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UNIT-1

THE MULTIDISCIPLINARY NATURE OF ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES


BASIC CONCEPTS
Ecology is the scientific study of the relationship of living organisms with each other
and with their environment.
Ecology word was coined by Reiter (1868) by combining the two words oikos meaning
home or estate and logos meaning study.
The physical and biological world where we live in is called our environment.
The environment includes our physical surroundings like air (or atmosphere), water
bodies, soil (land) and all organisms sack as plants, animals, human beings and micro-organisms
like bacteria and fungi (called decomposers).
Environment for man is anything that surrounds him.
Biotic and Abiotic components are the major components of environment.
The constituents of environment are dependent on each other.
The components of environment interact with one another and maintain balance in
the environment in a natural way.
Man has been living on the earth since thousands of years. But his relation to the
environment was not so exploiting as it is today.
People never tried to cause harm to the natural phenomenon.
Modern man, due to increase in his numbers, advancement in technology and urge to
live luxuriously, has exploited natural resources to such an extent that the whole environment
of the earth is in danger.
Development means economic growth and material advancement to satisfy human needs
and improve quality of his life. During last 200 years, human society has made advancement
in every field and his quality of life has improved but at the cost of environment. We are
destroying natural resources but never thought of their conservation or use in the future.
The health status of an individual, a community or a nation is determined by interplay
and integration of two ecological universes.
There is a need for Environmental Health the term which has replaced
environmental sanitation.
Environmental Education is defined as education processes dealing with peoples
relationship and their natural and man-made surroundings and include the relation of
population, pollution, resource allocation planning for the welfare of mankind.
There is a need for Environmental Education.
Short Answer Type Questions
Q. 1. Define and explain environment ecology and environment science.
Ans. Environment. Environment is sum total of water, air and land, interrelationships
among themselves and also with the human beings, other living organisms and property.
Ecology deals with the various principles which govern such relationships between
organisms and their environment.
However, the recent development in study of ecology has been the recognition of the fact
that biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) components of nature are not only interrelated but
both these components function in an orderly manner as a definite system. Thus structure
and functions should be studied together for a complete understanding of this vast nature.
Environmental Science is the study of interactions among physical, chemical and
biological components of the environment. Environmental science provides an integrated,
quantitative, and interdisciplinary approach to the study environmental systems.
Environmental scientists monitor the quality of the environment,- interpret the impact
of human actions on terrestrial and aquatic.
Q. 2. What are the basic Principles of ecology ?
Ans. Basic principles of ecology.
1. Environment in a habitat comprise the non-living and living components.
2. Anything and everything that influences the life processes of organism, directly or
indirectly, constitutes its environment.
3. An organism cannot exist in vacuum.
4. Sun is only and ultimate source of energy.
5. There is always a range of environmental factors above or below which the
6. There is a flow of energy in any ecosystem from producer to consumer.
7. Carrying capacity of a habitat is the ability to sustain a set of life.
Q. 3. Explain the terms : Habitat, Ecological niche, Ecosystem, Biome.
Ans. Habitat. It is the place or locality in which an organism lives.
Ecological niche. A restricted situation or a set of area where individual is confined and
called ecological niche. It is the address of organism.
Ecosystem. Interaction between abiotic and biotic components of an area constitute
ecosystem.
Biome. A distinct large area with relatively homogeneous climate, flora and fauna (plants
and animals, respectively) is called a biome that means biological home. For example, desert
is a biome for cacti or forest is a biome for lion or lake or pond is a biome for water hyacinth.
Q. 4. Differentiate environment factor and environment.
Ans. Environment factor and environment.
Any external force or a component, substance or a condition that affects the organism in
any way is referred to as environment factor or force. The sum total of all these factors
acting on organism constitutes its amendments. All organisms are intimately dependent on
environment.
Q. 5. What are the components of environment ? Differentiate between the two.
Ans. Components of environment.
1. Biotic components
2. Abiotic components
Difference between Biotic and Abiotic components
Biotic Components
1. Biotic components of an ecosystem are those living organisms which are different
members of a community.
2. Biotic components of an ecosystem are : Producers Consumers Decomposers
Abiotic Components
1. Abiotic components are non-living factors.
2. It includes water, minerals, salts, humidity, light, temperature, wind, topography and
background.
Q. 6. (a) What is biosphere ? List its types.
(b) Define parabiosphere and eubiosphere. Give examples.
Ans. (a) Biosphere. It is the part of earth above and below the surface which supports
life is called biosphere.
Biosphere is recognised as a combination of eubiosphere and parabiosphere.
(b) Parabiosphere. It is that part of biosphere which is not inhabited and is harsh to
life.
Examples : Regions of volcanoes, cold ice caps, arid hot deserts, heavily polluted areas of
a land and water.
Eubiosphere. The regions which support life which comprises hydrosphere, lithosphere
and atmosphere.
Q. 7. What is biosphere ? What are the main sub-divisions of the biosphere ?
Ans. Biosphere. The entire inhabited parts of earth and its atmosphere including the
living components is called biosphere.
The three main sub-divisions of biosphere are hydrosphere, lithosphere and
atmosphere.
1. Hydrosphere. It includes all the water components of oceans, seas, rivers and other
inland water.
2. Lithosphere. It comprises the solid components of the earths crust which support
life.
3. Atmosphere. It is formed of gaseous cover which envelopes the hydrosphere and
lithosphere.
Q. 8. Explain how the three components of biosphere interact to support and
influence life.
Ans. Atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere interact and influence life.
Illustrations. For example, a tree serves as a food for leaf eating insect which in turn
serves as a food for bird and so on. At the same time that tree is being held in position by the
pedosphere and supported by the water (contained in the soil) and the air of the atmosphere.
By transpiring water into the atmosphere it lowers the temperature of the atmosphere and
animals by breathing pass out C02 which is used by plants during photosynthesis. It thus,
becomes clear that the biotic and abiotic components of the atmosphere, lithosphere and
the hydrosphere interact and influence the performance of each components directly or
indirectly.
Q. 9. Write a note on effectiveness of environmental education.
Ans. Effectiveness of Environmental Education.
Environmental educators have formulated a basic framework for how to improve
environmental education.
1. Reinforce individuals for positive environmental behaviour over an extended period
of time for the welfare of all.
2. Provide students with positive, informal experiences outdoors to increase their
environmental sensitivity and attitude towards environment.
3. Focus instruction on the concepts of ownership and empowerment. Ownership means
that the learner has some personal interest in the environmental issues being discussed or
the problem faced. Empowerment gives learners the sense that they can make changes and
help resolve environmental problems.
4. Design an exercise in which students thoroughly study the environmental issues and
then develop a plan for citizen action to address the issue, complete with an analysis of the
social, cultural and ecological consequences of the action.
5. It motivates the learners to guide and motivate the others about sustainability of
environment.
Long Answer Type Questions
Q. 1. What are the two main components of an environment ? Describe the physical
factors which affect the distribution of organisms in different habitats.
Ans. Abiotic (physical) and Biotic components are the two main components of an
environment.
Abiotic components or Physical environment. The physical environment embraces
everything that is not associated directly with the presence of other organisms.
1. Temperature. The physiological and behavioural adaptations of most animals depend
upon the changes in the environmental temperature. The rates of photosynthesis and
respiration in plants also fluctuate depending upon the change in temperature.
2. Water. The extent to which an organism is dependent on an abundant water supply
depends on its requirements and its ability to conserve it in adverse conditions. Organisms
living in dry habitats generally have good water conservation such as in camels.
3. Light. This is essential for all green plants and photosynthetic bacteria, and for all the
animals dependent on the plants. Plants have numerous adaptations for obtaining optimum
illumination.
4. Humidity. This is important because it can affect the rate at which water evaporates
from the surface of an organism, which in turn influence its ability to withstand drought.
5. Wind and air currents. This particularly applies to plants. Only plants with strong
root system and tough stems can live in exposed places where winds are fierce. Wind is also
instrumental in the dispersal of spores and seeds.
6. pH. This influences the distribution of plants in soil and fresh water ponds. Some
plants thrive in acidic condition others in neutral or alkaline conditions. Most are highly
sensitive to changes in pH.
7. Soil nutrients. These particularly affect the distribution of plants in the soil. Plants
living in soil deficient in a particular element must have special methods of obtaining it.
These methods include the harbouring of nitrogen-fixing bacteria and the carnivorous habit.
8. Water currents. Only organisms capable of stemming or avoiding strong currents can
survive particularly in rivers and streams. For this reason animals incapable of actively
swimming generally live under stones or in burrows and crevices in the bank.
9. Topography. When looking at the distribution of organisms one finds all the difference
between, for example, the centre and edge of a stream, the top-side and under-side of a stone,
a north-facing and south-facing wall. This may be explained by differences in illumination,
temperature, moisture, etc. Minor topographical differences may be just as important in
influencing the distribution of organisms as wide geographical separation.
10. Background. The distribution of organisms whose shape or colouration are such
that they are camouflaged when viewed against a particular background is related to the
general texture and pattern of the environment. A good example of cryptic colouration is
provided by the white and black varieties of the peppered moth which are protected against
light and dark coloured tree trunks respectively.
Q. 2. What is need for public awareness about environment ? Discuss.
Ans. Need for Public Awareness. There is a great need to aware the people regarding
our environment, its risks and how to save our environment from being ruined out.
The following reasons have necessitated the studying of state of environment.
1. Make the people aware about environmental problems.
2. Need to conserve biodiversity of the natural resources and their conservation for future
generations.
3. Need to learn the development in sustainable manner. It requires optimal use of natural
resources and their conservation for future generations.
4. Protection of environment is of utmost importance.
5. People should be aware of increasing population, its consequences and must be aware
how to control the population explosion. Increase in population is the major cause of many
other problems like pollution, deforestation, unequal geographical distribution etc.
6. The sources of our natural resources are limited. If we go on using them in unplanned
way, they will certainly be eliminated from earth. So people should be aware of this thing that
how to use natural resources wisely.
7. Pollution is another great problem in the urban areas. With the increase in population,
the urbanisation is also increasing. Transportation facilities, industries, and other facilities
leading to population are also increasing.
8. There are other issues for which people must take care. They are :
Soil erosion - how to decrease it ?
Deforestation how to decrease it ?
Afforestation & Reforestation - how to increase it ?
Global warming - how to decrease it ?
Acid rain - how to decrease it.
Climatic changes - how to adapt themselves ?
There are various government as well as non-government organisations in country to
help people to decrease the evil traditions from the society. It is the duty of every citizen of a
country to save their country and live in a clean and green environment.
Q. 3. Discuss Interdisciplinary nature of environmental studies.
Ans. Interdisciplinary nature of Environmental studies. The subject of environment,
is inherently interdisciplinary. We study the complex relationship that exist in our natural
environment among people, animals, other organisms, water, soil, air, trees, the oceans, and
so on. The interconnections are numerous and involve many different disciplines. We need
input from biology, zoology, soil science, technology, oceanography, atmospheric science,
economics, sociology, anthropology, ethics, and so on. Such interdisciplinary approaches to
ecology, consequently have given rise to following subdivisions of ecology :
1. Ecological genetics. An ecologist recognised a kind of genetic plasticity in the case of
every organism. In any environment only those organisms that are favoured by the environment
survive. The branch of ecology dealing with genetics in relation to ecology is called ecological
genetics.
2. Palaeontology. It deals with the movement of biotic elements based on palaeontological
evidence, which provides information about ancestral organisms and environmental conditions
existing in the past.
3. Ecophysiology. The factors of environment have a direct bearing on the functional
aspects of organisms. The ecophysiology deals with the survival of populations as a result of
functional adjustments of organisms with different ecological conditions of the ecosystem.
4. Chemical ecology. It deals with the adaptations of animals or preferences of particular
organisms like insects to particular chemical substances.
5. Pedology. It is a branch of terrestrial ecology and it deals with the study of soil, in
particular their acidity, alkalinity, humus content, mineral contents, soil type, etc. and their
influence on the organisms.
6. Ecogeography. It deals with the study of the role of the environment in animal and
plant distribution. It is related with biogeography which is concerned with the structural and
functional relations of living organisms in space, which form the immediate environment of
the individuals as well as populations. Ecofloras and ecofaunas are the lowest units of which
a biogeographic flora or fauna is made up of.
7. Ecological energetics. It deals with energy conservation and its flow in the organisms
within the ecosystem. In it thermodynamics has its significant contribution.
So because of its far-flung involvements with so many fields, we can say that the scope of
environmental studies is very wide and ecology is often regarded as a generality rather than
a speciality.
Q. 4. Write briefly about the scope of environment studies. Or What is the
importance of environmental studies. Or Discuss the scope and importance of
environment studies.
Ans. Scope and Importance. As stated earlier environment is a multidisciplinary science
which depends on a variety of disciplines such as physics, chemistry, mathematics, statistics,
meteorology, climatology, geology, geography, economics, sociology, agriculture science,
forestry, horticulture, genetics, physiology etc. All these disciplines have helped in the better
understanding of many ecological principles. So the scope for environmental studies is also
very wide because it is related to many disciplines.
For instance, meteorological and climatological data for certain geographic localities allow
for a more implied interpretation of results. A basic knowledge of forestry can be invaluable
for a forest ecologist to understand forest type distribution, floristic composition and prevalent
environmental factors. Likewise, statistical data helps in interpreting the reasons for activity,
population increases, migrations, probability of ecological events occurring in a particular
area, sampling techniques and reliability of results.
Palaeontology (geology) provides information about the ancestral organisms and
environmental situations prevalent in past. Evolution and genetics are utilized to interpret
the reason for organic changes when linked with environmental conditions, establishment of
new populations and species, environmental effects on genetic populations and species and
so on.
Importance of Environmental Studies
1. In solving environmental problems such as : (a) Global warming (b) Depletion of ozone
layer (c) Decreasing number of forests (d) Reducing energy resources (e) Depletion in global
biodiversity.
2. Solving local environmental problems like : (a) Solid waste management (b) Impact of
mining (c) Impact of hydroelectric projects.
3. Environmental studies are helpful in : (a) Town planning (b) Public health (c) Location
of industries (d) Providing clean drinking water (e) Hygienic living surrounding.
4. Environmental studies provide career opportunities.