
A rise in air temperature results in a rise in water temperature, which is also very significant in water degradation as the water would become more susceptible to bacterial growth. An increase in water temperature can also affect ecosystems greatly because of a species' sensitivity to temperature, and also by inducing changes in a body of water's self-purification system from decreased amounts of dissolved oxygen in the water due to rises in temperature.
A rise in global temperatures is also predicted to correlate with an increase in global precipitation but because of increased runoff, floods, increased rates of soil erosion, and mass movement of land, a decline in water quality is probable, because while water will carry more nutrients it will also carry more contaminants.While most of the attention about climate change is directed towards global warming and greenhouse effect, some of the most severe effects of climate change are likely to be from changes in precipitation, evapotranspiration, runoff, and soil moisture. It is generally expected that, on average, global precipitation will increase, with some areas receiving increases and some decreases.
Climate models show that while some regions should expect an increase in precipitation,such as in the tropics and higher latitudes, other areas are expected to see a decrease, such as in the subtropics. This will ultimately cause a latitudinal variation in water distribution. The areas receiving more precipitation are also expected to receive this increase during their winter and actually become drier during their summer, creating even more of a variation of precipitation distribution. Naturally, the distribution of precipitation across the planet is very uneven, causing constant variations in water availability in respective locations.
Changes in precipitation affect the timing and magnitude of floods and droughts, shift runoff processes, and alter groundwater recharge rates. Vegetation patterns and growth rates will be directly affected by shifts in precipitation amount and distribution, which will in turn affect agriculture as well as natural ecosystems. Decreased precipitation will deprive areas of water causing water tables to fall and reservoirs of wetlands, rivers, and lakes to empty.In addition, a possible increase in evaporation and evapotranspiration will result, depending on the accompanied rise in temperature. Groundwater reserves will be depleted, and the remaining water has a greater chance of being of poor quality from saline or contaminants on the land surface.
The human population on Earth is expanding rapidly, which together with even more rapid economic growth is the main cause of the degradation of the environment. Humanity's appetite for resources is disrupting the environment's natural equilibrium. Production industries are venting smoke into the atmosphere and discharging chemicals that are polluting water resources. The smoke includes detrimental gases such as carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide. The high levels of pollution in the atmosphere form layers that are eventually absorbed into the atmosphere. Organic compounds such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have generated an opening in the ozone layer, which admits higher levels of ultraviolet radiation, putting the globe at risk.
The available fresh water being affected by the climate is also being stretched across an ever-increasing global population. It is estimated that almost a quarter of the global population is living in an area that is using more than 20% of their renewable water supply; water use will rise with population while the water supply is also being aggravated by decreases in streamflow and groundwater caused by climate change. Even though some areas may see an increase in freshwater supply from an uneven distribution of precipitation increase, an increased use of water supply is expected.
An increased population means increased withdrawals from the water supply for domestic, agricultural, and industrial uses, the largest of these being agriculture,believed to be the major non-climate driver of environmental change and water deterioration. The next 50 years will likely be the last period of rapid agricultural expansion, but the larger and wealthier population over this time will demand more agriculture.
Population increase over the last two decades, at least in the United States, has also been accompanied by a shift to an increase in urban areas from rural areas,which concentrates the demand for water into certain areas, and puts stress on the fresh water supply from industrial and human contaminants. Urbanization causes overcrowding and increasingly unsanitary living conditions, especially in developing countries, which in turn exposes an increasingly number of people to disease. About 79% of the world's population is in developing countries, which lack access to sanitary water and sewer systems, giving rises to disease and deaths from contaminated water and increased numbers of disease-carrying insects.
Agriculture is dependent on available soil moisture, which is directly affected by climate dynamics, with precipitation being the input in this system and various processes being the output, such as evapotranspiration, surface runoff, drainage, and percolation into groundwater. Changes in climate, especially the changes in precipitation and evapotranspiration predicted by climate models, will directly affect soil moisture, surface runoff, and groundwater recharge.
In areas with decreasing precipitation as predicted by the climate models, soil moisture may be substantially reduced.With this in mind, agriculture in most areas already needs irrigation, which depletes fresh water supplies both by the physical use of the water and the degradation agriculture causes to the water. Irrigation increases salt and nutrient content in areas that would not normally be affected, and damages streams and rivers from damming and removal of water. Fertilizer enters both human and livestock waste streams that eventually enter groundwater, while nitrogen, phosphorus, and other chemicals from fertilizer can acidify both soils and water. Certain agricultural demands may increase more than others with an increasingly wealthier global population, and meat is one commodity expected to double global food demand by 2050, which directly affects the global supply of fresh water. Cows need water to drink, more if the temperature is high and humidity is low, and more if the production system the cow is in is extensive, since finding food takes more effort. Water is needed in the processing of the meat, and also in the production of feed for the livestock. Manure can contaminate bodies of freshwater, and slaughterhouses, depending on how well they are managed, contribute waste such as blood, fat, hair, and other bodily contents to supplies of fresh water.
The transfer of water from agricultural to urban and suburban use raises concerns about agricultural sustainability, rural socioeconomic decline, food security, an increased carbon footprint from imported food, and decreased foreign trade balance.The depletion of fresh water, as applied to more specific and populated areas, increases fresh water scarcity among the population and also makes populations susceptible to economic, social, and political conflict in a number of ways; rising sea levels forces migration from coastal areas to other areas farther inland, pushing populations closer together breaching borders and other geographical patterns, and agricultural surpluses and deficits from the availability of water induce trade problems and economies of certain areas. Climate change is an important cause of involuntary migration and forced displacement According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, global greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture exceeds that of transportation.
Water management is the process of planning, developing, and managing water resources across all water applications, in terms of both quantity and quality." Water management is supported and guided by institutions, infrastructure, incentives, and information systems
The issue of the depletion of fresh water has stimulated increased efforts in water management. While water management systems are often flexible, adaptation to new hydrologic conditions may be very costly. Preventative approaches are necessary to avoid high costs of inefficiency and the need for rehabilitation of water supplies, and innovations to decrease overall demand may be important in planning water sustainability.
Water supply systems, as they exist now, were based on the assumptions of the current climate, and built to accommodate existing river flows and flood frequencies. Reservoirs are operated based on past hydrologic records, and irrigation systems on historical temperature, water availability, and crop water requirements; these may not be a reliable guide to the future. Re-examining engineering designs, operations, optimizations, and planning, as well as re-evaluating legal, technical, and economic approaches to manage water resources are very important for the future of water management in response to water degradation. Another approach is water privatization; despite its economic and cultural effects, service quality and overall quality of the water can be more easily controlled and distributed. Rationality and sustainability is appropriate, and requires limits to overexploitation and pollution and efforts in conservation.
This article incorporates text from a free content work. Licensed under CC BY-SA IGO 3.0 License statement/permission . Text taken from The State of the World's Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture − In Brief , FAO, FAO.
Resource depletion is the consumption of a resource faster than it can be replenished. Natural resources are commonly divided between renewable resources and non-renewable resources. Use of either of these forms of resources beyond their rate of replacement is considered to be resource depletion. The value of a resource is a direct result of its availability in nature and the cost of extracting the resource, the more a resource is depleted the more the value of the resource increases. There are several types of resource depletion, the most known being: Aquifer depletion, deforestation, mining for fossil fuels and minerals, pollution or contamination of resources, slash-and-burn agricultural practices, soil erosion, and overconsumption, excessive or unnecessary use of resources.
An ecological crisis occurs when changes to the environment of a species or population destabilizes its continued survival. Some of the important causes include:
Habitat destruction is the process by which a natural habitat becomes incapable of supporting its native species. The organisms that previously inhabited the site are displaced or dead, thereby reducing biodiversity and species abundance. Habitat destruction is the leading cause of biodiversity loss. Fragmentation and loss of habitat have become one of the most important topics of research in ecology as they are major threats to the survival of endangered species.
Human impact on the environment refers to changes to biophysical environments and to ecosystems, biodiversity, and natural resources caused directly or indirectly by humans. Modifying the environment to fit the needs of society is causing severe effects including global warming, environmental degradation, mass extinction and biodiversity loss, ecological crisis, and ecological collapse. Some human activities that cause damage to the environment on a global scale include population growth, overconsumption, overexploitation, pollution, and deforestation. Some of the problems, including global warming and biodiversity loss, have been proposed as representing catastrophic risks to the survival of the human species.
We can define environmental issues as the harmful effects of any human activity on the environment. African environmental issues are caused by anthropogenic effects on the African natural environment and have major impacts on humans and nearly all forms of endemic life. Issues include for example deforestation, soil degradation, air pollution, water pollution, garbage pollution climate change and water scarcity. Nearly all of Africa's environmental problems are geographically variable and human induced.
Overdrafting is the process of extracting groundwater beyond the equilibrium yield of the aquifer. Groundwater is the fresh water that can be found underground; it is also one of the largest sources. Groundwater depletion can be comparable to "money in a bank", The primary cause of groundwater depletion is pumping or the excessive pulling up of groundwater from underground aquifers.
The extinction risk of climate change is the risk of species becoming extinct due to the effects of climate change. Climate change is the long-term conversion of temperature and average weather patterns. Currently, 19% of species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species are already being impacted by climate change. Many studies have been conducted on how climate change can affect global temperatures and environment. Studies done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) show that it is estimated that the temperature will rise from about 1.4 to 5.5 degrees Celsius within the next century. Temperature rise of 1.5 °C to 2.0 °C may see the geographic range of many insects, plants and vertebrates decrease significantly. Efforts like Paris Agreement attempt to reduce further warming and help ecosystems adapt the effects of a rising temperature
Surface water is water located on top of land forming terrestrial (inland) waterbodies, and may also be referred to as blue water, opposed to the seawater and waterbodies like the ocean.
Water scarcity is the lack of fresh water resources to meet the standard water demand. There are two types of water scarcity: physical or economic water scarcity. Physical water scarcity is where there is not enough water to meet all demands, including that needed for ecosystems to function effectively. Arid areas for example Central and West Asia, and North Africa often suffer from physical water scarcity. On the other hand, economic water scarcity is caused by a lack of investment in infrastructure or technology to draw water from rivers, aquifers, or other water sources, or insufficient human capacity to satisfy the demand for water. Much of Sub-Saharan Africa has economic water scarcity.
Water resources are natural resources of water that are potentially useful for humans, for example as a source of drinking water supply or irrigation water. 97% of the water on the Earth is salt water and only three percent is fresh water; slightly over two thirds of this is frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps. The remaining unfrozen freshwater is found mainly as groundwater, with only a small fraction present above ground or in the air. Natural sources of fresh water include surface water, under river flow, groundwater and frozen water. Artificial sources of fresh water can include treated wastewater and desalinated seawater. Human uses of water resources include agricultural, industrial, household, recreational and environmental activities.
Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates. These changes have a broad range of observed effects that are synonymous with the term. Climate change is any significant long term change in the expected pattern, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. Predicting the effects that climate change will have on plant biodiversity can be achieved using various models, however bioclimatic models are most commonly used.
Climate change has adversely affected both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and is expected to further affect many ecosystems, including tundra, mangroves, coral reefs, caves etc. Increasing global temperature, more frequent occurrence of extreme weather, and rising sea level are among some of the effects of climate change that will have the most significant impact. Some of the possible consequences of these effects include species decline and extinction, change within ecosystems, increased prevalence of invasive species, a shift from forests being carbon sinks to carbon sources, ocean acidification, disruption of the water cycle, and increased occurrence of natural disasters, among others.
At the global scale sustainability and environmental management involves managing the oceans, freshwater systems, land and atmosphere, according to sustainability principles.
Climate change in Sri Lanka is an important issue, and its effects threaten to impact both human and natural systems in Sri Lanka. Roughly 50 percent of its 22 million citizens live in low-lying coastal areas in the west, south, and south-west of the island, and are at risk of future sea level rise. Climate change also threatens the island's biodiversity, including its marine ecosystem and coastal coral reef environments. Sea-level rise due to climate change has the potential to affect the overall abundance of endemic species. Sri Lanka's coastal regions, such as the Northern Province and the Northern Western Province, are considered major hotspots and extremely vulnerable to climate change. These maritime provinces are the most densely populated. In addition to being a threat to Sri Lanka's biodiversity, climate change may cause disastrous consequences on various levels in such areas. Such consequences include: Affecting agricultural productivity, causing natural disasters like floods and droughts, increasing the spread of infectious illnesses, and finally undermining the living standards.
Situated in the South Caucasus Region bordered by the Black Sea to the North the Russian Federation to the North, Azerbaijan to the East, Turkey to the Southwest and Armenia to the South, Georgia is a small country supplied with profitable natural resources, heavenly scenes, copious water assets, rich living spaces, and ecosystems that are of local and worldwide significance.
In Italy, widespread impacts of climate change are currently being felt. With an increase in extreme events such as heatwaves, droughts and more frequent flooding, Italy faces many challenges adapting to climate change.
Climate change and invasive species is the destabilization of the environment caused by climate change that is facilitating the spread of invasive species.
Fresh water or freshwater is any naturally occurring liquid or frozen water containing low concentrations of dissolved salts and other total dissolved solids. Although the term specifically excludes seawater and brackish water, it does include non-salty mineral-rich waters such as chalybeate springs. Fresh water may encompass frozen and meltwater in ice sheets, ice caps, glaciers, snowfields and icebergs, natural precipitations such as rainfall, snowfall, hail/sleet and graupel, and surface runoffs that form inland bodies of water such as wetlands, ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, as well as groundwater contained in aquifers, subterranean rivers and lakes. Fresh water is the water resource that is of the most and immediate use to humans.
The effects of climate change on the water cycle has important knock-on effects on the availability of freshwater resources, as well as other water reservoirs such as oceans, ice sheets, atmosphere and land surface. The water cycle is essential to life on earth and plays a large role in the global climate and the ocean circulation. The warming of the earth is expected to cause changes in the water cycle for various reasons. A warmer atmosphere can contain more water vapor which has effects on evaporation and rainfall. Oceans play a large role as well, since they absorb 93% of the increase in heat since 1971. This has effects on the water cycle and on human society, since the ocean warming directly leads to sea level rise.
Moreover, we have unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.
The overarching driver of species extinction is human population growth and increasing per capita consumption.
Much less frequently mentioned are, however, the ultimate drivers of those immediate causes of biotic destruction, namely, human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption, especially by the rich. These drivers, all of which trace to the fiction that perpetual growth can occur on a finite planet, are themselves increasing rapidly.
“Human actions threaten more species with global extinction now than ever before,” the report concludes, estimating that “around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken.”
"The food system is the root of the problem. The cost of ecological degradation is not considered in the price we pay for food, yet we are still subsidizing fisheries and agriculture." - Mark Rounsevell