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Foundations of Environmental Systems & Societies

1.1 Environmental Value Systems
The Big Picture
❖ If history of earth was condensed into a 24 hour period
➢ Humans would appear in the last second
➢ Depending on our environmental worldview we have wreaked or have made a
great progress on earth
■ Set on paradigms and patterns
● Shape how we approach such matters
❖ Environmental value systems
➢ Ecologists
■ Planet earth is finite
● We are part of the planet and the systems that make it function
● If we disrupt one element in the system
◆ It will backfire
● We have to adjust our lifestyles to continue living
◆ Planet can no longer take abuse
➢ Cornucopians
■ Planet earth exists for benefit of humankind
● Endless resources
● Through human resourcefulness we can exploit them and it will
be ok
➢ Inputs
■ Culture
■ Education
■ Science
■ Media
➢ Processes
■ Assimilation of knowledge
■ Thinking
■ Evaluation
➢ Outputs
■ Decisions
■ Viewpoints
➢ Ecocentrics
■ Extreme deep ecologists
■ Believe development must stop
➢ Anthropocentrics
■ Environmental managers
■ Believe development is accepted if controlled and moderated by
human population control
➢ Technocentrics
■ Cornucopians
■ Believe that human ingenuity and technology will save the day
The Environmental Movement
❖ Raising awareness of environmental issues
❖ Promotes the concept of protection and control through the sustainable management
of resources
❖ Addresses environmental issues using the political systems to change public policies
➢ Anthropocentric
■ Agree that humans are an integral part of the ecosystem
❖ Preservationists
➢ Towards end on 19th century
➢ Advocated for preservation of land and its resources in untouched condition
➢ Insisted that land has intrinsic value
■ Natural beauty has importance by its existence
■ Underpins modern environmental movement
➢ Key Players in US
■ John Muir
● Founded Sierra club in 1892, San Francisco
● One of the first large-scale preservation organisations
● Main focus on pollution mitigation and protection of natural
◆ Through establishment of National Parks
● Club still active today
◆ Members continue to lobby politicians and promote
green policies
◆ Norman Borlaug's Green Revolution
■ Henry David Thoreau
● Published Walden in 1854
◆ Pasen on experiences of living intimately with nature
❖ Conservationists
➢ At the end of the 19th century and into beginning of 20th century
➢ Included politicians
■ Gifford Pinchot
■ Theodore Roosevelt
➢ Not conserving the environment for its intrinsic value but for the value of the
goods and services it could provide
➢ Emphasis on sustainable use of the environment
➢ Management of resources to allow for future development
❖ Encouraging sustainable development, wildlife conservation society's
➢ Plumage League
■ 1889, UK
■ Became the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
■ In response to investigations by zoologists Alfred Newton
● Proposed animals should be protected from hunting during
mating season
■ Protest campaigns
● Growing support from middle-classes
● Passage of the first Nature Protection Law
◆ 1869, UK
◆ The Sea Birds Preservation Act
❖ From mid 1800’s to the mid 1900’s
➢ Primary environmental concerns
■ Associated with the excesses of the Industrial Revolution (1760-1820)
● Worsening air and water pollution associated with it
➢ Environmental movement
■ Focused on impacts of industrialisation
● Such as expansion of cities
◆ How this growth affected the natural and human
❖ The 20th century
➢ Continued rise in environmental awareness
■ Media coverage increase
■ People began to rise the impact human activity has on the
➢ Increase in rate of species becoming extinct or critically endangered
■ E.g: American bison, passenger pigeon, thylacine (a breed of tiger)
➢ Impact of our use of synthetic chemicals became apparent
■ Scientists Paul Ehrlich and biologist Rachel Carson highlighted impact
of DDT
● An insecticidal organochloride that concentrates as it passes
through the food chain
➢ Increased cases of coral reefs experiencing bleaching
■ Due to the rise in sea temperatures
● Causing the coral to expel the algae living in their tissues
(mutualism) and the coral turns white
➢ Deforestation
■ To reduce water storage capacity
■ Lack of tree roots that bind the soil caused greater rates of soil erosion
■ Resulting in sedimentation of reservoirs
➢ Overfishing
➢ Climate change
■ Quantifiable in 1972
■ Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii
● Began monitoring changes in CO2 levels
■ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 1988
● Released report that claimed “the balance of evidence
suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global
➢ Impact of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s)
■ Realised following research by chemists Sherwood Rowland and
Mario Molina
➢ Rising sea levels
■ Sea ice melting
➢ Growing number of high-profile environmental disasters
■ E.g: Hydrogen Bomb at Bikini Atoll Creates Radioactive Fallout
(1954), Torrey Canyon Oil Tanker Ran Aground (1967), Union
Carbide Factory Leaks in Bhopal - 10,000 Dead (1984)
Hope for the Future
❖ The mess humans make can be catastrophic
➢ Catalogue of disasters is nearly endless
➢ Bad is balanced by the good
❖ Environmental movement
➢ Into action by human negligence
➢ Taken up the cause and is fighting for improvement
➢ Positive consequences
■ International agreements and initiatives to protect the environment
● UN Paris Biosphere Conference
● International Earth Day
● The Brundtland Report on Sustainable Development
■ Governing bodies have been established and legislation passed to
control some of the major pollutants
● Ocean going vessels are no longer allowed to dump at sea
● The Montreal Protocol was adopted to control ozone depleting
substances (ODS’s)
● The Kyoto Protocol controls𝐶𝑂 2 emissions
● The Treaty on Persistent Organic Pollutants or POPs was
introduced, and so the list continues
■ Wildlife is now protected
● Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
◆ Restricts trade in over 5, 000 animal species and 25,
000 plant species and the Red List is published by the
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
to assess threats to biodiversity
■ The United Nations
● Convention of the Law of the Seas, aims to provide a structure
for the conservation, protection and restoration of species and
bring pollution under control
● Brings agreements for the management of fisheries in
international waters
■ Energy Sources
● Many countries have started to replace traditional fossil fuel-
powered stations with renewable energy sources
◆ Wind
◆ Solar
◆ Hydroelectric
◆ Geothermal
Case Studies

Major Disasters Literature and Media International Agreements/

Bodies/ Legislation

Sulphur dioxide emissions Rachel Carson’s book Silent UNEP: United Nations
from an industrial plant in Spring Environmental Programme

Minamata disease caused An Inconvenient Truth International Convention for

by mercury poisoning in the regulation of Whaling
Japan and Canada

Severe smog episodes in Earth Day: 22nd April Antarctic Treaty System
New York city and London

Bhopal or Chernobyl Greenpeace Convention on Long-Range

Transboundary Air Pollution

Gulf of Mexico oil spill The Population Bomb by Convention on the

Paul R. Ehrlich Conservation of Migratory
Species of Wild Animals

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear Club of Rome report on the Agenda 21

disaster Limits to Growth

Whaling and over fishing Earth from space - the first Rio Earth Summit and Rio
images from NASA +20

Chernobyl Catastrophe
❖ Background information
➢ Nuclear accident in Power Plant
➢ 26th April 1986
➢ In the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
❖ The accident
➢ In 1990 a scale for assessing nuclear accidents was introduced to the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
➢ Referred to as The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES)
➢ To help governments adhere to the necessary safety precautions in the event
of a nuclear accident
➢ 1 of the 2 nuclear accidents that has achieved the highest score of 7 on the
scale (indicative of a major incident)
■ Major release of radioactive material
● Significant health and environmental implications
➢ Caused by a power surge during testing, that set off a steam explosion and
➢ Released much of the core material into atmosphere, which spread over
Western USSR and Europe
❖ Facts and figures
➢ Death toll
➢ Estimates vary between 31 and 56 for immediate death
➢ Over 4,000 caused by cancers
➢ Incidents of cancer in the immediate area are 2 to 5 times higher than global
➢ 2 towns abandoned - Chernobyl and Pripyat
➢ 30 km exclusion zone around the reactor, which is still in pace today
➢ Contamination impacted around 17 million people
➢ Across Europe, large areas of vegetation of all types had to be cleared and
buried and many food crops had to be checked for radioactivity
➢ Producers were banned from selling fish and livestock, as well as livestock
products such as milk and eggs
➢ Many animals were found to have reduced brain size and increased incidence
of physical abnormalities
➢ Invertebrate populations decreased
➢ Incidence of Down syndrome in West Berlin peaked nine months after
❖ Reactions and impacts
➢ The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in cooperation with the EU,
the US, and Ukraine set up Shelter Implementation Plan and the Chernobyl
Shelter fund. Aimed to make the old reactor and areas around power plant
safe again
➢ The UN Development Programme initiated the Chernobyl Recovery and
Development Programme. Aimed to support the Ukraine government deal
with the long-lasting effects of the catastrophe
➢ The International Project on the Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident was
set up to establish the causes of the continuing health problems in the region
➢ Global fundamental change in the approach to industrial safety standards
➢ International organisations and national governments have increased the
regulatory procedures for nuclear power
■ IAEA and Euratom have instigated new safety procedures and better
training for workers
■ The International Commision on Radiological Protection and World
Health Organisation are investigating the health aspects of the
➢ Italy and Germany started phasing out nuclear power plants
➢ Germany created a ministerial post specifically to oversea reactor safety
What is an Environmental System Value
❖ Set of paradigms that shapes the perception of
➢ Environmental threats
➢ How they may impact the environment
➢ Whether or not that matters
❖ Places value on the environment
➢ The goods and services the environment provides: its aesthetic importance,
the reactional provision it offers or resource it supplies
➢ Intrinsic value: the idea that something can be of value in and of itself and not
because it is of any use to humanity
❖ Can be applied to a range of scales
➢ May be held by an individual
➢ By a group of individuals (religions, companies), governments,
intergovernmental bodies
■ Such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
■ Or non-governmental organisations like the World Wildlife Fund
● Vary over time
● Will depend on individual circumstances, surrounding culture,
traditional attitudes and practices and a myriad of other
How are environmental values a system?
❖ System
➢ Simplified way of visualising a complex set of parts and their interconnections
➢ Inputs Processes Outputs

Inputs Processes Outputs

● Culture (includes ● Accepting or ● Actions

religion) rejecting ideas ● Answers
● Education ● Cost benefit analysis ● Choices
● Experience ● Emotion ● Decisions
● Family ● Evaluation ● Perspectives
● Media ● Listening/ ● Viewpoints
● Peers assimilating
● Personal knowledge
characteristics ● Thinking
● Politics
● Science
● Society

❖ Everything around us affects our opinions
➢ We grow up with an associated culture
■ Inherent attitudes and beliefs
➢ Aboriginal people
■ Holistic approach to life
■ Believe that humans are part of nature
■ Respect for natural environment
➢ Religious groups
■ Define human place in nature and how to treat non-human beings
● E.g: in Islam, Muslims should care for plants and animals
➢ Friends and family
■ Determines your religion
■ Impact on what you access on the media, education and political
■ Interests and views of parents
● Adopting their values
➢ Political parties
■ Environmental agendas
■ Definite green policies or not
■ Governments changing to renewable energy sources
➢ Education
■ Another set of information
● Formulate our own opinions
■ Scientific slant
● Understanding of environmental systems and interconnection
between humans and nature
■ Different attitudes
● Towards environment than one where technology and the
economy are seen as more important
➢ Media
■ Tv, magazines and books
■ Formulate own opinions and values
➢ Own personality
■ Inherently more caring
■ Self sufficient
● More independent
● Less in need of saving environment
❖ Taking in all the knowledge and evaluating it
➢ To make an informed decision on whether we accept or reject ideas
➢ Cost benefit analysis
■ Framework where relative costs and benefits can be balanced
● E.g: cutting carbon emissions benefits, or cost to walk or cycle
❖ Processed information
➢ Answers available, choices and decisions made, perspectives and viewpoints
❖ Intrinsic value
➢ Instrumental
■ Something valued because it is a means to an end.
● E.g: natural resources such as gold, diamonds, fossil fuels
➢ Intrinsic
■ Something valued because its there, cannot be sold in return for
anything else
● E.g: biodiversity, most of us are aware that if that goes we are
in dire straits
Environmental Value Systems

Ecocentrism Deep ecologist

Nature-centred holistic view. Environmental, Ecocentric. Nature has intrinsic values. No
social and spiritual aspects are integrated. development
Propose self-restraint and minimal
disturbance to natural processes.

Self-reliance soft ecologists

Mainly ecocentric but with some
anthropocentric elements. Small scale
development Community identity.

People-centred approach. People manage
the environment themselves. Help of
independent regulatory authorities.
Population control and resource

Environmental managers
Mainly anthropocentric, with some
technocentric elements. Natural resources
and human population need to be

Technocentrism Cornucopians
Will keep pace with and provide solutions. Development. Technology will solve any
Emphasis on the use of scientific analysis problems that arise.
and prediction to understand and control
natural processes. Alternative resources.

❖ Intrinsic value to natural resources and natural systems that spiritual, social and
environmental dimensions are all integrated.
❖ Minimal disturbances of natural processes
❖ biorights of species and landscapes must be respected
❖ Humans are part of nature rather that in control of it
➢ Form a global citizenship
➢ Sustainable for the earth
➢ Work with the natural environment to solve problems
➢ Everyone has the capacity and opportunity to participate in decision-making
for the good of the community and the environment
➢ Economy based on the maintenance of natural capital
■ Limited resources and growth needs to be controlled
■ Self-imposed restraint on the use of resources
● Require lifestyle changes away from non-renewable products
■ Exploitation of resources must be sustainable so large-scale
technology is avoided
❖ Deep ecologists
➢ Nature should be left alone
➢ Stop all development
■ Comes at too high a price to nature
● Biorights
● Living environment has the same right to flourish as humanity
➢ Concerned about impacts of humans on ecosphere
■ Nature has an intrinsic value linked to human morality
❖ Self-reliance soft ecologists
➢ Between ecocentrism and anthropocentrism
➢ There is room for development
■ On a local community scale
● Personal and communal involvement
❖ Case study: Resource Exploitation - The ecocentric take on fossil fuel exploitation
➢ Ecocentric approach on the use of fossil fuels
■ Support the use of small-scale technology on a local level
■ Reduce or stop all reliance on them
● Non-renewable
● Sustainability is impossible
➢ Exploitation leads to significant environmental damage and habitat
■ Such destruction has moral and spiritual implications
■ Contribute to global warming
● Add to the disruption of nature
➢ Fossil fuel exploitation is unacceptable, as it has been carried out by large-
scale corporation or governments
■ Give a false sense of security
■ Detracts from investment in alternative sources of energy
❖ Case study: The Kalahari Bushmen as ecocentrics
➢ Nomadics living in Kalahari Desert in Botswana and Namibia
■ Interdependent kinship system between small mobile foraging groups
■ Egalitarian society (all people are equal) decisions are made by
consensus with men and women as equals
■ Men are skilled at hunting and tracking, follow migrating herds and
use traditional weapons such as poisonous bow and arrow
■ Women have deep knowledge on berries and nuts, they gather for
consumption by the group
■ Make the most of all natural resources
● Ostrich eggs are eaten
● Empty shells used to gather water
● Consume up to 104 species of insects, such as beetles,
moths, termites
■ 2, 000 year old rock paintings depict their appreciation of nature
■ No concept of land ownership
■ Live in simple stick huts, wear simple clothing derived from nature,
and tools and equipment are made from natural products
❖ “To remain unaware of the limits of human nature, the significance of biological
processes underlying human behaviour, and the deeper meaning of long-term
genetic evolution” - Edward O. Wilson
❖ Many see as a balanced and sensible option
❖ Criticisms for environmentalists: Dave Foreman and Christopher Manes suggest that
it is “underlying reasons why humanity dominates and sees the need to develop”
most of the earth
❖ Much of the discussion centres on the Judeo-Christian value system
➢ Believed that God gave humans the planet as a gift
❖ Native Indian
➢ “We do not inherit this planet from our ancestors, we borrow it from our
❖ Human-centred worldview
❖ Believes nature is not there because it has any intrinsic value, but because we can
use all of its natural resources for our benefit
❖ Humans are environmental managers of sustainable global systems
❖ Economic growth and resource exploitation are acceptable as long as they are
regulated by independent authorities
❖ Legal agreements are needed to maintain environmental quality and enforce
compensation agreements
❖ Elected government representatives
➢ Appraise new projects
➢ Encourages discussion
➢ In search for consensus among interested parties
➢ Mixed of technocentric and ecocentric
➢ Make decisions based on human health and well-being
❖ Case study: Modern Western Worldview Environmental managers
➢ Human life is seen to have intrinsic value
■ Other things are there for the benefit of humankind
➢ Based on the book of Genesis
➢ Resources are freely exploited for economic development
➢ Thailand
■ Population policies to bring birth rates down
➢ Sweden
■ Try and increase birth rates
➢ Independent authorities
■ Negotiate agreements to benefit mankind
■ UN overseas any agreements concerning issues from pollution to
human right
➢ Governments
■ Pushing for sustainability in the shape of increased efficiency of
technology, reduced deforestation, reforestation, recycling campaigns,
pollution reduction, measures, national parks and conservation areas
❖ “Technology is how we create wealth, how we cure disease, how we build an
environment that’s sustainable and also gives people the capacity to pull more out of
this world and still leave it better than when they found it” - Dean Kamen
❖ Technocentric value system
➢ Absolute faith in technology and industry
➢ Natural processes need to be understood
■ So they can be controlled and replaced by technology if necessary
❖ Do not see environmental issues as problems to be solved
➢ Opportunities for science to advance and industry to move forwards and
➢ Provide solutions even if we push natural systems beyond normal boundaries
➢ Keep pace with environmental issues
➢ Natural resources have no intrinsic value
■ For human benefit
❖ Emphasise the importance of market and economic growth
➢ Based on technological expertise, scientific analysis and predictions
■ Foundation for policy decisions
❖ Humans are resourceful
➢ Ability to control environment and find solutions
➢ Optimistic about the state of the world
➢ Believe they can overcome all obstacles
➢ Improve life for humans
➢ Global problems (pollution, climate change and resources depletion)
■ Solved by science and technology
❖ Case study: Resource exploitation - Technocentrics view on fossil fuels
➢ All resources can be exploited for human benefit
➢ Propose continued use of fossil fuels
➢ Technology can find solutions to problems that arise from this
■ Technology cleans up oil spills
➢ Technology will find alternatives if fossil fuels were depleted
➢ Currently an abundant supply of fossil fuels
■ Technology to extract it
➢ Developing technology to access previously inaccessible oil and natural gas,
such as fracking
➢ Current lifestyles depend on fossil fuels
■ Transport, power and commodities
➢ Countries with fossil fuels have the potential to benefit economically
■ Development
➢ Oil industry is a significant global employer
➢ Necessity to continue using fossil fuels until technology improves the
efficiency of renewable energy sources
➢ Natural gas
■ Cost effective source of energy
➢ Developing technology can reduce 𝐶𝑂2 emissions
1.2 Systems & Models
The Big Picture
❖ Systems are central
➢ Systems approach
➢ May be open or closed, social or environmental or range from minute to
❖ Difference between the stores of energy and matter
➢ Energy flows into then out of the system
➢ Matter cycles around and around
❖ Models
➢ Understand and predict the real world
➢ Simplify real world interactions
➢ Explain complex ideas or hypotheses
❖ Systems
➢ Type of model
➢ Climate, biochemical cycles, soil profiles
What is a system?
❖ Definition
➢ A set of interrelated parts and the connection between them that unites them
to form a complex whole and produces emergent properties
❖ Approach
➢ Allows us to visualize a complex set of interactions
➢ Atmosphere broken down into its constituent parts
■ Better understanding of the system
■ Better at weather prediction in short term
❖ Consists of
➢ A number of parts that interact with each other and the surrounding
➢ Interaction produces emergent properties of the system
➢ More than its constituent parts and possesses characteristics that individual
elements do not
■ Most living things are composed of nonliving chemicals (carbon,
hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur)
● Although these chemicals are non living, when combined in a
system with the right interactions the emergent property is life
❖ Boundaries
➢ Space and time
➢ Spatially
■ Separate from wider environment which it interacts
➢ Temporally
■ Changes through time
■ May disappear entirely
● Living organisms do not live forever and the system ceases to
exist when the organism dies; component parts carry on
Components of The System
❖ May be ecological
➢ Pond in your garden, local forest or woodland or Amazon rainforest
❖ May be social
➢ Environmental value systems
■ Inputs (Systems themselves)
● Elements that go into the system
● May be physical things (water entering an ecosystem, solar
energy for photosynthesis or cultural behaviours entering EVS)
◆ Religion
◆ Culture
◆ Education
■ Processes
● Ecosystem
◆ Transform chemical energy into heat during respiration
● Social system
◆ Education
➢ Process of teaching transfers information from
teacher to student
■ Outputs
● Flows of matter and energy that leave the system
◆ E.g: Animals eat food
➢ Digestive system processes it to release energy
for life processes
➢ Output is heat and waste
◆ E.g: Social systems often have policies as their outputs
Types of Systems
❖ Open Systems
➢ Exchanges matter and energy with its surroundings
➢ Most natural systems
■ E.g: Ecosystems, ponds and living organisms
➢ Social systems
➢ EVS have matter input
■ Humans and energy input (flow of ideas)
■ Inputs and outputs of matter and energy
Inputs Outputs


Water: Water:
rainfall/rivers/overland/flow/infiltr evaporation/rivers/overland/flow/
ation percolation

Soil Sediment

Organisms Organisms

Vegetation Vegetation

Minerals Minerals


Solar radiation Heat

❖ Closed System
➢ Exchanges energy but does not exchange matter with its surroundings
■ E.g: Earth
● Almost no matter enters or leaves the system
● Exception being that we launch probes into space, never to
return (matter out) and the occasional meteorite enters the
system (matter in)
■ E.g: Major global cycles
● Nitrogen cycle
● Carbon cycle
● Hydrological
◆ No incoming or outgoing matter on a global scale
◆ Energy input is solar energy
◆ Output heat energy
❖ Case Study: Biosphere 1 and Biosphere 2
➢ Biosphere 1
■ Earth
■ Self-regulating, close system
■ Includes all living organisms and the spheres in which they live
● Atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water) and lithosphere (rocks
and soil)
■ Includes the dead organic matter that has come from living organisms
■ With ecosystems, living sphere interacts with the non-living elements
● Drives the biochemical cycles (carbon and nitrogen)
■ Started its evolution 3.5 billion years ago
● First life on Earth began to evolve
● Organisms interacted with the inorganic surrounding
● Changed the atmosphere and contributed to the maintenance
of conditions necessary for life to continue (Gaia hypothesis)
➢ Biosphere 2
■ Ecological experiment
■ Arizona, 1991
■ Mirror conditions on Earth
■ Try to create completely closed system
■ Pave the way for space travel and terraforming
● Transforming a hostile environment into one in which we can
■ Enable us to live on other planets
■ Contained seven biomes
● Ocean
● Desert
● Savanna
● Rainforest
● Marsh
● Agricultural
● Human habitat
■ 8 men and women lived there for 24 months
■ Covered 1.3 hectares, stood 26 metres high
■ Completely sealed unit so all air, water and nutrients were recycled
within the system
■ Over 1,000 sensors monitored all conditions and sent information to
central control area
❖ Isolated System
➢ Exchanges neither energy nor matter with its surroundings
➢ Nothing in nature is completely isolated
■ E.g: Universe itself
Stores and Flows
❖ System
➢ Look at constituent parts
■ Stores and flows of energy and matter
❖ Carbon cycle
➢ Includes plants and animals
■ Store of energy and matter
➢ Stores of matter
■ Carbon-based life forms
■ Store carbon
➢ Stores of energy
■ Energy stored within carbon bonds of chemicals found within the
■ Flow through the system as chemical energy (bodies/muscle)
➢ Closed system
■ No inputs or outputs of matter
● Only solar energy (drives the cycle)
● Heat escapes into space
➢ Fixed amount of carbon in our global system that not change
■ Proportions in the stores fluctuate
➢ Global warming
■ Atmospheric store of 𝐶𝑂2 is increasing
■ One of the other stores must be decreasing
● Fossil Fuels
❖ Plant
➢ Energy inputs: light
➢ Energy output: heat
➢ Matter input: Water, minerals, 𝐶𝑂2
➢ Matter output: Organic plant material

Difference Between Matter and Energy

❖ Energy flows
❖ Matter cycles
➢ Moves from one place to another and eventually back again
➢ Solar radiation
■ Ultimate source of all energy in any system
■ Energy is converted into chemical bonds during the process of
photosynthesis, then flows through the system
■ Bonds are broken down during respiration to release energy
● Can be used for life processes
◆ Breathing
◆ Running
◆ Sleeping
■ Once lost as heat
● No use to the system
● Cannot be reused
● Energy flows in as light and out as heat
➢ Matter in the universe is finite
➢ Created at the Big Bang
■ No more being created
■ Instead it is used and reused
Transfers & Transformations
❖ Difference in the way that the flow of energy occurs
➢ May occur as transfers or transformations
❖ Transfers
➢ Move energy or matter from one place to another
■ Without changing it
➢ Matter moves through system, water flows in river across land
➢ Ocean currents move energy around planet
■ Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift
● Take heat from equator and move it pole wards
■ Food web moves matter through living organisms
❖ Transformations
➢ Move energy and matter
■ Change of state or form
➢ Water changes state from solid to liquid to gas
■ Matter
➢ Incoming light is transformed into heat as it is re-radiated from earth’s surface
■ Energy
➢ Energy converted into matter during photosynthesis
➢ Matter converted into heat and light energy during combustion of matter
What is a model?
❖ Simplified version of reality
➢ What happens in natural world
➢ Studies particular part
➢ Easier to understand, visualize or define
➢ Predictions on similar situation
❖ Climate models
➢ Theoretically alter the amount of 𝐶𝑂2
■ Impact on the climate
➢ Models are the foundation of the scientific method
What makes a good model?
❖ How a complex emotion arises from a simpler phenomena
❖ Compare poorly-understood aspect of the real world to a well-understood mechanism
❖ Testable and generate predictions
❖ Systems and simulations
➢ Simulations show a model over time
➢ Provide information about response
➢ Computer age was crucial
■ More sophisticated
● E.g: climate change simulations
❖ Case study: Gaia hypothesis
➢ Planet earth is a living organism
➢ 1970 chemist James Lovelock
➢ With help of the microbiologist Lynn Margulis
➢ Organisms co-evolved with their environment to form a self-regulating living
➢ Evolution
■ Initiated significant changes and stabilised global temperatures,
atmospheric composition and ocean salinity, making planet more
■ Encouraged wider variety of life forms to evolve
■ Enhanced the changes even further and increased homeostatic
➢ Concept of self-regulation and homeostasis are well understood

1.3 Energy & Equilibria

❖ Thermodynamics
➢ Heat & temperature related to energy & work
➢ Matter has variables such as energy, entropy & pressure
■ Subject to general controls
➢ Laws
■ Rules that energy flows in system
➢ 1st & 2nd law
■ Impact of ecological system
■ Energy moves through food chain, entropy increases & amount of
energy available to do work becomes more limited
■ Moving up food chain: less energy, fewer individuals, higher
concentration of organic poisons in tissues and organs of organisms
➢ 1st: law of conservation of energy
■ Energy cannot be created or destroyed
■ Energy amount in isolated system does not change
● May transform type
■ Demonstrated in food chains
● Energy enters system as light
● Transformed into chemical energy (carbon bonds) -
● Chemical energy passes along food chain as consumers eat
producers or consumers
● Chemical energy converted into mechanical energy during
respiration - used to fuel life processes
■ Energy production & first law
● Universal laws
● E.g: traditional thermal power station
◆ Millions of years ago plants died, fell into swamps &
formed coal
◆ Coal burnt to alter chemical bonds, release heat,
condensation spins turbine (kinetic energy), drives
electrical generator to produce electricity (electrical
➢ Entropy & 2nd law
■ Entropy: increase in disorder & randomness in system
● Energy decline for work
● Entropy of system increases over time
● Avoid entropy by continuous input of additional energy
● E.g: animal stops eating, dies, decomposes into constituent
■ Chemical energy in organisms’ carbon bonds: allows to move around
& perform life processes
■ Light - chemical - mechanical - heat
❖ Natural, undisturbed systems
➢ State of equilibrium or balance
■ Maintained by feedback loops
➢ Negative feedback
■ Maintains status quo of system, keeps it functioning within limits
■ Promotes stability
■ Reverses change
■ Returns system to original state of equilibrium
■ Predator prey relationship
● Increase in rabbit population, more food, more fox, less
rabbits, less food for fox, less fox
■ Human body temperature
● Essential to prevent death
● Temperature increases, sweat, evaporation removes heat,
cooling, shivering generates heat to warm up
■ Toilet flush
➢ Positive feedback
■ Change, may cause system to find new equilibrium
■ May be good or bad
■ Drives ecological succession
■ E.g: primitive plants grow & die enriching soil w/ organic matter, richer
soil can support more plants, more plants= more nutrients in soil vs.
addition of too many nutrients in aquatic systems= eutrophication
■ System likely to reach a tipping point, critical point after change, no
way of return to original state
● New equilibrium reached
➢ Tipping points
■ Kicks self-perpetuating positive feedback loops
■ Food production deteriorate
■ Climate unsuitable for human existence
➢ Case Study: India - Cooking fuel, deforestation & biodigesters
■ Timber used for wood fuel
■ Sustainable until dramatic population increase in 20th century
■ Cow dung used as cooking fuel, not fertilizer, decline in food
■ Soil erosion, by deforestation, causes reduction in water storage
■ NGOs introduced biodigesters
❖ Equilibria & stability
➢ static / steady equilibrium state
➢ Static: applicable to non-living systems & components remain constant over
long period of time
➢ Atmosphere: static for around 2 billion years
■ 21% oxygen, 78% nitrogen, 1% others
■ CO2 proportion risen (tipping point) static equilibrium disturbed
➢ Steady: small changes over shorter periods of time
➢ Most ecosystems in steady state
➢ Natural disturbances part of cycle of life
➢ Stability
■ Ability of ecosystem to remain in balance
■ Resistance: continue of function during disturbance
■ Resilience: ability to recover after disturbance
➢ Disturbances may be natural (flooding, fires & volcanic eruption) or human
induced (deforestation, pesticides or introduced species)
➢ Factors that account for stability
■ Climate & limiting factors, biodiversity, trophic complexity, nutrient
stores, frequency & intensity of disturbance
➢ Case Study: Temperate grasslands - North America Prairies
■ Most fertile soil w biggest store in nutrient cycle
■ Pesticides control insect population & biodiversity is reduced
➢ Case Study: Tropical rainforests - Madagascar
■ Majority of nutrients in biomass, multiple layers of vegetation
■ High temperatures ensure rapid decomposition
■ High rainfall would wash away nutrients, but roots catch them before

1.4 Sustainability
❖ Exploiting natural resources
➢ Natural capital that generates sustainable natural income
❖ Sustainable development
➢ The concept of needs (particularly of the poor)
➢ The idea of limitations imposed by state of technology & social organisations
❖ Natural capital & income
➢ Resource exploitation for economic reasons (e.g: to provide a service)
➢ Natural capital: natural resources that produce sustainable natural income of
goods & services - provides income
➢ Goods are marketable commodities that can be exploited by humans (forests,
fisheries, fertile soil & mineral deposits)
➢ Services: natural processes that provide benefits for humans such as water
replenishment, clean air & protection against erosion
➢ Sustainability: management of exploitation of resources, allows for
replacement & full recovery of ecosystems affected by extraction
➢ If natural resources managed sustainably: generate natural income
➢ If: exploitation > natural income = natural capital reduced, positive feedback
cycle (unsustainable)
➢ Ecological footprint: amount of land & water required to support human
population at given standard of living, providing all the resources &
assimilating all the waste
■ Measured in units: as a global hectare per person (Gha/pers), or the
number of plants that would be required to supply humanity’s needs
■ In 2007 total footprint of global population was 1.5 planet earth - using
ecological services 1.5 times more quickly than they could be renewed
❖ Sustainability indicators
➢ Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
■ Assess links between ecosystem change & human well-being
■ Establish strategies to achieve sustainable use of ecosystems
■ Report identified 3 major problems in our management
● 60% of the ecosystems used unsustainably
● Changes so extensive, ecosystems were reaching tipping
points & consequences hard to predict
● Ecosystem degradation impacting poorer countries
■ Generates data to identify environmental indicators of sustainability
● Biodiversity, pollution & climate change
■ Humans have increased species extinction rate by up to x1,000 over
background rates
■ Cultivated systems now cover 25% of earth’s terrestrial surface
➢ Ecosystem services
❖ Environmental Impact Assessments
➢ “Process of identifying, predicting, evaluating & mitigating the biophysical,
social & other relevant effects of development proposals”
➢ Step 1. Scoping: make sure it’s focused on issues & effects
➢ Step 2. Baseline Study: assesses area - both natural & human/cultural
➢ Step 3. Predicting & Assessing Effects: temporary or permanent, negative or
beneficial impacts
➢ Step 4. Mitigation: plans to mitigate negative impacts
➢ Step 5. The Environmental Statement: report
➢ Case study: Jindal thermal power plan, India
■ Proposal: set up 2 150 MW thermal power power plants to provide
power for its steel plants
■ Coal mining close to local villages
■ Will require water (river nearby), amount reduced by reusing
■ Land will come from agriculture or wasteland
■ Main occupation is farming
■ Impact on local air quality (thermal power stations are polluters)
■ Non-point source emissions (increased traffic due to coal transport -
increase vehicle emissions)

1.5 Humans and pollution

The big picture
❖ Pollution disturbs ecosystems, affects humans & our built environment
❖ Humans may suffer breathing problems, eye & skin irritation or spread of diseases
❖ Plants may lose leaves, root systems deteriorate & primary productivity decreases
❖ Animals can become sick & die
❖ Air pollution damages buildings by eroding w/ acid raid or discolouring w/ smoke
❖ Introduction of substance into natural environment
❖ Rate of introduction is greater than rate at which it can be broken down & be
rendered harmless
❖ Substances location or quantity causes changes in environment
❖ May be substance (gas, solid, liquid) or energy (heat, sound, light)

Sources of pollution
❖ Point source pollution: single identifiable source (e.g: from wastewater treatment
➢ Easier to monitor & control
❖ Non-point source pollution: from diffuse sources
➢ Difficult to monitor & control

Types of pollution
❖ Organic (is or was living) / inorganic matter (non-living)
❖ Persistent (don’t breakdown easily, insoluble in water, soluble in fat: DDT, pesticides)
/ biodegradable (substances that will breakdown/decompose from microorganisms)
❖ Acute (occurs suddenly & over short period) / chronic (persistent & long-term)
❖ Primary (released into environment directly from source in the form they are
produced: CO2 from car exhausts) / secondary (form when primary p’s react w/
environment & other pollutants, more toxic: ozone, acid deposition)
❖ Smell, visual, biological agents (invasive species), energy pollution (light, sound,
❖ Air, water, land, light (a lot of lighting caused by street lamps can have detrimental
effects on timing of biological activities, disrupts creatures navigation, can interfere w/
sleep cycles), noise, thermal (changes temperature in area: from water or air)

Impacts & management of pollution

❖ Community pressure
❖ Small changes count
❖ CFCs: people stopped buying aerosols w/ CFC, forcing companies to change
❖ Campaigns: raise awareness through adverts, media & protests
❖ Economic incentives, penalties: charging for bags

Legislate (make laws)

❖ Montreal Protocol: introduced by UNEP 1987, control use of ozone depleting
Remediate: clean up
❖ Great Pacific Garbage Patch: ecosystem must be restored after pollutant removed

❖ First synthesized in 1874
❖ Colourless, tasteless, odourless insecticide in 1939
❖ Effective in controlling malaria & typhus in WWII
❖ Once sprayed, absorbed by soil
❖ Not broken down, makes way through food chain, becomes more concentrated
❖ Eradicated malaria in US & Europe by 1950s
❖ Dropped infection rates in Indonesia from 25% to 1%
❖ Environmentalists argue DDT should be banned, humanitarians argue ban caused
death of millions
❖ Banned in 1972
❖ 2004: 170 countries ratified Stockholm Convention, restricted use of DDT in vector

2. Ecosystems and Ecology

2.1 Species & Populations
The Big Picture
❖ Ecology
➢ Comes from Greek
■ Means “house, study of”
➢ The study of interactions between organisms and the environment in which
they live
➢ Ecologists study organisms
■ How varied they are (diversity)
■ Where they are located (distribution)
■ What they are (species)
■ How many there are of them (population)
■ How they interact and adapt
❖ Ecosystem
➢ A community of interdependent organisms and the physical environment they
interact with
➢ made up of components:
■ Biotic (living)
■ Abiotic (non-living)
❖ The hierarchy of biological classification
➢ Kingdom - Animalia
■ Animals as opposed to plants
➢ Phylum - Chordata
■ All have a spinal cord
➢ Class - Mammalia
■ Mammals that have fur that suckle their young
➢ Order - Carnivora
■ Carnivores or meat eaters
➢ Family - Felidae
■ Common characteristics of genus unite family grouping
➢ Genus - Panthera
■ Species with the same common ancestor and similar characteristics
➢ Species - Pardus
■ Basic unit of biological classification
❖ Binomial name
➢ 2 part
■ 1st part is the genus
■ 2nd part is the name specific to the species
➢ E.g:
■ P. reticulatus
❖ Species
➢ Live together in populations
➢ Each have a habitat
■ Where they live
■ Limiting factors
● Things that control population size
■ Carrying capacity
● maximum number of species that it can support at a given time
■ E.g:
● P. reticulatus: rainforest, woodland and grasslands in tropical
➢ Each have a niche
■ What they do for a living
■ E.g:
● P. reticulatus: interacts with the other organisms in the habitat –
eating some and maybe being eaten by others.

Component Parts
❖ Ecosystem: community of interdependent organisms & physical environment they
interact with
➢ Made up of biotic (organisms) & abiotic components (physical environment)
❖ Biotic components: producers, consumers, decomposers

❖ Group of organisms w/ common characteristics that interbreed to produce offspring

❖ Group of individuals of same species living in same area at same time

Abiotic components
❖ Temperature, sunlight, water, pH, salinity

Where organisms live

❖ Habitat: environment in which species usually lives
❖ Has physical & biological resources organisms needs
➢ Place with food, water, shelter (for itself & offspring) & mates
➢ Includes soil, moisture, temperature & sunlight

❖ The role an organism plays & the position it hold in the environment
❖ Includes all the interactions the organism has w/ the abiotic & biotic environment
❖ Smallest unit of habitat
❖ How organism survives & reproduces
❖ Fundamental niche: all organisms have a tolerance range for abiotic factors in their
environment. Area an organism could live if there was no competition
❖ Realised niche: part of fundamental niche that the species occupies, defined by

Population dynamics & limiting factors

❖ Limiting factors: resources that limit the growth, abundance & distribution of
organisms/populations in an ecosystem
❖ Density dependent: affect population only when it reaches certain density
➢ Includes competition, disease, parasitism & predation (biotic)
➢ Disease spreads best when there are lots of organisms to infect
❖ Density independent: control populations no matter the density
➢ Include sunlight, temperature, water & natural disasters
➢ Organisms need certain temperature range, sunlight & water
❖ Carrying capacity: maximum # of individuals of a species that the environment can
sustainably support in given area
Population growth curves
❖ J-shaped growth curves: exponential population growth under ideal conditions w/
plenty of resources & limited competition
➢ Population grows until environmental resistance take effect

❖ S-shaped curve: more likely when resources are limited

➢ As population grows resources are depleted
❖ Combination: decrease in resources, shown in population growth decrease below
carrying capacity
➢ Population continues to fluctuate

❖ Organisms may interact w/ each other or w/ abiotic environment
❖ S- & J-shaped curves summarises consequences of interaction w/ abiotic
❖ Interactions between species: regulate population size & impact balance of food web
➢ Mutualism: benefits both individuals
➢ Predation: benefits 1

❖ Where 1 organism (predator) hunts & kills prey to provide it w/ energy for survival &
❖ Evolutionary: predator (sharp teeth, claws, speed, venom) / prey (speed, camouflage,
❖ Prey higher than predator due to laws of thermodynamics & loss of energy

❖ Plants evolve defense mechanisms: structural/mechanical/chemical
❖ Herbivores: develop coping mechanisms (neutralising toxins)

❖ When an organ (parasite) takes nutrients from host
❖ Ectoparasites: live outside host (tick & flea)
❖ Endoparasites: live inside host (tapeworms)

❖ Increase in one, increases population of other
❖ Bacteria in cows intestines, corals & algae

❖ Departure from normal state of functioning of living organism
❖ Result of environmental agents, infective agents, genetic defects

❖ For source in limited supply (water, food, territory, mates, habitat)
❖ Intraspecific competition: members of same species compete
❖ Interspecific competition: members of different species compete
➢ More impact on species survival & population dynamics (extinction)

2.2 Communities & Ecosystems

The big picture
❖ Biomes: collection of ecosystems
❖ Largest unit in organisational structure: biosphere / earth

❖ Species interact, resulting in energy & nutrient flow through systems

❖ Biosphere - closed system: energy (sunlight) enters, no matter comes in

Ecosystem basics - key players

❖ Ecosystem: community of interdependent organisms & physical environment they
interact w/
❖ Community: group of populations living & interacting w/ each other in common

❖ Convert inorganic compounds into food
❖ Known as autotrophs or self-feeders
❖ Primary: majority plants - take nutrients from soil & use solar energy to change light
energy into chemical energy

❖ Heterotrophs (other-feeders)
❖ Herbivores, carnivores, omnivores

Decomposers & detritivores

❖ Obtain energy & nutrients from dead plant, animal material & waste
❖ 1st stage of decomposition cycle
❖ Detritivores: millipedes, woodlice, worms & maggots
❖ Decomposers: absorb & metabolise waste & dead matter, release as inorganic
chemicals (bacteria & fungi)

Ecosystem basics
❖ Photosynthesis & respiration viewed as systems w/ inputs, processes & outputs

❖ Plants absorbs water, CO2 & light energy (using protein within chlorophyll within
chloroplasts) to make chemical energy (O2 & glucose)
❖ Process of photosynthesis reversed

❖ 2nd law of thermodynamics: respiration energy transformed from chemical to kinetic,

released into environment as heat

Trophic levels
❖ Position of organism in food chain

Energy in food chain

❖ 1st thermodynamics law: energy is neither created / destroyed
❖ 2nd thermodynamics law: as energy passes along food chain, entropy increased

Energy efficiency in food chain

❖ Only 10% of energy moves from 1 trophic level to the next

Ecological pyramids
❖ Show information of organisms at trophic level
❖ Primary at bottom: flow of energy up through pyramid
➢ Length of bar proportional to what it is showing: biomass/energy

Pyramid of numbers
❖ May not be pyramid shaped
❖ Ignores biomass of organism & amount of energy it has stored in that biomass
❖ Not always pyramid shaped
❖ Temperate woodland:

❖ Advantages
➢ Non-destructive method of data collection
➢ Good for comparing ecosystems over time
❖ Disadvantages
➢ All organisms included regardless of their size
➢ Numbers so big, hard to represent
➢ Does not allow for juvenile forms of species (look differently)

Pyramid of biomass
❖ Standing crop: mass at particular time
❖ Biomass: total amount of living matter in given area (g m–2)
❖ Not always pyramid shaped
❖ Measured as dry weight (eliminates variation in water) - destructive data collection
❖ Advantages
➢ Overcomes problems of counting
❖ Disadvantages
➢ Measuring of whole organisms - even parts that don’t contribute energy to
feeding processes
➢ Inaccuracy, seasonal variation

Pyramids of productivity/energy
❖ Rate of flow of biomass or energy over period of time
❖ Shows turnover of biomass at each trophic level
❖ Bars represent amount of energy generated & available as food for next trophic level
❖ Jm-2 yr-1
❖ Always pyramid shaped
❖ Advantages
➢ Most accurate, show actual energy & rate of production over time
➢ Ecosystems can be compared
➢ Solar input can be added
❖ Disadvantages
➢ Difficult to collect data
➢ Species difficult to assign to trophic levels
Impact of energy efficiencies
❖ 10% rule limits food chain length, increases concentration of toxins & makes predator
vulnerable to extinction
Length of food chains
❖ Terrestrial: 4-5
❖ Aquatic: 7
➢ Start w/ smaller organisms, less biomass taken from skeletal formation - less
waste & longer food chains
➢ Less light go through primary producers (absorbed or reflected by water)

Toxins in food chain

❖ May be natural or man made
❖ Heavy metals & organic pollutants cause problems (relatively new)
❖ Bioaccumulation: Increase in the concentration of a pollutant in an organism as it
absorbs or it ingests in from its environment
❖ Biomagnification: Increase is the concentration of the pollutant as it moves up
through the food chain
❖ Case study: DDT released into aquatic environment
➢ Persistent organic pollutant (PO)
➢ Stored in fat cells of animals (fat-soluble cannot be eliminated)
➢ Half-life of 500 years
➢ Results in bioaccumulation & biomagnification
➢ DDT sprayed to control malarial mosquitoes, ends up in nearby water bodies
Apex predators in trouble
❖ Effects of biomagnification grow worse up the food chain

2.3 Flows of Energy & Matter

The big picture
❖ Solar energy provides most energy entering plants
➢ Emits electromagnetic energy: 50% visible light, 40% infrared, rest ultraviolet
➢ Takes 8 minutes
❖ Geothermal energy, heat (thermal)
➢ Found in rocks & fluids in earth’s crust
➢ Radioactive decay keeps mantle in molten state providing heat to surface
❖ Core of sun: 15,000,000°C, 4.5 billion years (half lifetime)
❖ Equatorial areas receive more solar radiation than polar regions
❖ Solar radiation is reflected and scattered by atmosphere, by clouds, by earth or
absorbed by atmosphere & surface
❖ Reflectivity of surface: albedo
➢ Dark colours: low albedo
❖ Gross primary productivity: all biomass produced by primary producers in given time
(before any used for respiration)
❖ Net primary productivity: takes into account respiratory losses ®
➢ NPP= GPP - R
Variation in NPP
❖ Salinity, temperature, light
Secondary productivity
❖ Gross secondary productivity (GSP)
➢ Amount of energy or biomass assimilated
➢ GSP = food eaten - fecal loss
❖ Net secondary productivity (NSP)
➢ What is left at end of all processes
➢ R = respiratory losses
➢ NSP = GSP - R
Sustainable yield
❖ Amount of biomass that can be extracted w/o reducing natural capital of ecosystem
Matter cycles
❖ Hydrological cycle
❖ Carbon cycle
➢ Stored in: atmosphere, terrestrial plants & foods, soil & organic matter, coal,
oil & gas, sediments & sedimentary rocks, deep oceans
➢ Flows: respiration & photosynthesis
➢ Decay by decomposers & detritivores releases nutrients
➢ Combustion breaks long-chain hydrocarbons in fossil fuels
➢ Human interaction: reduce some stores, increase, speed up or add to
magnitude of flows
❖ Nitrogen cycle
➢ Stored in: atmosphere, soil organic matter, ocean, terrestrial plan biomass
➢ Transformed between forms of ammonium, nitrate & nitrogen gas
➢ Physical fixation by lighting
➢ Nitrogen will leave ecosystem by: special bacteria which removes nitrates
from soil, leaching & combustion
2.4 Biomes,Zonation & Succession
Biome location I
❖ Biomes: major association of vegetation that share similar climate characteristics
❖ Hadley cell
➢ On thermal equator
➢ Impact on climate change: rainfall
❖ Polar cell
➢ Mid latitude regions
➢ Cooling is extreme, balances incoming solar radiation
Biome location II
❖ Ocean currents & maritime effect
➢ Great ocean conveyor belt: moves heat
➢ Gulf Stream: warm current
➢ Humboldt Current: responsible for dry coastal climates
❖ Shape of land, mountains, altitude & aspect
❖ Direction in which slope face (shaded) - impact on vegetation
❖ Aquatic (Freshwater / marine), forest, grassland, desert, tundra
Biome distribution
❖ Abiotic factors: temperature, precipitation, insolation
Case study: Forest
❖ Biomes: boreal, temperate, tropical & subtropical
❖ Canopy, shrub, herb & ground layer
❖ Plant & animal adaptations
Case study: Grassland
❖ Tropical
➢ Australian savanna
➢ Climate: hot & wet / warm & dry seasons
➢ Productivity: grass vegetation
➢ Limiting factors: soils are poor, wildfires
➢ Nutrient cycle
➢ Plants: small & widely spread (low rainfall)
■ Adaptations: deep roots, seed pods burst, bright flowers, leaves
narrow to minimise moisture loss
➢ Animals: live near trees that provide them w/ water, food & shade
■ Adaptations: camouflaged, nocturnal
➢ Problems: overgrazing
Case study: Deserts
❖ Less than 250 mm of ppt in a year
❖ Dryness caused by: descending air, coastal rain shadows, continents, cold ocean
❖ Productivity: low
❖ Limiting factors: adaptation to survival
❖ Animals: varied
➢ Adaptations: nocturnal, get water from plants, long legs because of sand’s
❖ Plant adaptations: low profiles, store water in thick stems, long roots, lateral roots,
thick leaves, fur on cacti
❖ Problems: hunting
Survival strategies
❖ K- strategists / K-selected species
➢ Few offspring, invest parental care, long survival
❖ R-strategists / r-selected species
➢ Increased quantity ensures some survival, little or no parental care
➢ Reproductive strategies better adapted to pioneer & climax communities
❖ Type I survivorship curve
➢ K-selected species
❖ Type II survivorship curve
➢ Constant mortality rate
❖ Type III survivorship curve
➢ R-selected species

Succession & zonation

❖ Succession: change over time
➢ Changes in plant community cause changes in physical environments
➢ Vegetation transitions through intermediate communities to final
➢ Types: Hydrosere (in freshwater), Halosere (
❖ Zonation: spatial change in response to changing conditions
➢ Plant communities adapt to different environmental conditions
➢ Caused by changes in altitude, water depth, tidal level (abiotic factors)
❖ Succession
➢ Leads to variation in climax communities & their stable states
➢ Involves pioneer, intermediate & climax communities
➢ Patterns of energy flow
➢ Gross & net productivity, diversity & mineral cycling change over time
➢ In early stages of succession gross productivity is low
■ Unfavourable initial conditions & low density of producers
■ Proportion of energy lost through respiration is low, net productivity
➢ In later states, w/ increased consumer community, gross productivity may be
■ Balanced by respiration
■ Net productivity: approaches 0
■ Productivity: respiration (P:R) ratio approaches 1
➢ Human activity can divert progression of succession to alternative state
■ The use of fire, agriculture, grazing pressure, resource use
❖ Complex ecosystem
➢ Variety of nutrient & energy pathways contributes to stability
❖ Ecosystem’s capacity to survive
➢ May change & depend on its diversity & resilience

2.5 Investigating Ecosystems

❖ Organisms
➢ Can be identified using a variety of tools using keys, comparison to specimen
collections, technologies & scientific expertise
❖ Measuring biotic & abiotic factors
➢ Sampling strategies
➢ Measure change in space, environmental gradient over time through
succession, or before & after human impact
➢ measurement s repeated to increase data reliability
❖ Methods for estimating biomass & energy of trophic levels in community
➢ Measurement of dry mass, controlled combustion & extrapolation from
❖ Methods for estimating abundance of non-motile organisms
➢ Quadrats for measuring population, density, % cover, % frequency
❖ Methods for estimating abundance of motile organisms
➢ Direct: counts & sampling
➢ Indirect: Lincoln index (use of capture mark, recapture)
❖ Species richness
➢ No. of species in community
❖ Species diversity
➢ Function of no. of species
➢ Simpson diversity index
➢ Useful for comparing 2 similar habitats or the same habitat over time

3. Biodiversity & Conservation

Introduction to Biodiversity
❖ Biodiversity identification
➢ Through species, habitat & genetic diversity
❖ Encompasses total diversity of living systems, includes diversity of species, habitat &
❖ Species diversity
➢ Product of no. of species (richness) & their relative proportions (evenness)
➢ Low diversity: indicatie of general patterns of biodiversity
❖ Habitat diversity
➢ Range of different habitats in an ecosystem or biome
❖ Genetic diversity
➢ Range of genetic material present in population of species
❖ Quantification of biodiversity
➢ Important to conservation efforts
➢ Areas of high biodiversity may be identified, explored & have appropriate
❖ Changes to biodiversity
➢ Assesses human impact
Origins of Biodiversity
❖ Arises from evolutionary processes
➢ Gradual change in the genetic character of populations through natural
❖ Environmental change
➢ Challenges new species, drives evolution of diversity (only those suited
➢ Major mass extinction events in geological past
❖ Biological variation
➢ Beneficial, damaging or have no impact on survival
❖ Natural selection
➢ Within population of one species there is genetic diversity (variation)
➢ Due to natural variation, some individuals will be fitter than others
➢ These will have an advantage & reproduce more successfully than individuals
who are less fit
➢ Offspring of fitter individuals inherit the genes
❖ Speciation
➢ The formation of new species when populations of a species become isolated
& evolve differently from other populations
❖ Isolation of populations
➢ Caused by environmental changes
➢ Form barriers such as mountain formation, changes in rivers, sea level
change, climatic change or plate movements
➢ Physical barriers w/ evolutionary consequences: surface of the Earth is
divided into crustal, tectonic plates that have moved throughout geological
➢ Distribution of continents has caused variations in climate & food supply
➢ Mass extinctions caused by tectonic plate movements, super-volcanic
eruption, climatic changes (drought & ice ages) & meteorite impact
Threats to biodiversity
❖ Global biodiversity decreasing rapidly due to human activity
❖ Estimation of species
➢ Based on mathematical models, influenced by classification issues & lack of
finance for scientific research
■ Results in habitats & groups being under-recorded
❖ Current rates of species loss
➢ Far greater due to increased human influence
■ Habitat destruction, introduction of invasive species, pollution,
overharvesting & hunting
❖ The International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
➢ Published Red List of Threatened Species
➢ Factors used to determine conservation status: population size, degree of
specialization, distribution, reproductive potential & behaviour, geographic
range & degree of fragmentation, quality of habitat, trophic level & probability
of extinction.
❖ Tropical biomes
➢ Most globally diverse areas
➢ Unsuitable exploitation results in massive losses & ability to perform globally
important ecological services
➢ Mostly in LEDCs: conflict between exploitation, sustainable development &
Case study: extinct species
❖ Dodo
➢ Endemic on island of Mauritius in Indian Ocean
➢ Fed on fruits & seeds from its forest habitat
➢ Prior to human habitation the no. of Dodos were high due to lack of predators
➢ Dutch sailors settled on the island around 1640s
➢ Flightless bird & nested on the ground
■ Made it easy prey to new predators
➢ Factors contributing to extinction
■ Hunting of bird by humans for meat
■ introduction of animals to the island by humans (dogs, monkeys, pigs
& rats) which attacked the nests & ate eggs & chicks
■ Human exploitation of forest resources destroying forest habitat
➢ By start of 17th century, Dodo became rare
Case study: critically endangered species
❖ Sumatran Orangutan
➢ Most closely related species to humans
➢ Highly intelligent apes, w/ good memory & ability to use tools
➢ Arboreal, living within forest canopy
➢ Build nest in trees & eat fruits (figs)
➢ Loss of forests in Sumatra is of 50% in the past 25 yrs
➢ Typically live for 45 yrs
➢ Adult males live on their own, only meet up w/ females to mate
➢ Young orangutans spend their first 5 yrs living w/ their mother
➢ Females reproduce every 7-8 yrs, w/ up to 3 offspring
■ Slow rate of population growth
➢ Species loss driven by:
■ Logging leading to hábitat loss
■ Use of land for oil palm plantations & agricultura leading to hábitat loss
■ Mining leads to habitat loss
■ Fire to clear forest directly kills slow moving orangutans
■ Capture of babies to be illegally traded as pets (ownership considered
status symbol)
■ Hunting for meat
Case study: improved conservation status
❖ Humpback whale
➢ Status categorised by IUCN Red List has improved
■ From ‘vulnerable’ to ‘least concern’
➢ Inhibit all world’s oceans
➢ During winter, live & feed in polar waters
➢ Move in spring to warmer tropical waters at low latitudes, give birth to calves
➢ Feed on krill, fish & plankton
➢ Hunted since 18th century for meat, whalebone & oil
■ Level increased throughout 19th century
■ Intensified when improvements in technology led to use of explosive
harpoons, making whaling easier
➢ International Whaling Commission (1946)
■ Most whaling nations signed up
■ Set quotes & use of restricted whaling times
■ No. Continued to fall, prohibition of commercial whaling in 1966
➢ Greenpeace & Sea Shepherd
■ Continue to highlight illegal whaling activity, risking own lives by acting
as human shields from harpoons
➢ From ban: partial recovery
➢ Status reclassified in 2008
➢ Some countries granted temporary ban
■ Cultural heritage: Inuit people of Greenland
➢ Whale watching: generates income & raises awareness
➢ Threats today include
■ Degradation of marine hábitat
■ Chemical pollution (bioaccumulation & biomagnification of synthetic
compounds such as pesticides)
■ Noise pollution (boats) causes physical trauma, resulting in bleeding
around brain & other tissues
■ Entanglement in fishing nets
■ Lack of food (overexploitation of fish stocks)
■ Hunting by humans (illegal or legal)
■ Stikes from boats
■ Harassment from boats (tourists too close)
Conservation of Biodiversity
❖ Impact of losing biodiversity dries conservation efforts
❖ Variety of arguments for conservation depends on EVSs
➢ Aesthetic, ecological, economic, ethical & social justifications
❖ Involves international, governmental & NGOs
➢ Varying levels of effectiveness due to use of media, speed of response,
diplomatic constraints, financial resources & political influence
➢ Recent international conventions work to create collaboration between
❖ Various approaches to conservation of biodiversity, each w/ strengths & limitations
➢ Criteria for designing protected areas includes: size, shape, edge effects,
corridors & human influence proximity
➢ Location of conservation area is significant (surrounding land)
➢ Alternatively approaches to the development of protected areas are species-
based conservation strategies
■ CITES, captive breeding & reintroduction programmes, zoos, selection
of charismatic species to protect others (flagship species), selection of
keystone species (predators) to protect integrity of food web
➢ Community support, adequate funding & research influences success

4. Water & Aquatic Food Production Systems &

Introduction to Water Systems
❖ Hydrological cycle
➢ System of water flows & storages
➢ May be disrupted by human activities
➢ Driven by solar radiation
➢ Storages include organisms, soil & various water bodies (oceans,
groundwater / aquifers, lakes, rivers, atmosphere, glaciers & ice caps
➢ Flows include evapotranspiration, sublimation, evaporation, condensation,
advection (wind-blown movement), precipitation, melting, freezing, flooding,
surface runoff, infiltration, percolation & stream-flow or currents
❖ Ocean circulatory system (ocean conveyor belt)
➢ Influences climate & global distribution of water (matter & energy)
➢ Driven by differences in temperature & salinity
➢ Resulting difference in water density drives ocean conveyor belt
➢ Distributes heat around the world
❖ Impact on surface runoff & infiltration
➢ Human activities: agriculture, deforestation & urbanization
❖ Fresh water
➢ Makes up only (2.6%) of the Earth’s water storages
Access to Fresh Water
❖ Freshwater resources
➢ Can be sustainably managed using different approaches
❖ Climate change
➢ May disrupt rainfall patterns & further affect access
❖ Populations, irrigation & industrialization increases
➢ Demand for fresh water increases
❖ Freshwater supplies
➢ May become limited through contamination & unsustainable abstraction
❖ Water supplies
➢ Enhanced through reservoirs, redistribution, desalination, artificial recharge of
aquifers & rainwater harvesting schemes
❖ Water conservation
➢ Grey-water recycling: using relatively clean toilet / kitchen water
➢ Often requires change in attitudes by consumers
❖ Scarcity of water resources
➢ Can lead to conflict between human populations (particularly where sources
are shared)
Aquatic Food Production Systems
❖ Aquatic systems
➢ Provide a source of food production
➢ Unsustainable exploitation can be mitigated at a variety of levels
(international, national, local & individual) through policy, legislation &
changes in consumer behaviour
❖ Aquatic ecosystems
➢ Unsustainable use can lead to environmental degradation & collapse of wild
❖ Aquaculture
➢ Provide potential for increased food production
➢ Has grown to provide additional food resources & support economic
➢ Is expected to continue to rise
➢ Issues include: loss of habitats, pollution (w/ feed, antifouling agents,
antibiotics & other medicines added to fish pens), spread of diseases &
escaped species (genetically modified organisms)
❖ Aquatic food resources
➢ Continues to increase as human population grows & diet changes
➢ Photosynthesis by phytoplankton supports a highly diverse range of food web
❖ Aquatic (freshwater & marine)
➢ Flora & fauna harvested by humans
❖ Rates of productivity
➢ Highest rates found near coastlines or in shallow seas where upwellings &
nutrient enrichment of surface waters occurs
❖ Harvesting
➢ Some species such as seals / whales can be controversial
➢ Ethical issues arise over biorights, rights of indigenous cultures &
international conservation legislation
❖ Developments in fishing equipment & changes in fishing methods
➢ Have led to dwindling fish stocks & damage to habitats
Case study: Shrimp aquaculture in Thailand
❖ 1980s
➢ Shrimp grew dramatically in Thailand
➢ Land based farmers switched from production of rice to shrimp (greater
❖ Shrimp farming
➢ Contributes to food security & economy
➢ Over 1 million people employed in industry
➢ Key exporter to USA & Japan
➢ Coastal fields & adjacent mangrove forests were changed to accommodate
shrimp ponds
❖ Environmental impacts
➢ Loss of mangrove ecosystems which served to provide:
■ Breeding areas for many species
■ Habitats
■ Protection from coastal erosion, flooding & storm damage
■ Approximately ⅔ of mangrove forests have been destroyed
➢ High density farming can result in rapid transmission of diseases such as
early mortality syndrome (EMS) or Yellowhead disease
■ Shrimp ponds can accumulate waste products from uneaten food &
➢ Subsequent biodegradation of organic waste can lead to anoxic waters
■ Artificial aeration can be used to reduce risk of anoxic conditions
➢ High level of nutrients in water can result in toxic algal blooms or growth of
other harmful bacteria & viruses
➢ w/o adequate management, life span of shrimp pond is 2-4 yrs
Water pollution
❖ To groundwater & surface water
➢ Major global problem
➢ Effects influence human & other biological systems
❖ Aquatic pollutants
➢ Floating debris, organic material, inorganic plant materials (nitrates &
phosphates), toxic metals, synthetic compounds, suspended solids, hot
water, oil, radioactive pollution, pathogens, light, noise & biological pollutants
(invasive species)
❖ Testing quality of aquatic systems
➢ Range of parameters: pH, temperature, suspended solids (turbidity), metals,
nitrates & phosphates
❖ Biodegradation of organic material
➢ Utilizes oxygen
➢ Can lead to anoxic conditions & subsequent anaerobic decomposition
➢ Leads to formation of methane, hydrogen sulfide & ammonia (toxic gases)
❖ Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD)
➢ Measures amount of organic matter within a sample
❖ Biotic index
➢ Measures pollution by assaying impact on species within community
according to their tolerance, diversity & relative abundance
❖ Eutrophication
➢ When lakes, estuaries & coastal waters receive inputs of nutrients (nitrates &
phosphates), results in excess growth of plants & phytoplankton
❖ Dead zones
➢ Not enough oxygen to support marine life
❖ Pollution management strategies
➢ Reducing human activities that produce pollutants (alternatives to current
fertilizers & detergents)
➢ Reducing release of pollution into environment (treatment of waste water to
remove nitrates & phosphates)
➢ Removing pollutants from environment & restoring ecosystems (removal of
mud from eutrophic lakes & reintroduction of plant & fish species)

5. Soil Systems & Terrestrial Food Production Systems

& Societies
Introduction to Soil Systems
❖ Dynamic ecosystem
➢ w/ inputs, outputs, storages & flows
❖ Primary productivity
➢ Influenced by soil quality
➢ Ability of soil to promote primary productivity (structure & properties)
■ Sand, clay & loam differs, including mineral & nutrient content,
drainage, water-holding capacity, air spaces, biota & potential to hold
organic matter
❖ Soil profile
➢ Layered structure (horizons)
❖ Storages
➢ Include organic matter, organisms, nutrients, minerals, air & water
❖ Transfers of material within soil
➢ Include biological mixing & leaching (minerals dissolved in water moving
through soil)
➢ Contribute to organization of soil
❖ Organic material
➢ Inputs: includes leaf litter & inorganic matter from parent material,
precipitation & energy
➢ Outputs: uptake by plants & soil erosion
➢ Transformations: decomposition, weathering & nutrient cycling
❖ Soil texture triangle
➢ Illustrates the differences in composition of soils
Terrestrial Food Production Systems & Food Choices
❖ Sustainability of terrestrial food production systems
➢ Influenced by socio political, economic & ecological factors
➢ Influenced by factors such as scale, industrialization, mechanization, fossil
fuel use, seed, crop & livestock choices, water use, fertilizers, pest control,
pollinators, antibiotics, legislation & levels of commercial versus subsitence
food production
❖ Consumers
➢ Role to play through support of different terrestrial food production systems
❖ Supply of food
➢ Inequitably available (production & distribution)
➢ Land suitable for food in unevenly distributed among societies
■ Leads to conflict & concerns
❖ Food waste
➢ Prevalent in LEDCs & MEDCs for different reasons
❖ Choices of food production systems
➢ Societies influenced by socio-economic, cultural, ecological, political &
economic factors
❖ Human population & urbanization grows
➢ Degradation of soil resources
➢ Availability of land for food production per capita decreases
❖ Yield of food per unit area
➢ From lower trophic levels: greater in quantity, lower in cost & requires fewer
❖ Terrestrial food production systems
➢ Compared & contrasted according to inputs, outputs, system characteristics,
environmental impact & socio-economic factors
❖ Increased sustainability
➢ May be achieved through altering human activity:
■ To reduce meat consumption & increase consumption of organically
grown & locally produced terrestrial food products
■ Improve accuracy of food labels to assist consumers in making
informed food choices
■ Monitoring & controlling standard & practices of multinational &
national food corporations by governmental & intergovernmental
■ Planting of buffer zones around land suitable for food production to
absorb nutrient runoff
Soil Degradation & Conservation
❖ Fertile soils
➢ Require significant time to develop through succession
➢ Reduced by human activities & increase soil erosion
■ Deforestation, intensive grazing, urbanization & certain agricultural
practices (irrigation & monoculture)
➢ Commercial, industrialized food production systems reduce soil fertility more
than small-scale subsistence farming methods
➢ Reduced fertility results in erosion, toxification, salination & desertification
❖ Soil conservation strategies
➢ Used to preserve soil fertility & reduce soil erosion
➢ Include soil conditioners (organic materials & lime), wind reduction techniques
(windbreaks, shelterbelts), cultivation techniques (terracing, contour
ploughing, strip cultivation) & avoiding use of marginal lands
❖ Soil ecosystems
➢ Change through succession
❖ Fertile soil
➢ Contains community of organisms that work to maintain functioning nutrient
cycles resistant to soil erosion
Case study: Quesungual farming system
❖ Adopts various soil conservation measures
➢ Used by subsistence farmers in Honduras
❖ Shifting agriculture
➢ Employs ‘slash & burn’
➢ Only sustainable when population density is low & forest has time to recover
➢ w/ a growing population shifting agriculture causes environmental damage &
is unsustainable
❖ Soil erosion
➢ Risk increases as they are located in hilly terrain
❖ Agroforestry scheme
➢ Suitable for cultivation on hilly terrain
➢ Used to replace shifting agricultura
➢ Clearing área by hand & maintaining some trees & shrubs
❖ Polyculture
➢ Range of crops planted
■ Maize, sorghum & bean
❖ Conservation tillage
➢ Involving no-till was practiced
➢ Allowing plant residues to cover soil surface
➢ Trees & shrubs regularly pruned to ensure light reaches crops
➢ Wood could be used as firewood, timber or for mulching
➢ Tree roots help anchor soil & limit soil erosion
❖ Adoption of system has led to
➢ Increased organic content in soil
➢ Improved soil structure, higher soil moisture retention
➢ Increase infiltration of rainfall
➢ Increase in soil nutrient levels
➢ Reduction in soil erosion
➢ Increase in food production & improved nutrition
➢ Increased CO2 absorption (sequestration)
➢ More sustainable agriculture
➢ Increase in food security
Case study: Large commercial farming systems in South Australia
❖ Topsoil
➢ Relatively shallow + low fertility
❖ Location
➢ Driest state in Australia
➢ Arid & semi-arid climate
❖ Practices
➢ Ploughing & leaving fields fallow together w/ drought has led to soil erosion
➢ Overgrazing has led to wind erosion & sand drifts
❖ Combating erosion (by gov)
➢ Use no till farming
➢ Use of crop rotation
➢ Use of cover crops
➢ Use of wind breaks & shelter belts
➢ Improvements to irrigation methods to reduce high levels of soil salinisation
➢ Soil monitoring programmes: demonstrate farmers adopted more suitable
farming practices & significant improvements in soil conditions

6. Atmospheric Systems & Societies

Introduction to the Atmosphere
❖ A dynamic system
➢ Essential to life on Earth
➢ With inputs, outputs, flows & storages
➢ Has undergone changes throughout geological time
❖ Behaviour, structure & composition of the atmosphere
➢ Influence variations in all ecosystems
❖ Mixture of nitrogen & oxygen
➢ W/ smaller amounts of CO2, argon, water vapour, & other trace gases
❖ Human activities
➢ Impact atmospheric composition
➢ Alter inputs & outputs
➢ Changes in atmospheric gases (ozone, CO2 & water vapour) have significant
effects on ecosystems
❖ Reactions connected to living systems
➢ Occur in the inner layers of the atmosphere, which are the troposphere (1-10
km above sea level) & the stratosphere (10-50 km above sea level)
❖ Troposphere
➢ Formation of most clouds
➢ Play important role in albedo effect (how much of the Sun’s energy is
reflected back into space)
❖ Greenhouse effect
➢ Natural & necessary phenomenon for maintaining suitable temperatures for
living systems
Stratospheric Ozone
❖ Key component of atmospheric system
➢ Protects living systems from negative effects of ultraviolet radiation from the
❖ Human activities
➢ Disturbed the dynamic equilibrium of stratospheric ozone formation
❖ Pollution management strategies
➢ Employed to conserve stratospheric ozone
❖ Ultraviolet radiation from sun
➢ Some absorbed by stratospheric ozone
■ Causing ozone molecule to break apart
■ Under normal conditions the ozone molecule will reform
➢ Reaching surface of earth damages human living tissues, increasing
incidence of cataracts, mutation during cell division, skin cancer & other
subsequent effects on health
➢ Increased radiation on biological productivity include damage to
photosynthetic organisms, especially phytoplankton (which form basis of
aquatic food webs)
❖ Ozone depleting substances (including halogenated organic gases such as CFCs)
➢ Are used in aerosols, gas-blown, plastics, pesticides, flame retardants &
➢ Halogen atoms (such as chlorine) from these pollutants increase destruction
of ozone in a repetitive cycle, allowing more ultraviolet radiation to reach the
➢ Illegal market for substances persists & requires monitoring
➢ Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987) &
subsequent updates is an international agreement for the reduction of use of
ozone-depleting substances signed under the direction of UNEP.
■ National govs complying w/ agreement made national laws &
regulations to decrease the consumption & production of halogenated
organic gases such as CFCs
❖ Pollution management
➢ Reducing manufacture & release of ozone-depleting substances
■ Recycling refrigerants & developing alternatives to gas-blown plastics,
halogenated pesticides, propellants & aerosols developing non-
propellant alternatives
➢ UNEP provides information & creates / evaluates international agreements for
protection of stratospheric ozone
Photochemical smog
❖ Combustion of fossil fuels
➢ Produces primary pollutants that may generate secondary pollutants & lead to
photochemical smog
■ Levels can vary by topography, population density & climate
➢ Primary pollutants: carbon monoxide, CO2, black carbon or soot, unburned
hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen, & oxides of sulfur
➢ In the presence of sunlight, secondary pollutants are formed when primary
pollutants undergo variety of reactions w/ other chemicals in the atmosphere
■ E.g: tropospheric ozone (formed when oxygen molecules reat w/
oxygen atoms that are released from nitrogen dioxide in sunlight)
■ Highly reactive & damages plants (crops & forests), irritates eyes,
creates respiratory illnesses & damages fabrics & rubber materials
❖ Smog
➢ Complex mixture of primary & secondary pollutants, of which tropospheric
ozone is the main pollutant
➢ Frequency & severity of smog in an area depends on local topography,
climate, population density & fossil fuel use
➢ Deforestation & burning may also contribute to smog
❖ Impacts
➢ Significant on societies & living systems
➢ Reduced by decreasing human reliance on fossil fuels
❖ Thermal inversions
➢ Occur due to lack of air movement when a layer of dense, cool air is trapped
beneath a layer of less dense, warm air.
■ Cause concentration of air pollutants to build up near the ground
instead of being dissipated by normal air movements
❖ Economic losses
➢ Urban air polon can be significant
❖ Pollution management
➢ Altering human activity to consume less fossil fuels: purchase of energy-
efficient technologies, the use of public or shared transit, & walking or cycling
➢ Regulating and reducing pollutants at the point of emission through
government regulation or taxation
➢ Using catalytic converters to clean the exhaust of primary producers from car
➢ Regulating fuel quality by govs
➢ Adopting clean-up measures such as reforestation, regreening &
conservation of areas to sequester CO2
Acid Deposition
❖ Acid deposition
➢ Can impact living systems & built environment
➢ Pollution management involves cross-border issues
❖ Combustion of fossil fuels
➢ Produces sulfur dioxide & oxides of nitrogen as primary pollutants
➢ These gases may be converted into secondary pollutants of dry deposition
(ash & dry particles) or wet deposition (rain & snow)
➢ Possible effects of acid deposition on soil, water & living organisms include:
direct effect (acid on aquatic organisms & coniferous forests), indirect toxic
effect (increased solubility of metal (aluminium ions) on fish & indirect nutrient
effect (leaching of plant nutrients)
❖ Impacts
➢ Limited to areas downwind of major industrial regions but these areas may
not be in same country as the source of emissions
❖ Pollution management strategies
➢ Altering human activity: reducing use, or using alternatives to fossil
fuels,international agreements & national governments may work to reduce
pollutant production through lobbying & regulating & monitoring release of
■ Through use of scrubbers or catalytic converters that may remove
sulfur dioxide & oxides of nitrogen from coal-burning power plants &
➢ Clean-up & restoration measures may include spreading ground limestone in
acidified lakes or recolonization of damaged systems
■ Scope of this measure is limited

7. Climate Change & Energy Production

Energy Choices & Security
❖ Range of different energy sources available to societies
➢ Vary in sustainability, availability, cost & sociopolitical implications
➢ Choice of energy sources is controversial & complex
➢ Energy security is important factor in making energy choices
➢ Influenced by availability, sustainability, scientific & technological
developments, cultural attitudes, & political, economic & environmental
➢ Can affect energy security & independence
❖ Fossil fuels
➢ Contribute to majority of humankind’s energy supply
➢ Vary in impacts of production & emissions
➢ Use is expected to increase to meet global energy demand
❖ Renewable energy
➢ Sources of energy w/ lower CO2 emissions than fossil fuels
➢ Solar, biomass, hydropower, wind, wave, tidal & geothermal
➢ Use expected to increase
❖ Non-renewable
➢ Nuclear power
■ Low-carbon low-emission
■ Controversial due to the radioactive waste it produces & potential
scale of any accident
❖ Energy security
➢ Depends on adequate, reliable & affordable supply of energy
➢ Provides degree of independence
➢ Inequitable availability & uneven distributions of energy sources may lead to
➢ Improvements w/ energy conservation can limit growth in energy demand &
contribute to energy security
Climate Changes – Causes & Impacts
❖ Normal feature of Earth’s history
➢ Human activity has contributed to recent changes
❖ Impacts
➢ Widespread & significant on a global scale
➢ An increase in the mean global temperature
➢ Increased frequency & intensity of extreme weather events
➢ The potential for long-term changes in climate & weather patterns
➢ Rise in sea level
➢ Potential impacts vary based on locations
➢ May be perceived as adverse (prevent progress) of beneficial
➢ Changes in water availability, distribution of biomes & crop growing areas,
loss of biodiversity & ecosystem services, coastal inundation, ocean
acidification & damage to human health
❖ Climate
➢ Describes how atmosphere behaves over long periods of time
➢ Affected by oceanic & atmospheric circulatory systems
❖ Weather
➢ Describes conditions in atmosphere over short period of time
➢ Affected by oceanic & atmospheric circulatory systems
❖ Human activities
➢ Are increasing levels of greenhouse gases (CO2, methane & water vapour)
in the atmosphere
❖ Feedback
➢ Negative & positive mechanisms are associated w/ climate change & may
involve long time lags (fall behind)
❖ Global climate models
➢ Complex
➢ Degree of uncertainty regarding accuracy of predictions
Climate Change - Mitigation & Adaptation
❖ Mitigation
➢ Attempts to reduce causes of climate change
➢ Involves reduction / stabilization of GHG emissions & removal from
➢ Strategies to reduce GHGs include:
■ Reduction of energy consumption
■ Reduction of emissions of oxides of nitrogen & methane from
■ Use alternatives to fossil fuels
■ Geo-engineering
■ Even if these drastically reduce future emissions, past emissions will
continue to have an effect for decades to come
➢ Strategies for CO2 removal (CDR techniques)
■ Protecting & enhancing carbon sinks through land management (UN
collaborative programme on reducing emissions from deforestation &
forest degradation in developing countries UN-REDD)
■ Using biomass as a fuel source
■ Using carbon capture & storage (CSS)
■ Enhancing CO2 absorption by oceans through either fertilizing oceans
w/ compounds of nitrogen, phosphorus & iron to encourage the
biological pump, or increasing upwellings to release nutrients to the
❖ Adaptation
➢ Attempts to manage the impacts of climate change
➢ Strategies can be used to reduce adverse affects & maximize any positive
■ E.g: flood defences, vaccination programmes, desalinization (remove
salts from water / soil) plants & planting of crops in previously
unsuitable climates
➢ Adaptive capacity varies from place to place & can be dependent on financial
& technological resources
➢ MEDCs can provide economic & technological support to LEDCs
❖ International efforts & conferences
➢ Address mitigation & adaptation strategies for climate change
■ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
■ National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA)
■ United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

8. Human Systems & Resource Use

Human population dynamics
❖ Demography is the study of populations of any organisms
➢ e.g. age, race, level of education and economic status
❖ crude birth rate (CBR)
➢ CBR = number of births/total population × 1000
➢ births/1000/year – that is how many babies are born each year for every
thousand people in the population
➢ mean global CBR
■ between 18.7/1000/year and 19.15/1000/year
➢ lowest mean rates are in the most developed areas
➢ highest mean rates are in Africa
❖ total fertility rate (TFR)
➢ number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime
➢ A TFR of 2.2 means that the population will remain stable
■ Less means that the population will decline
■ More means it will increase
➢ highest in the least developed area
■ African countries
● Rates of over six children per women
■ Large proportion of the European countries and some Asian countries
● TFR’s below 2.2
■ CIA world factbook
● lowest TFR in 2014 was Singapore with a rate of 0.8
❖ mortality as measured by crude death rate (CDR)
❖ Fertility and mortality control:
➢ the natural increase rate (NIR)
➢ the doubling time (DT)
❖ The figures are approximations based on two major sources of data
➢ the United Nations (Population Prospectus)
➢ US Census Bureau
❖ 1800s
➢ population was steady
➢ largely due to a balance between fertility and mortality.
➢ below 1 billion
❖ least developed regions
➢ especially those in Africa
➢ very high growth rates
❖ most developed areas
➢ such as Europe
➢ declining populations
❖ population growth
➢ High birth rates do not cause population growth if they are cancelled out by high
death rates
➢ population explosion started when we reduced death rates
❖ death rates
➢ Reduction
■ Better sanitation
■ Vaccinations
■ Clean water
■ Better diets
❖ birth rate
➢ much harder to reduce
■ Birth control
■ Age of marriage
■ Size of families
● Culture
● Religion
● societal expectations

What factors affect birth rates and fertility rates?

❖ Role of children in the labour force or education
➢ In LEDC’s
■ Children are an economic asset
■ rural areas
■ rarely receive an education
■ work on the farms
■ enhance family income
■ causes high fertility rates
➢ In MEDC’s
■ economic burden
■ stay in the education system until they are at least 16
● more often 18
■ even if the country has free education
● raising the children
◆ still a high economic cost to parents
❖ Rates of urban living
➢ living in towns and cities
➢ Urban areas tend to have lower fertility rates
■ Space is more limited
■ Access to healthcare and family planning services is better
■ Access to education is better so more children go to school and stay out
of the labour force
❖ Women’s status
➢ low status
■ do not make their own choices
● Childbearing
● Working
● Education
➢ poorer countries
■ girls do not have access to education
● poorer chances of employment
● lack the knowledge necessary to control their own fertility
● seen as child bearers and homemakers
➢ Women with a secondary school education typically have two less children than
those with no education
■ increases overall fertility rates
➢ Educated women
■ more likely to control their own fertility
■ Seek paid employment outside of the home
➢ Once employed
■ delay marriage
■ Delay motherhood
■ Less time to have children
● fertility rate is lower
❖ Lifestyle choices and cultural norms
➢ developed countries
■ changed from getting married young (late teens to early 20’s) and having
three or four children to later marriages and smaller families
➢ more focused on material things
■ good holidays
■ Cars
■ mobile phones
● harder to afford with several children
◆ families are getting smaller
➢ better to have fewer children
■ Focus your resources on giving them the best of everything
❖ Infant mortality rate (IMR) and pensions
■ number of babies that die in their first year of life/1000 live births/year
● European countries
◆ IMR is around 3
● African countries
◆ IMR above 70
➢ LEDC’s
■ no pensions
● parents need to have plenty of children
◆ at least one of them will look after them in their old age
■ IMR is high
● people have many children
● ensure that some of them survive
❖ Family planning and abortions
➢ availability will impact fertility
■ family planning
■ Contraception
■ legal abortions
● If easily available women can make the choice as to how many
children they have
◆ brings down fertility rates
❖ Religious beliefs and traditions
➢ Religions
■ do not allow the use of
● artificial contraception
● Abortion
◆ children are a gift from god
➢ LEDC’s
■ Having many children
● seen as a sign of the man's virility
◆ men control fertility
➢ Results in large families
➢ naturally increases the fertility rate
❖ Government policy
➢ Natalist
■ belief that promotes human reproduction
■ promotes childbearing and parenthood
● desirable for social reasons
● to ensure national continuance
■ largely unsuccessful
■ limited impact on the fertility rates
➢ Anti-natalist
■ assigns a negative value to birth
■ encourage smaller families
■ Encourage use of family planning
■ Encourage contraception
■ often highly successful
■ bring the fertility rates down
■ E.g: China’s one child policy

❖ crude death rate (CDR)
➢ the number of deaths/1000/year – that is how many people die each year for
every thousand people in the population
➢ mean global CDR
■ approximately 7.89/1000/year
➢ most developed countries
■ do not have the lowest death rates
➢ Least developed countries
■ highest rates
■ E.g: Africa

What factors affect death rates?

❖ Major factors
➢ Race
➢ socioeconomic status
➢ Occupation
➢ Gender
➢ Ethnicity
❖ Income
➢ High-income families have access to
■ good food
■ Healthcare
■ Education
■ good shelter
■ Electricity
■ Water
➢ improve your chances of survival and lower death rates
➢ There comes a point where more money does not lower the death rates
❖ Literacy/ education
➢ especially important among women
■ educated mother
● understands how to look after the children
◆ lowering child mortality
➢ better access to jobs
➢ understanding of healthy lifestyle choices
➢ healthy diet
➢ the more children
■ the more resources you must provide for them
➢ Educated parents
■ positive influence on education
❖ Access to food
➢ vital for good health
➢ from major food groups
➢ Amount of calories required depend on:
■ Age
■ Weight
■ Gender
■ Lifestyle
➢ On average a healthy diet should include:
■ 2,000-2,500 calories
■ 70g of protein
➢ MEDC’s
■ Excess average calorie intake of 3,340 calories
● Causes obesity
■ Fast food consumption
● Increases fat intake
● Increases sugar intake
◆ Increases risk of cardiovascular disease
◆ Increases risk of diabetes
■ Poor diet due to:
● Higher income
● Easy availability of food
■ Results in higher death rates
● Conditions and diseases linked to obesity
◆ E.g: heart disease
➢ LEDC’s
■ Calorie intake below 2,200
■ Protein intake below 60g
■ Diets lack
● Basic vitamins
● Basic minerals
● Sugar
● Fat
■ Causes nutrient deficiency diseases
● Rise in death rates
■ Problem caused by:
● Poor agricultural techniques
◆ Impact quality
◆ Impact quantity
● Insect infestation
◆ Attack crops in field & storage
● Poor distribution systems
❖ Availability of health care
➢ MEDC’s
■ Public health care
● Prevent diseases
● Treat diseases
● Promote healthy living
● Immunization programmes
● Neighbourhood doctors
● Lowers CDR
➢ LEDC’s
■ Lack of access to basic health care facilities
■ Lack of access to immunization programmes
● Elevated mortality rate
❖ Water supply and sanitation
➢ Water borne killers
➢ Problems caused by poor water accessibility
■ Every 90 seconds a child dies from a water borne disease
■ 1.5 billion die each year
➢ These problems are exacerbated by poor sanitation
➢ Improved water source
■ Urban areas have better access to improved water sources than rural
● In 1990
◆ Over 90% in urban areas had access to improved water
◆ Approximately 60% in rural areas had access to improved
water sources
◆ limited improvement in access to improved water sources
between 1990 and 2004
◆ Approximately a 5% increase in access to improved water
sources in rural areas between 1990 and 2004
➢ Improved sanitation
■ Urban areas have more access to improved sanitation than rural areas
■ MEDC’s have more access to improved sanitation than LEDC’s
■ Limited improvement in sanitation in MEDC’s between 1990 and 2004
■ Rural areas
● In 1990 had very poor sanitation
● Only 20% had improved sanitation
● By 2004 this number had nearly doubled
❖ Access to shelter
➢ Lack of protection from the elements
■ Increase mortality rates
■ Exposed to
● Rain
● Cold
● Heat
● Organisms that spread diseases
◆ Rats
◆ Mosquitos
❖ Other considerations
➢ MEDC’s
■ Lifestyle choices
● Push death rates up
● Sedentary life
● Poor diet
■ More prone to degenerative diseases that come with old age
● E.g: cancer
■ Aging population
● High life expectancy
● Higher death rates
➢ LEDC’s
■ More prone to infectious diseases caused by other organisms
● E.g: malaria
Natural increase rate (NIR) and doubling time (DT)
❖ NIR = (CBR – CDR)/10
➢ Fertility and mortality
■ determine population size
➢ LEDC’s
■ Fertility is greater than mortality
● Positive NIR
➢ If mortality is greater than fertility
■ Negative NIR
■ Decrease in population
❖ DT
➢ NIR is used
➢ how long it takes for a given population to double in size
➢ DT = 70/NIR
Population growth
❖ Early humans
➢ Hunter-gatherers
➢ Population densities were low
➢ Growth rates were low
❖ Nomadic societies
➢ Small
■ Constantly move to feed themselves
❖ Agriculture
➢ Population increased
■ Into
● Asia
● Europe
■ From
● America’s
◆ Introduction of new crops
➢ Maize
➢ Cassava
❖ Modern era (1800’s)
➢ Population numbers fluctuated
■ Plagues
■ War
■ Famine
■ Invasions
❖ Agricultural and industrial revolutions
➢ Improvements in health care
➢ Introduction of vaccinations
➢ Better sanitation
■ Death rates fell
❖ LEDC’s
➢ 20th century
■ Economic development
■ Improved public health care
● Rapid population increase
● Reduced mortality
❖ The future
➢ Growth rates are now on the decline
■ Changes in death rates
➢ Birth rates are expected to stay fairly constant
➢ Death rates are expected to rise
➢ From the UN assumptions there are 3 possible scenarios
■ The high variant
● Worst-case scenario
● If death rates fall but birth rates do not
■ The medium variant
● Most likely scenario
● Projects current trends into the future using mathematical
■ The low variant
● Best-case scenario
● May be realistic
● UN is expecting death rates to increase
Malthusian and non-Malthusian theories
❖ Thomas Malthus (1798)
➢ Predicted fate of humanity
➢ Influence by Darwin
➢ Argued that
■ population growth is exponential
■ Whereas the increase in food production is arithmetic
■ This leads to disaster
■ Human population exceeds carrying capacity
■ Population group outstrips food production
➢ Solution
■ Famine
■ War
● Pessimistic and inaccurate view of life
❖ Paul Ehrlich (1968)
➢ The population bomb
■ Predicted global famine
❖ D.H Meadows, DL. Meadows, J. Randers, and WW. Behrens II (1972)
➢ book The Limits to Growth
➢ ran computer simulations
■ how how exponential growth of humans will cause problems
● Finite resources
◆ Fossil fuels
● Levels of pollution
● Food production

(Limits to growth)
❖ Anti-Malthusian theories
➢ Ester Boserup
■ Economist
■ Argued that advances in agriculture had increased food production faster
than imagined
● Green revolution (Stockholm convention)
■ Globally there is enough food to feed everyone with some surplus
■ famine is still a problem locally due to poor distribution networks
➢ Plenty of evidence support this view
■ number of agricultural revolutions
● Which increase our food production
■ Medical advances
● improve life expectancy
● Improve life quality
● introduction of reliable contraception
◆ reducing population growth
■ Technological advances
● solutions to our power requirements
◆ Renewable energy
■ Industrial advances
● Allow industries to keep in pace with demand

Overpopulation and the environment

❖ Grain prices are increasing as biofuel production
❖ Oil prices are increasing
➢ Fracking
■ causes damage to the ecosystems
❖ Effects of climate change are being felt
❖ residential and industrial developments.
➢ Agricultural land is being lost
❖ Food riots
➢ E.g. 2007, West Bengal, India
❖ UN Food and Agricultural Organisation
➢ world will need 70% more food by 2050
➢ number of undernourished people is increasing annually
❖ Melting glaciers
➢ compromises water supplies
➢ glacier on Kilimanjaro
■ disappearing at an alarming rate
■ currently supplies water to the region
❖ Air quality
➢ Compromised
❖ Increased levels of pollution
➢ Threaten terrestrial ecosystems
➢ Threaten aquatic ecosystems
❖ Fuelwood usage increasing
➢ Deforestation
➢ Desertification
❖ depletion of stratospheric ozone
➢ Threatening ecosystems
❖ Deforestation destroys ecosystems
➢ urban expansion
➢ Agriculture
➢ mining
❖ Over exploitation of oceans
➢ depleting fish stocks
❖ Topsoil depleted
➢ Over-cropping
➢ Compromise to produce food
Predicting population change
❖ UN World Population Prospectus
❖ Computer simulations
❖ population pyramids
➢ age-sex pyramids
➢ age-gender pyramids
➢ graphical illustration
➢ show the age and gender distribution of a population
■ horizontal bars on either side of the y-axis
● bar represents five-year age groups
● bars on left side represent the number of males in each age group
● Bard on right side represent the number of females in each age
■ x-axis shows the population in millions/thousands or as a percentage
➢ Ecology
■ indication of reproductive potential
■ likely continuation
of the species

● concave sides
● large drop between 0-5 and
6-10 year age groups
● child mortality
● high mortality rates
● stable population
● high birth rates balanced by
high death rates
● straighter sides
● low mortality
● expanding rapidly

● narrower at base
● falling birth rate
● steady decrease in fertility
between 1980 to 2000
● Bars: progressively smaller-less
children born
● large number of adults in
reproductive age (15–34 y/o)
○ growing population
● taller and wider at the top
○ higher life expectancy
○ lower death rates
❖ Demographic transition model (DTM)
➢ based on observation (empirical) of demographic changes
■ over previous 200 years
■ Developed in 1920’s
➢ 5 stages
■ Characterized by
● crude birth rates (CBR)
● crude death rates (CDR)
● natural increase rates (NIR)
➢ Stage 1: Pre industrial society
■ High CBR and CDR
● Cancel each other out
■ Very low to 0 NIR
■ high death rates
● Caused by natural events
◆ Famine
◆ Disease
■ High birth rates
● lack of awareness
● children contribute to family income
◆ helped with chores
➢ Stage 2: Urbanizing/ Industrializing
■ High CBR
■ death rates drop quickly
● Improved food production
◆ Mechanization
◆ Green revolution
● food storage improvements
● understanding of mechanisms of the spread of disease
◆ link between disease, water supply and poor sanitation
● discovery of penicillin and vaccination
◆ treat infection
◆ prevent disease
● access to basic health care and education
■ significant increase in the NIR
● rapidly expanding population
➢ Stage 3: Industrial
■ death rates continue to fall
■ birth rates start declining
● Availability of contraceptives
● understanding of family planning
● improvement in status and education of women
● ban on child labour
● investment in children’s education
● financial burden
■ highest NIR
■ large gap between CBR and CDR
➢ Stage 4: Post industrial
■ birth rates low
■ death rates low
■ NIR low
● However, population is large having gone through period of high
➢ Stage 5: Post industrial
■ Death rates exceed birth rates
● due to increase in lifestyle diseases
◆ e.g. low exercise and high levels of obesity causing
cardiovascular diseases
■ aging population ensues
● high BR in stages 1 and 2 are now into old age
■ few workers to support growing aged population
● falling birth rates of stage three
➢ Criticisms of DTM
■ MEDC’s
● At the end of the model
● Being observed to develop model further
■ LEDC’s
● May not follow the same pattern
◆ MEDC based
◆ relationship between economic development and
population growth is not the same in LEDCs
◆ going through the stages much faster due to medical
advances (contraception & education)
◆ Does not take into account natural disasters or epidemics
(AIDS & wars)
◆ Does not take into account government policies to
manage population
◆ Does not take into account migration
◆ Cultural and religious factors influence high BR so they
are stuck in stage 2

Development policies
❖ Influence fertility and mortality
❖ Impacts directly or indirectly human population dynamics

Indirect impacts on human population change

❖ Millennium Development Goals (MDG)
➢ Established by the UN in 2000
➢ 8 international development goals
➢ 189 UN member states + 23 international organisations
➢ MDG 2: “Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike will
be able to complete a full course of primary schooling”
➢ free compulsory primary education introduced by government
■ BR will decline

■ Children cease to be an economic asset

➢ MDG 3: "Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education,

preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015"
❖ If marriage age is raised
➢ birth rates fall
❖ Introduction of state pensions
➢ Reduces fertility
➢ No need for children as insurance policy for old age
➢ government policies
■ introduces health care
■ Introduces water supply
■ Introduces sanitation networks
● reduce mortality
Direct policies
❖ Pronatalist
➢ increase fertility
➢ Tend to be less effective
■ Difficult to persuade women that having lot’s of babies is a good idea
■ Hard to convince people to change their lifestyle
➢ Tax and welfare incentives
■ Tax break to families with more children
■ Education and healthcare free for all children
■ Free housing or upgrade existing housing for larger families (Sweden)
■ Give parents a child allowance
■ Increase maternity and paternity leave
● Costly to the business
◆ Employ temporary workers
◆ Pay salary of those who leave
■ Provide free public transport (France)
➢ Rarely effective in the long run
➢ Very expensive policies for governments
■ Chance of averting problems of an aging population
● Would be more expensive
➢ Romania managed to increase its fertility rate for a few years
■ government made contraception illegal
■ Banned the import of all forms of artificial contraception
■ Banned abortion
● Lead to the use of illegal clinics
◆ Unsafe
◆ Unsanitary
■ Took a lot of policing
■ As soon as the strict controls were lost
● BR dropped quickly
❖ Anti-natalist
➢ decrease fertility rates
➢ Tax/welfare disincentives
■ commonly associated with China’s One Child Policy
■ Taxes increase for families with more than a set number of children
■ Charge for education and health care for extra children
■ Remove child-care facilities for families with too many children
➢ Effective at reducing BR
■ Makes the cost of having children too great
➢ Beneficial for the government
■ Reduces state costs
● Of providing schooling
● Of providing health care for children
■ This means more money can be invested in other areas of development
➢ Negative impacts
■ Problems of an aging population
■ Selective abortions
■ Abandonment of babies
● “Need” for male children
● Continue family name
● Inherit family wealth
● Work on the farm
■ Results in spoilt children
➢ Raise awareness
■ Use of less direct methods to reduce fertility & slow population growth
● Educate population
◆ impacts of high birth rates
◆ benefits of small families
● Campaigns and education programmes
◆ family planning
◆ use of contraception
➢ against cultural or religious beliefs
● family planning services
◆ free contraceptives
◆ Abortions
◆ Sterilization
● slower to take effect than strict financial disincentives
● Eg: In India or Thailand
➢ Emancipation of women
■ changing women’s status
● rapidly reduces fertility rates
● able to control their own fertility
● Education leads into workplace, marriage and childbirth
◆ Delayed
● Benefiting from to wages of a couple
◆ Hard to give up the luxuries it brings
■ Most effective
■ More people in the work force
● Useful as population ages
■ Problems in male- dominated societies
● Males don’t want to lose control
➢ All anti-natalist policies will eventually cost the government money
■ An effective policy that reduces BR
● In 15-20 years there will be a reduction in working age groups
■ Previous higher birth rates + effective health care
● reduces death rates
● Results in aging population
➢ Issues with traditional cultural and religious values
■ LEDC’s
● Norm of big families
● Male children are sign of virility
● Children are a blessing
● Hard beliefs to overcome
8.2 Resource Use in Society
❖ Natural capital
➢ The supply of resources and services that we get from nature
➢ Provides goods (such as tangible products) & services (such as climate
regulation) that have value
➢ Renewable natural capital
■ Can be generated and/or replaced as fast as it is being used
■ Includes living species & ecosystems that use solar energy &
photosynthesis + non-living items (groundwater & ozone layer)
➢ Non-living elements of the plant
■ Mineral deposits
■ Fossil fuels
➢ Includes all the biological elements
■ Fisheries
■ Forests
■ Fertile soil
■ Services nature provides
● Filtering air and water
➢ Renewable natural capital
■ Can be utilized sustainably or unsustainably
■ If used beyond natural income this use becomes unsustainable
■ Impacts of extraction, transport & processing of a renewable natural
capital may cause damage
➢ Came about to raise awareness of a similar economic concept
■ For a business you don’t use your nature capital
● You use the income it generates
➢ Should generate sustainable income
■ Cannot be used to generate natural income
● Regenerate so slowly
➢ Value may be
■ Aesthetic
■ Cultural
■ Economic
■ Environmental
■ Ethical
■ Intrinsic
■ Social
■ Spiritual
■ Technological
● Value is not static
◆ May change over time and space
➢ Due to factors
■ Cultural
■ Social
■ Economic
■ Environmental
■ Technological
■ Political
➢ Economic capital
■ Tangible
■ Monetary value
● E.g: gold
◆ Known value according to weight and quality (carat)
● Fossil fuels
● Timber
● Food crops
● Gemstones
■ Can be sold on the global markets
■ Many factors can change the status and value of an economic resource
over space and time
■ Tribal lands in Papua New Guinea
● Large reserves of uranium
● Not sell the land
◆ No use for the money they are offered
➢ To them their tribal land is more useful than
uranium was an economic resource
■ Lithium
● First discovered in 1800 by a Brazilian chemist
◆ At that time no use to anyone
◆ Wasn’t until World War II that a use for it was discovered
◆ Nowadays has several industrial applications
➢ Most famous in lithium batteries
■ Flint
● Seen as economic natural capital since the Stone age
● Multiple uses
◆ Raw material for weapons
◆ Ignition source for gunpowder
◆ Building material
● No longer a significant natural resource
■ Technology may make a resource more or less useful to man
❖ Resource
➢ Anything useful to humans
■ Materials
■ Energy
■ People
■ Knowledge
■ Services
➢ Make money
➢ Enhance well-being
➢ Many are non-renewable
■ Worst examples are fossil fuels
■ Raises the idea of sustainability and stewardship
➢ Change status and value

8.3 Solid Domestic Waste

❖ SDW is increasing
➢ As a result of growing human populations & consumption
❖ Production & management
➢ Influence on sustainability
❖ Different types
➢ Volume & composition changes over time
❖ Non-biodegradable pollution
➢ Plastic, batteries or e-waste
➢ Major environmental issue
❖ Waste disposal
➢ Options include landfills, incineration, recycling & composting
❖ Management strategies
➢ Influenced by cultural, economic, technological & political barriers
➢ Altering human activity: reduction of consumption & composting food waste
➢ Controlling release of pollutant govs create legislation to encourage recycling &
reuse initiative & impose taxes for SDW collection & on disposable items
➢ Reclaiming landfills using waste-to-energy programmes, implementing initiatives
to remove plastics from Great Pacific garbage patch (clean-up & restoration)

8.4 Human Population Carrying Capacity

❖ Human carrying capacity
➢ Difficult to quantify
➢ Maximum no. of species or load that can be sustainably supported by a given
➢ Possible to estimate carrying capacity of environment for given species
■ Problematic in case of human populations
❖ Ecological Footprint
➢ Makes it possible to determine whether populations are living within carrying
➢ Area of land & water required to support a defined human population at a given
standard of living
➢ Measure takes into account the area required to provide all the resources needed
by the population & assimilation of all wastes
➢ Model used to estimate demands humans place on environment
➢ May vary significantly by country & individual, include aspects such as lifestyle,
productivity of food production, land use & industry
➢ If EF of population is greater than land area available to it, population is
unsustainable & exceeds carrying capacity of area
❖ Degradation of the environment + consumption of finite resources
➢ Expected to limit human population growth
❖ Living sustainably
➢ If not, humans will exceed carrying capacity & risk collapse