Environmental Studies. Ecology - Research Paper Example

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Ecology is the scientific study of relationships in the world of nature. Ecosystems consist of communities of various species of living organisms, who depend on their environment for their needs…
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Environmental Studies. Ecology
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Ecology is the scientific study of relationships in the world of nature. Ecosystems consist of communities of various species of living organisms, who depend on their environment for their needs. Every living species, whether of the plant or animal variety is part of a community and its function as part of that community is described as its ecological niche. Biodiversity or Biological diversity refers to all the life forms living in various ecosystems. The importance of biodiversity cannot be overstated, because it increases productivity in an ecosystem, and the greater the biodiversity in an ecosystem, the healthier it is. Changes in climate or movement of species bring about change in an ecosystem. When the change is gradual, the species adapt and survive, but in cases of sudden or drastic changes, many species die out. Man has been the main culprit in upsetting the delicate balance of these ecosystems. Mining, farming and other industries such as aquaculture and meat production, have left scars on an environment that is unable to sustain itself. It has now been left to our ingenuity and resourcefulness to see that further harm is avoided, and every effort must be made to reduce man’s carbon footprint. In this effort each one of us can make a valuable contribution, failing which future generations will have to bear the consequences of our callousness. Environmental Studies The scientific study of relationships in the world of nature is referred to as ecology. An ecosystem is a community of living organisms, as well as the non living components in their environment, on whom they depend for their needs. Nutrients and energy that are obtained from the environment are used so as to maintain an ecosystem. An ecosystem consists of various species and each of them has a relationship with other species that cohabit the ecosystem. An ecological niche can be described as a way of life that is unique to a particular plant or animal species. A niche is not the same as a habitat. Many species can share a habitat but not a niche. Every species whether of plant or animal variety are part of a community, their function as part of the community is known as their niche. In other words, an ecological niche is the relational position of a particular species in an ecosystem. Biodiversity refers to the diverse forms of life on our earth. This includes all species of plants, animals and organisms that exist in diverse ecosystems, like tropical rainforests, deserts, or in the oceans. The variety of different species in an ecosystem is known as biodiversity. The Convention on Biological Diversity (2010) defines biodiversity as “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems”. (CBD, 2010) Biodiversity is important to the environment because it increases productivity in an ecosystem, where every species, no matter how tiny, contributes to the health and well being of the ecosystem. As Ban Ki Moon (2010) rightly points out “Biodiversity underpins the functioning of the ecosystems on which we depend for food and fresh water, health and recreation, and protection from natural disasters.” (Ban Ki Moon, 2010) Greater biodiversity, makes an ecosystem more resilient and healthy, and lessening this biodiversity, increases the risk of extinction of species. “Biodiversity, the variety of life on Earth, is essential to sustaining the living networks and systems that provide us all with health, wealth, food, fuel and the vital services our lives depend on” says the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2010) hosted by the United Nations Environment Program. (UN News Centre , 2010) Change in the environment is constant due to climate change or other factors like movement of species from one location to another. When changes occur slowly over time in an ecosystem, it gives the species living there time to adapt and survive. However, rapid changes that occur due to natural disasters like volcanoes or tsunamis, fires and storms, or human activities like mining or aquaculture, agriculture or forestry can do untold damage to the delicate balance of these ecosystems. Man needs energy for his everyday needs, but this energy that he takes in the form of minerals like petroleum or fuels such as coal, leave their imprint on the environment. No fuel, except maybe wind energy is completely without some harmful effects. However, today man has become aware of the importance of protecting the environment and steps are being taken by the international community to limit the harmful effects of man’s energy needs. Many energy sources like biofuels, as well as wind and solar energy are being tapped to reduce man’s carbon footprint. However, there is a fear that this may be too little and too late. Meat production has many distinct impacts on the environment. The use of the natural habitats being converted to farmland for producing food for cattle and pigs, has been responsible for destroying ecosystems that thrived in the area. Besides, these animals are the “most significant contributors to water pollution, and soil degradation, and are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.” ( World Wildlife Fund, n.d.). Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) also pose increased environmental hazards. Pollutants like Ammonia, Nitrogen and Phosphorous are associated with animal wastes and as these are concentrated in particular areas, they can prove harmful to the environment. Aquaculture is another industry that has been increasingly criticized for its propensity to upset the environmental balance. As the world tries to feed its teeming millions, aquaculture has become the fastest growing food production sector, especially benefitting people living in coastal areas in some of the poorest countries in the world. However, pollution and destruction of coastal habitats threaten aquatic biodiversity. Sustainable development has been aptly defined by The Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, (1987) as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (WCED, 1987) The energy needs of our planet are growing daily, compromising the ability of the environment to sustain itself, as well as to fulfill the requirements of future generations. In such a situation, it is up to each one of us to think about how we can contribute to conserving energy and reducing our carbon footprint. Each one of us can contribute our mite to helping sustain our environment, and make sure that no species, in any ecosystem, is forced by our activities into extinction. The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2010) has rightly pointed out that “Humans are part of nature's rich diversity and have the power to protect or destroy it.” (UN News Centre, 2010) How then do we go about this in our own small ways? Not all of us can afford to buy a hybrid car or install solar panels on our roofs. However, there are some constructive ways through the use of which we can make a difference. Each one of us can make a start by trying to use our cars as sparingly as possible. Using bicycles, or for greater distances public transport, preferably electric trains, or transport using green fuels can help. Unplugging electrical appliances like cell phone chargers, TVs, stereos and also switching off electric lights when a room is not in use, are ways to reduce both our electricity bill as well as our carbon footprint. Using organic foods and carrying our own water bottle instead of buying packaged water, or buying goods with less packaging like loose vegetables or fruits and carrying our own reusable bag is another way to avoid plastic waste, which has become a huge problem for the environment. Making lists and doing necessary jobs in one go is a useful way of saving both our own energy as well as car fuel. It also protects the environment from avoidable emissions. In conclusion, we should all take note of the warning that Executive Director United Nations Environment Program has sounded (2010) “The arrogance of humanity is that somehow we imagine we can get by without biodiversity or that it is somehow peripheral: the truth is we need it more than ever on a planet of six billion heading to over nine billion people by 2050.” (Steiner,2010) References Ban Ki Moon Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 page 5 Foreword by United Nations Secretary-General Retrieved from Convention on Biological Diversity Biodiversity, the CBD and the 2010 target. Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 page 15 Retrieved from Steiner, Achim Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 page 6 Message from the Executive Director UNEP Retrieved from UN News Centre January 2010 UN Opens Biodiversity Year with Plea to Save World’s Ecosystems. Retrieved from WCED, 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future Transmitted to the General Assembly Our Common Future, Chapter 2: Towards Sustainable Development Retrieved from World Wildlife Fund Environmental Impacts of Beef Production n.d. Retrieved from Read More
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