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Aims and Scope

ã 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Reference Module in EARTH SYSTEMS AND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES covers all aspects of this interdisciplinary area of
study. This comprehensive online Reference Module forms the definitive source for those entering, researching or teaching in any
of the many disciplines making up this interdisciplinary area of study. In addition to a regular supply of new articles, all previously
published articles are reviewed for currency to ensure articles are up-to-date. Articles that are determined to be current according to
this review receive a ‘timestamp’ that appears on the article on Science Direct indicating the date of the last currency review. Articles
that are determined out-of-date are updated. These updates are completed by the original author(s) or by an updater under the
editorial direction of the Editor-in-Chief and the Subject Editors. In this way the Reference Module provides the assurance of
up-to-date content that has been vetted by a highly qualified Editorial Board and date-stamped to mark the date of the last review or
The central organizing structure for the Reference Module is a Subject Hierarchy on Science Direct that is used to provide context
for each article and to provide a navigational tool for users to explore the subject area. The subject hierarchy is determined by the
expert Editorial Board and technically checked by Elsevier Taxonomists.
Articles are written by individuals and/or groups of experts in the field under the guidance of Subject Editors who are guided by
the Editor-in-Chief. The articles are written at a level that allows upper-undergraduate students to understand the material, while
providing active researchers, whether in academia or corporations, with an authoritative and up-to-date source of foundational
reference material for all aspects of the field and its neighboring disciplines.

Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences 1

Editor Biographies

Editor in Chief
Scott A. Elias grew up in Colorado, USA, and received both an undergraduate degree (1976) and
PhD (1980) in Environmental Biology from the University of Colorado. His PhD dissertation
concerned Paleoenvironmental reconstructions of Holocene insect fossil assemblages from two
sites in arctic Canada. He went on to do postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Waterloo,
Canada and the University of Berne, Switzerland. Scott returned to the University of Colorado in
1982, and became a research associate of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. He remained
there for the next 18 years, becoming a Fellow of the institute, before departing for England to take
up a lectureship in Physical Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he
remains, today. Scott became Professor of Quaternary Science in 2007, following the publication
of the Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science that same year. He continues to do research in
Quaternary insect fossils, having studied fossil assemblages from more than 175 localities in
North America and Europe. The focus of much of his research has been in Beringia: the regions
of the Yukon Territory, Alaska, and north eastern Siberia that were linked together by the Bering
Land Bridge during glacial intervals of the Pleistocene. Scott has authored or edited 10 books and
130 journal articles and book chapters. He has now taken on the role of Editor-in-chief of Elsevier’s
Reference Module: Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences.

Subject Editors
David is Lecturer in Geology in the Department of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway (University of
London), Egham, UK.
David co-ordinates and oversees all undergraduate teaching within the Department of Earth
Sciences at Royal Holloway. His main teaching responsibilities are in courses covering Mineral
Deposits, Hydrogeology and Environmental Geology. His research is also mostly directed towards
these subject areas and has resulted in the publication of more than 60 academic papers. There are
two main themes to the research:
1) The geology, geochemistry and mineralogy of hydrothermal, metalliferous, mineral deposits,
particularly those associated with magmatic rocks. Research has concentrated on elucidating the
genesis of such deposits using analytical geochemistry, mineralogy, fluid inclusions and stable
isotopes. Work has been undertaken in many parts of the World: western and eastern Europe, the
Pacific, Australia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Canada, USA, and Brazil.
2) Environmental geochemistry, particularly the pollution of soils and waters associated with
mining activities and the leaching characteristics of mine waste.

Professor J. Kirk Cochran received his PhD in geochemistry from Yale University. Following two
years on the scientific staff of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, he joined the faculty of
Stony Brook University’s Marine Sciences Research Center (now the School of Marine & Atmo-
spheric Sciences) in 1983. He attained the rank of Professor in 1990 and served as Dean from
September 1994 to January 1998. Professor Cochran’s research interests include the use of natu-
rally occurring radionuclides as tracers for oceanic processes and the fate of contaminants in the
marine environment. He has studied biogeochemical processes in both the water column and
bottom sediments and has worked in coastal and open ocean environments as well as in lakes,
rivers and groundwater. Professor Cochran has served as a consultant to the International Atomic
Energy Agency and on numerous regional, national and international committees and advisory

2 Editor Biographies

Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala is President and Chief Scientist of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon
and President of the Society for Conservation Biology, North America Section.
Dominick is an internationally renowned author of over 150 technical papers, including the award
winning “Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World” ( Dom-
inick has given plenary and keynote talks ranging from academic conferences to the United Nations
(Earth Summit II). He has appeared in National Geographic, Science Digest, Science Magazine,
Time Magazine, Audubon Magazine, National Wildlife Magazine, High Country News, Terrain
Magazine, NY Times, LA Times, USA Today, Jim Lehrer News Hour, CNN, MSNBC, “Living on
Earth (NPR),” and several PBS wildlife documentaries. He has testified in congressional hearings in
defense of the Endangered Species Act, roadless area conservation, national monument designa-
tions, forest protections, and climate change among others. For his efforts to help foster national
roadless area conservation and support designation of new national monuments, he received
conservation leadership awards from the World Wildlife Fund in 2000 and 2004, the Wilburforce
Foundation in 2006, and was twice nominated for conservation awards for his work as a whistle-
blower while on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service spotted owl recovery team. His rainforest book received an academic excellence award in
2012 from Choice magazine, one of the nation’s premier book review journals. Dominick co-founded the Geos Institute in July 2006. He is
motivated by leaving a living planet for his daughter and all those to follow.

Claudio Faccenna is Full Professor since 2011 at the Departmente of Science of the University of
Roma TRE, where he was first Reseracher and then Assistant professor (2001). He received
University of Rome La Sapienza, 1988 PhD in Earth Science. He took is post-doc at Universitè
Rennes I e Paris VI and he was visiting scolarship at Harvard University (Cambridge, Ma). He has
been invited at Universitè Montpellier II, Cergy-Pontoise, Paris VI, Rennes, Aix-Marseille.University
Southern California, Orleans. He is involved in several European Initiative such as TopoEurope. He
is responsable of several of national and international research projects and he is main PI of the
ITN Marie Curie TOPOMOD project. He is Author of more than 150 scientific papers. He is
coordinator of the PhD school of Earth Science at Roma TRE. He is responsible of Laboratory of
Experimental Tectonics (LET). He is delegate of the University President for Scientific Research and
is member of the Scientific Council of the National Institute of Geophysics. He has been invited to
give talks and short courses in different european and US universities. He is member of the
Academia Europaea, and he served as assistant and then main editor of Tectonics. He received
the von Humboldt Research award (2015) Stephan Muller medal from EGU (2014) and the prix
Vuquesnel from the Societé Geologicque de France (2013).

Mike’s expertise is in Ecology, Natural Resources, Conservation, Management. Mike received a PhD
in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University, a M.S. in Environmental Toxicology
from Clemson University, and a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State University. Mike
worked as the Wildlife Director at the Mendocino Redwood Company from 2000-2002 before
joining the USDA Forest Service in Alaska. Since 2002, Mike has led the Alaska Region of the Forest
Service as Regional Wildlife Ecologist, Wildlife Program Leader, Threatened and Endangered
Species Program Leader, and most recently, as the Climate Change Special Projects Coordinator.
During this time, from 2010-2012, Mike became the founding Director of the Alaska Coastal
Rainforest Center at the University of Alaska. Mike built the program from the ground up,
developing strategic priorities, growing institutional membership, and establishing the Center as
a strong partner in cross-boundary data integration and landscape analyses. Mike serves Elsevier’s
Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences as the Ecology and Conservation
section editor.

Kate’s research area is in Nutrient cycling in natural and human-disturbed ecosystems, soil organic
matter dynamics, and forest biogeochemistry.
Human activity has caused extensive changes in the rates of inputs of various nutrient and toxic
elements to many natural ecosystems, often with dramatic effects on the functioning of those
ecosystems. Kate’s lab studies the changes in biogeochemical cycling, and the effects on the vegetative
community, that has arisen from human activities. Most of Kate’s current research is focused in the H.
J. Andrews Experimental Forest, which is OSU’s LTER site. Kate’s lab have established DIRT (Detrital
Input and Removal Treatment) plots to examine the effects of changing detrital quality and quantity
on soil organic matter stabilization, C balance, and nutrient cycling and availability, and they are
working with other emerging DIRT sites in the U.S. and in Europe on cross-site comparisons.
Editor Biographies 3

Shawn Marshall is a Professor of glaciologist and climatologist in the Department of Geography at
the University of Calgary, where he holds a Canada Research Chair in Climate Change. His research
focuses on cryosphere-climate interactions, including glacier and ice sheet modelling and field
studies of glacier-climate processes in the Canadian Rockies, Arctic Canada, Greenland, and
Iceland. Dr Marshall came into Earth systems science through the back door; his undergraduate
training is in Engineering Physics at the University of Toronto (1991), but while in Toronto he
seized an opportunity to work with Dick Peltier on ice sheet modelling. Dr Marshall then went on
to PhD research at the University of British Columbia (1996), studying Quaternary ice sheets and
paleoclimate in the Department of Geophysics. He stayed on for postdoctoral research in the UBC
Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, continuing work on ice age climate dynamics, before
moving to the University of Calgary in 2000. Dr Marshall has served on the Editorial Boards of
Geophysical Research Letters, Quaternary Science Reviews, and The Cryosphere, and is a research
assoicate of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) Earth System Evolution Program.

Tamsin is an Academic Fellow in Physics and Chemistry of the Earth and Environment (RCUK
Academic Fellowship) in the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford.
Her research interests are broadly interested in the role of volcanism in planetary scale processes
throughout geological time. Specific interests include:
• The chemistry of volcanic plumes including the effects due to background air mixing into the
hot gas mixture and volcanic lightning
• Quantifying and understanding the volcanic fluxes of chemical species of atmospheric impor-
tance over different temporal and spatial scales (gases and particles) and their roles in global
geochemical cycles
• Volcanic degassing processes and the formation of volcanic aerosol
• The emission and chemistry of mercury in volcanic plumes
• The ultimate fate, atmospheric and environmental effects of volcanic emissions
• Using stable isotopes to understand volcanic processes
• The cycling of volatiles through subduction zones
• Patterns and forcing of volcanism on the arc scale
These interests also lead Tamsin away from volcanoes at times and she has also studied the
emissions from an oil depot fire (Buncefield 2005) and is generally interested in the global
mercury cycle as well as other biogeochemical cycles.

Emma is an Associate Professor of Energy Engineering at the School of Business, Society and
Engineering at Mälardalen University, Sweden.
Emma’s research interests are related to water treatment and anaerobic digestion. Currently she is
involved in the following projects:
ACWA project: cultivate algae in such way that the nutrients and trace elements are retained from
the water phase (hence treating the water) and fully available for the micro-organisms in the
anaerobic digestion.
BIOREX project: found a method for degradation of water polluting TNT into non-hazardous
substances. The answer was found in the rapid adsorption onto organic particles that in the later
step could be composted and thereby the TNT could be co-metabolized by the bacteria.
Furthermore, Emma has developed a few co-production projects for realization and full scale
evaluation of the technologies developed in the above mentioned projects as well as the research
from Future Energy Research group. Examples of such initiatives are CLEAN, CLEAN Platform and
Future Energy Innovations (pending approval).

Justin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Resources at
Southern Illinois University. He earned a PhD in Geography (Atmospheric Science track) at
Indiana University and received post-doctoral training at the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric
Prediction Studies (COAPS) at Florida State University. His research combines components of
applied climatology and synoptic climatology and focuses on historical and future climate change
at the regional scale. He currently teaches courses in Meteorology, Climatology, and Applied
4 Editor Biographies

Dr. Hugh D. Sinclair is reader in Surface Geodynamics; Degree Programme Convenor, Geology and
Physical Geography.
Hugh’s research interests include Interaction between surface processes (erosion and sedimenta-
tion), mountain building and basin subsidence. The growth of topography in mountain ranges.
Using numerical modelling to analyse the punctuated nature of surface uplift. Processes of long
term erosion are measured using a range of low temperature thermochronometers, enabling us to
question the forcings and response times of surface processes to climate and tectonics. The products
of the erosional engine in the mountain belt are then studied as stratigraphy in surrounding basins.
Analysis and modelling of the subsidence history of foreland basins. Understanding Mountain
Belt/Foreland Basin systems using a range of approaches, which are also applied to issues of
hydrocarbon prospectivity. Funding comes from research councils, science foundations and indus-
try. Active field areas include the Alps, Pyrenees, Carpathians, Balkans, Ladakh Himalaya and the

Philip’s research interests include Ecotoxicology, Wildlife Toxicology, Ecological Risk Assessment.
Philip is an environmental toxicologist with broad ranging interests in contaminant exposure and
responses among ecological receptors. His research is focused on pathways of contaminant expo-
sure among mammals, birds, aquatic organisms, and trophic transfer of environmental contami-
nants. Additionally, physiological and population-level responses to contaminant exposure are of
particular interest to Philip. Philip’s research is strategically aligned with his academic emphasis
which is risk assessment. Philip serves as Chair of the TTU Institutional Animal Care and Use
Committee. He serves as Associate Editor for Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry, Environmental
Health Section Editor of Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, and on the editorial board for
Environmental Pollution.
Editor’s Note
SA Elias, Royal Holloway University of London, Surrey, UK
ã 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Introduction 1
The Multidisciplinary Approach 1
Atmospheric Sciences 1
Bioscience 2
Energy and Natural Resources 2
Geoscience 2
Global Change 3
Hydrology 3
Oceanography 4
Concluding Remarks 5
References 5


The Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences is a giant umbrella, covering the history of the planet, its
geology, soils, atmosphere, oceans, energy and other natural resources, and the ecosystems supported by the planet. As described by
Meeson (2010), the objective of Earth System Science is to understand how the Earth is changing and the consequences for life on
Earth with a focus on enabling prediction and mitigation of undesirable consequences. In order to achieve this objective, we must
identify how the Earth system is changing. This is accomplished in a number of different ways. We must be able to identify and
measure the primary forcings on the Earth system, both natural and anthropogenic. Second, we must develop our knowledge of
how the Earth system responds to changes in these forcings. Then we must identify the consequences of these changes for the
human race. Finally, we must be able accurately predict future changes, hopefully with sufficient advanced notice to minimize the
impacts. None of these large-scale objectives can be achieved by one scientist, or even by the scientists in one discipline. Rather, a
multidisciplinary approach must be adopted, to study the Earth as an integrated system.

The Multidisciplinary Approach

This approach to Earth System Science involves many different aspects of scientific research that must be brought together, in order
to work out the processes and interactions between the Earth’s atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, biosphere, and geosphere.
There are major sections of this module that deal with each of these disciplines. Also, any useful study of the Earth System must be
able to work at different spatial scales, from global to local, and at a range of time scales, from seconds to eons. The laws of physics
and chemistry, as well as biological principles, must be applied to describe the complex interactions between the various elements
of the system. Furthermore, historical (and pre-historic) data must be wedded with modern planetary observations, in order to gain
understanding of how systems work, how they react to various disturbances, and how they may respond to changes in the future.
Only by developing this kind of understanding can we hope to build realistic predictive models to help decision makers plan for the
future. The history of how the Earth System has responded to previous perturbations plays an incredibly important role in this.
Attempting to understand how the planet functions without any knowledge of its history would be like trying to unravel the plot of
a lengthy novel by only reading the last page.

Atmospheric Sciences

The Atmospheric sciences component of the module includes hundreds of individual articles, grouped under three headings:
Meteorology, Climatology, and Atmospheric Chemistry. Meteorology is the study of the weather, the day-to-day changes in the
Earth’s atmosphere on local and regional levels that bring clear or cloudy skies, sunshine, rain or snow, low temperatures and high.
The regional atmospheric circulation patterns that produce our weather are, in turn, influenced by global circulation patterns.
Phenomena such as the North Atlantic Oscillation and the El Niño Southern Oscillation are large-scale, multi-year atmospheric
circulation patterns that affect multiple continents. The cumulative effects of weather, averaged over decades, are discussed in the
Climatology section. This discipline includes the classification of climate systems, the description of climate patterns at the synoptic
level (the long-term climate at specific locations), the study of climate dynamics, and the reconstruction of the history of climate

Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences 1

2 Editor’s Note

change (paleoclimatology). The other essential aspect of atmospheric science is the study of atmospheric chemistry. This section
includes articles on aerosols (fine particles suspended in the atmosphere), atmospheric gases (nitrogen, oxygen, carbon-dioxide,
and other trace gases), atmospheric transport, and the transfer of radiative solar energy through the atmosphere.


The aspects of the biological sciences covered in the module include Biogeoscience, Ecology, and Environmental Health.
Biogeoscience is the study of interactions of the biosphere with the lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. This is a rapidly
developing field, reflecting the fact that scientists are becoming increasingly aware of these interactions between the various
components of the global system. Ecology is a vast research area than began in earnest in the early 20th century and has expanded
ever since. It concerns the interactions between organisms and their environments, at various spatial scales ranging from local
Ecological Communities to global Ecosystems. Environmental pressures affect organisms at the individual level, as discussed in the
articles on Physiological Ecology and Evolutionary Ecology. The effects of environmental change are also felt at the population
level, as discussed in the Population Ecology articles. One of the chief methods of ecological analyses is through computer
modelling, as discussed in the Ecological Informatics and Ecological Models sections. The study of how ecosystems function is
far from an esoteric exercise. We must gain as great an understanding of these principles as possible, if we hope to maintain the
remaining fragments of the natural world. Regions containing undisturbed, natural habitats are increasingly being taken for various
human uses, such as agriculture and industry, towns and cities, and the roads connecting them. The fragmentation of natural
habitats is one of the most damaging of human impacts on the natural world, playing a central role in the modern extinction crisis
discussed above (Dobson et al., 2006).
The section on Environmental health mainly deals with Human Health, although the articles are generally framed in the context
that the health of the planet as a whole has direct effects on the health of our species. Sadly, we humans are the primary agents in
the degradation of our world’s environment. These impacts can be blatantly obvious, such as Bioterrorism, Chemical Warfare, and
exposure to man-made toxic chemicals (covered in Environmental Health Exposure and Environmental Health Toxicology and
Systems Toxicology). But they can be more subtle and harder to link directly to human agencies, such as the effects of Climate
Change, Genetically Modified Organisms, and Globalization of trade. In a worst-case scenario, Environmental Health Disasters kill
hundreds or thousands of people, such as the poisoning of more than 15 000 people from the mass-release of pesticide from the
Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India in 1984 (Jasanoff, 1994) or the exposure of many thousands of people to radiation
following the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986 (Balonov and Bouville, 2011). Issues of Environmental Health
Justice and the Ethics of environmental issues are spawned by both large-scale disasters and day-by-day environmental degradation.
These are almost always difficult issues to tackle in the modern world, where multinational corporations operate around the world,
so that the Environmental Health Policy and Agencies of a given country have little or no authority over the overseas activities of
large corporations. Regional Environmental Health issues must take into account the Physical and Social Environment, and the
Economics of Environmental Health inevitably play a part in decision making, for better or worse. Advances in Environmental
Health Biotechnology and Environmental Health Medicine can ameliorate environmental health problems to a certain extent, but
ultimately the environmental health of any nation must be safeguarded by the leaders of industry and government, working
together for the common good.

Energy and Natural Resources

Humans are consuming fossil fuels and other natural resources at an accelerating rate that is clearly unsustainable. These are Global
Issues that are receiving increased attention from scientists, policy makers, and the world at large. This section of the module looks
at the History of Energy use, Society and Energy, and the Economics of Energy, as well as examining issues surrounding
conventional hydrocarbon-based energy resources, such as Coal, Oil and Gas and conventional Electrical Energy. These articles
set the stage for discussion of Nuclear Energy, Renewable and Alternative Energy. As we face a situation in which non-renewable
energy resources are being used up, but the demand for energy keeps climbing (Figure 1), policy makers must turn to energy
scientists for solutions. These topics are covered in Policy Issues, and Conservation and End Use, Systems of Energy and
Measurement and Models. Of course the extraction and use of energy creates environmental hazards, as discussed in the Energy
and Natural Resources Risks, Waste Management and Environmental Issues sections.
Of course energy resources are not the only reserves being consumed by humans. So this sub-module also contains articles on
Minerals, Water Resources, and Biological Resources. All the planet’s natural resources must be conserved if we are to sustain our
existence. The conservation of natural resources is discussed in Material Use and Reuse section.


The Geosciences are at the heart of Earth System Science, as these geological fields cover areas such as Earth History, Earth Surface
Processes, Geology, Geophysics and Geochemistry. The articles in the Earth History section deal with the history of the planet, from
its beginnings more than 4.5 billion years ago, to modern times. This includes the history of the planet itself, the changing physical
Editor’s Note 3

Figure 1 The global water budget, showing the breakdown of the world’s freshwater supply. Data from Shiklomanov, 1993.

environment, and the response of fauna and flora to those changes. The articles in the Earth Surface Processes section consider the
movement of materials, the physical and chemical fluxes across the Earth’s surface, the processes that determine these fluxes, and
the landscapes that result. The Geology articles consider the History and Philosophy of Geology, Igneous Geology, Metamorphic
Geology, Stratigraphy and Sedimentology, Mineralogy, Paleontology, Regional Geology, Structural Geology, and Geological
Applications in engineering, the military, and forensic science.

Global Change

Global change is an ever-growing topic in the modern world, so it has its own section in the module. The most widely popularized
aspect of the topic is climate change, as global average temperatures rise, polar sea ice melts, and storminess increases. These
phenomena are mostly covered in the “Atmospheric Sciences” section. The articles on the Carbon Cycle discuss the rise of
greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, which have recently reached levels not seen in the last three million years
(Figure 2).
Of course global change does not just affect human beings. It is affecting all life on the planet, as discussed in the “Bioscience”
articles. Species habitats are being altered, landscapes are being disturbed, invasive species are threatening native species, and
extinctions are increasing so rapidly that many biologists consider we are experiencing a mass-extinction event on a par with the
asteroid collision that wiped out the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago (Barnosky et al., 2011). Global change is also affecting the
planet’s Fresh Water Hydrology, in such aspects as water pollution and acid rain. Even the Earth’s crust is being altered, as discussed
in the “Geosciences” section. Increased erosion is occurring in some regions, leading to higher sedimentation rates on land and at
sea. This is only one of many global change impacts on the Ocean. Others include rising sea-surface temperatures, acidification of
ocean waters through air pollution, and rising sea levels, brought on by a combination of rising water temperatures (water expands
as it warms) and the melting of polar ice caps. Finally, the effects of global change on Society are discussed in their own lengthy


The “Hydrology” section of the module is mainly concerned with the Freshwater Hydrology of the planet. This includes Ground
Water and Surface Water. Although the human demand for freshwater keeps growing larger every year, there is only a finite amount
of this precious substance on our planet and it constitutes just 2.5% of the planetary water supply, the rest being sea water
(Figure 1,3 ).
Of the existing freshwater, almost 69% is trapped in glacial ice. Ground water is another important component of the globe’s
freshwater resources, accounting for 30% of the freshwater supply. This leaves less than 1% of the world’s freshwater supply
available for use by all terrestrial plant and animal life (Shiklomanov, 1993). This water, like the water vapour evaporating off the
4 Editor’s Note

Figure 2 Per capita energy consumption since 1820, showing a breakdown of the various sources of energy used. Data from The Oil Drum web site,

Figure 3 Atmospheric CO2 concentration measured by NOAA at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, 1974–2013. The concentration of CO2 rose above 400 ppm for the
first time in recorded history on 27 May, 2013. Data from NOAA (2013).

oceans, forms part of the Global Water Cycle, another subsection of the Hydrology articles. Freshwater ponds, lakes and streams are
home to many species of plants and animals, as discussed in the Freshwater Biology and Aquatic Ecology articles. These organisms
are greatly affected by changes in Water Chemistry. Finally, Water Resources play a vital role in this world of increasing demand for
fresh water.


The study of the world’s oceans also involves a multidisciplinary group of sciences. Physical Oceanography deals with the physical
properties of ocean water, its currents and circulation patterns, and its mixing properties, aided by tides and currents. The
interactions between the ocean and the underlying sea floor are discussed in the Geological Oceanography section, including
such aspects as geothermal vents on the sea floor and the study of the sediments that accumulate on the sea floor. The history of
the world’s oceans (paleoceanography) is reconstructed from fossils and chemicals preserved in those sediments. Chemical
Oceanography deals with the chemistry of sea water, and the sources and sinks of chemicals that enter the ocean system from
Editor’s Note 5

land. Biological Oceanography considers the organisms (from viruses to whales) that live in the oceans, as well as the birds that
make their living from ocean food resources. Of course the world’s oceans are fed by rivers and streams, and the study of Estuaries,
the places where fresh water comes in contact with the ocean, form another branch of Oceanography. Finally, this section includes
articles on Marine Policy and Management, as we rely so heavily on marine resources to sustain human life in much of the world.
More than two-thirds of all humans live within 60 km of a coast, and this percentage is increasing (Halpern et al., 2008).

Concluding Remarks

The Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences on ScienceDirect contains thousands of articles that fall within
the major sections described above. The editorial board charged with the oversight of this electronic publication share a common
passion: the use of science to better our understanding of the world around us, and to inform the decision making process at all
levels of governance. As we have seen in this article, there are many pressing environmental issues that we must face in today’s
world. We firmly believe that ignorance of the facts surrounding these issues is not the way forward.

Balonov M and Bouville A (2011) Radiation exposures due to the Chernobyl accident. In: Nriagu JO (ed.) Encyclopedia of environmental health, pp. 709–720. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Barnosky AD, Matzke N, Tomiya S, et al. (2011) Has the Earth’s sixth mass extinction already arrived? Nature 471: 51–57.
Dobson A, Lodge D, Alder J, et al. (2006) Habitat loss, trophic collapse, and the decline of ecosystem services. Ecology 87: 1915–1924.
Halpern BS, et al. (2008) A global map of human impact on marine ecosystems. Science 319: 948–952.
Jasanoff S (1994) Learning from disaster: Risk management after Bhopal (law in social context). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Meeson, B. (2010). Earth system science. NASA web site: visited 24 May, 2013.
NOAA (2013). Trends in atmospheric carbon dioxide: Weekly average CO2 at Mauna Loa: visited 29 May, 2013.
Shiklomanov IA (1993) World fresh water resources. In: Gleick PH (ed.) Water in crisis: A guide to the world’s fresh water resources, pp. 13–24. New York: Oxford University Press.
The Oil Drum web site (2012). visited 29 May, 2013.

Scott Elias (Editor-in-Chief), Subject: Bioscience - Biogeoscience, Bioscience - Ecology,

Royal Holloway, University of London, UK Geoscience - Soils
Subject: Geoscience - Earth History
Shawn J. Marshall,
David H.M. Alderton, University of Calgary, Canada
Royal Holloway, University of London, UK Subject: Hydrology
Subject: Geoscience - Geology
Tamsin Mather,
J. Kirk Cochran, Oxford University, UK
Stony Brook University, USA Subject: Geoscience - Geochemistry
Subject: Oceanography
Emma Nehrenheim,
Dominick A. DellaSala, Malardalen University, Sweden
Geos Institute, USA Subject: Energy and Natural Resources
Subject: Global Change
Justin Schoof,
Claudio Faccenna, Southern Illinois University, USA
Università Roma TRE, Italy Subject: Atmospheric Sciences
Subject: Geoscience - Geophysics
Hugh D. Sinclair,
Michael I. Goldstein, The University of Edinburgh, UK
University of Alaska Southeast, USA Subject: Geoscience - Earth Surface Processes
Subject: Bioscience - Ecology
Philip N. Smith,
Kate Lajtha, Texas Tech University, USA
Oregon State University, USA Subject: Bioscience - Environmental Health

Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences 1