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Our environment is constantly changing. There is no denying that.

However, as our environment

changes, so does the need to become increasingly aware of the problems that surround it. With a
massive influx of natural disasters, warming and cooling periods, different types of weather patterns
and much more, people need to be aware of what types of environmental problems our planet is

Global warming has become an undisputed fact about our current livelihoods; our planet is warming
up and we are definitely part of the problem. However, this isn’t the only environmental problem that
we should be concerned about. All across the world, people are facing a wealth of new and
challenging environmental problems every day. Some of them are small and only affect a few
ecosystems, but others are drastically changing the landscape of what we already know.

15 Major Current Environmental Problems

1. Pollution: Pollution of air, water and soil require millions of years to recoup. Industry and motor
vehicle exhaust are the number one pollutants. Heavy metals, nitrates and plastic are toxins
responsible for pollution. While water pollution is caused by oil spill, acid rain, urban runoff; air
pollution is caused by various gases and toxins released by industries and factories and combustion
of fossil fuels; soil pollution is majorly caused by industrial waste that deprives soil from essential

2. Global Warming: Climate changes like global warming is the result of human practices like
emission of Greenhouse gases. Global warming leads to rising temperatures of the oceans and the
earth’ surface causing melting of polar ice caps, rise in sea levels and also unnatural patterns of
precipitation such as flash floods, excessive snow or desertification.

3. Overpopulation: The population of the planet is reaching unsustainable levels as it faces shortage
of resources like water, fuel and food. Population explosion in less developed and developing
countries is straining the already scarce resources. Intensive agriculture practiced to produce food
damages the environment through use of chemical fertilizer, pesticides and insecticides.
Overpopulation is one of the crucial current environmental problem.

4. Natural Resource Depletion: Natural resource depletion is another crucial current environmental
problems. Fossil fuel consumption results in emission of Greenhouse gases, which is responsible for
global warming and climate change. Globally, people are taking efforts to shift to renewable
sources of energy like solar, wind, biogas and geothermal energy. The cost of installing the
infrastructure and maintaining these sources has plummeted in the recent years.

5. Waste Disposal: The over consumption of resources and creation of plastics are creating a global
crisis of waste disposal. Developed countries are notorious for producing an excessive amount of
waste or garbage and dumping their waste in the oceans and, less developed countries. Nuclear
waste disposal has tremendous health hazards associated with it. Plastic, fast food, packaging and
cheap electronic wastes threaten the well being of humans. Waste disposal is one of urgent current
environmental problem.

6. Climate Change: Climate change is yet another environmental problem that has surfaced in last
couple of decades. It occurs due to rise in global warming which occurs due to increase in
temperature of atmosphere by burning of fossil fuels and release of harmful gases by industries.
Climate change has various harmful effects but not limited to melting of polar ice, change in
seasons, occurrence of new diseases, frequent occurrence of floods and change in overall weather

7. Loss of Biodiversity: Human activity is leading to the extinction of species and habitats and and loss
of bio-diversity. Eco systems, which took millions of years to perfect, are in danger when any species
population is decimating. Balance of natural processes like pollination is crucial to the survival of the
eco-system and human activity threatens the same. Another example is the destruction of coral reefs
in the various oceans, which support the rich marine life.
8. Deforestation: Our forests are natural sinks of carbon dioxide and produce fresh oxygen as well as
helps in regulating temperature and rainfall. At present forests cover 30% of the land but every year
tree cover is lost amounting to the country of Panama due to growing population demand for more
food, shelter and cloth. Deforestation simply means clearing of green cover and make that land
available for residential, industrial or commercial purpose.

9. Ocean Acidification: It is a direct impact of excessive production of CO2. 25% of CO2 produced
by humans. The ocean acidity has increased by the last 250 years but by 2100, it may shoot up by
150%. The main impact is on shellfish and plankton in the same way as human osteoporosis.

10. Ozone Layer Depletion: The ozone layer is an invisible layer of protection around the planet that
protects us from the sun’s harmful rays. Depletion of the crucial Ozone layer of the atmosphere is
attributed to pollution caused by Chlorine and Bromide found in Chloro-floro carbons (CFC’s). Once
these toxic gases reach the upper atmosphere, they cause a hole in the ozone layer, the biggest of
which is above the Antarctic. The CFC’s are banned in many industries and consumer products.
Ozone layer is valuable because it prevents harmful UV radiation from reaching the earth. This is one
of the most important current environmental problem.

11. Acid Rain: Acid rain occurs due to the presence of certain pollutants in the atmosphere. Acid rain
can be caused due to combustion of fossil fuels or erupting volcanoes or rotting vegetation which
release sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. Acid rain is a known environmental
problem that can have serious effect on human health, wildlife and aquatic species.

12. Water Pollution: Clean drinking water is becoming a rare commodity. Water is becoming an
economic and political issue as the human population fights for this resource. One of the options
suggested is using the process of desalinization. Industrial development is filling our rivers seas and
oceans with toxic pollutants which are a major threat to human health.

13. Urban Sprawl: Urban sprawl refers to migration of population from high density urban areas to low
density rural areas which results in spreading of city over more and more rural land. Urban sprawl
results in land degradation, increased traffic, environmental issues and health issues. The ever
growing demand of land displaces natural environment consisting of flora and fauna instead of
being replaced.

14: Public Health Issues: The current environmental problems pose a lot of risk to health of humans,
and animals. Dirty water is the biggest health risk of the world and poses threat to the quality of life
and public health. Run-off to rivers carries along toxins, chemicals and disease carrying organisms.
Pollutants cause respiratory disease like Asthma and cardiac-vascular problems. High temperatures
encourage the spread of infectious diseases like Dengue.

15. Genetic Engineering: Genetic modification of food using biotechnology is called genetic
engineering. Genetic modification of food results in increased toxins and diseases as genes from an
allergic plant can transfer to target plant. Genetically modified crops can cause serious
environmental problems as an engineered gene may prove toxic to wildlife. Another drawback is
that increased use of toxins to make insect resistant plant can cause resultant organisms to become
resistant to antibiotics.

The need for change in our daily lives and the movements of our government is growing. Because so
many different factors come into play; voting, governmental issues, the desire to stick to routine,
many people don’t consider that what they do will affect future generations. If humans continue
moving forward in such a harmful way towards the future, then there will be no future to consider.
Although it’s true that we cannot physically stop our ozone layer from thinning (and scientists are still
having trouble figuring out what is causing it exactly,) there are still so many things we can do to try
and put a dent in what we already know. By raising awareness in your local community and within
your families about these issues, you can help contribute to a more environmentally conscious and
friendly place for you to live.
Population Size- The number of individual organisms present in a population at a given time.

Population Density- The number of individuals in a population per unit of area.

Population Dispersion- How organisms are arranged within an area

Immigration- The movement of individuals in to a given area

Emigration- The movement of individuals out of a given area

Migration- The seasonal movement of organisms into and out of an area

Exponential Growth- The pattern of population growth in which a population continues to grow
unchecked (doubles every generation)

Limiting Factors- A characteristic of the environment that restricts population growth

Carrying Capacity- The largest population size a given environment can support

Logistic Growth- The pattern of population growth in which exponential growth is slowed and levels at
the carrying capacity

Reproductive Potential- The maximum number of offspring an organism can produce under ideal

Density-dependent factors- A limiting factor whose influence changes with population density;
includes competition, predation, and disease

Density-independent factors- A limiting factor whose influence is NOT affected by population density;
includes catastrophic events (e.i. hurricanes, ice storms...)

Survivorship curve- A graph showing the likelihood of survival within a population by age

Birth Rate- Total number of births per 1000 individuals in a given year

Death Rate- Total number of deaths per 1000 individuals in a given year

Growth Rate- the overall change in the size of a population per 1000 individuals in a given year


What is population ecology? the changes in population size and the factors that regulate
populations over time - impact with their environment

What is a population? A collection of inter-breeding organisms of a particular species living together

in an area.

What is a community? A group of interacting organisms sharing an environment.

What is a biotic factor? A living component of a biological community (eg. grass, animals, bacteria

What is an abiotic factor? A non-living component of an ecosystem (eg. water, air, temperature,
solar energy etc)

What is population ecology? The study of how members of a population interact with their
environment, focusing on factors that influence population density and growth.

What are the factors that influence the size of a population?

1. Immigration (I) - movement of new individuals from another area into the population

2. Natality (N) - the birth rate of a population

3. Emigration (E) - the movement of individuals out of a population to another area.

4. Mortality (M) - the death rate of a population.

What is the formula for Population Size? Population Size = (N+I)-(M+E)

What is Density of a population? The number of individuals of a certain species per unit area or

What is population Dispersion? How the population is dispersed in an area. (eg clumped, uniform or

 clumped - individuals are in patches ex;mushrooms clump on a rotting log, sea stars group
where food is abundant,
 uniform - individuals are evenly distributed ex; penguins nesting act aggressive with their
neighbors to leave space around them
 random - there is an unpredictable distribution ex; dandelion seeds are spread by the wind so
they germinate wherever they land

What are some techniques for estimating population density?

1. Sample plot method.

2. Mark recapture method.

What is the sample plot method for estimating population density? Count the number of organisms of
the study species in a plot of a known size.

With what type of organisms is the sample plot method appropriate? In a sessile population
(stationary organisms) eg. plants

What is the formula for density in the sample plot method?

Population Density = Number of individuals in a population sample plots/total area of all sample plots.

What is the mark recapture method for estimating population density? Use two trapping events. First,
the study area is determined and a trap is set. All animals caught in the trap are marked and
released. Later, the traps are set again and the proportion of parked to unmarked animals captured
in the second trapping gives an estimate of the number of individuals in a population.

For what type of organisms is this method appropriate? Organisms that are moving (eg mice)

What is the formula for the Mark-recapture method?

Population Density = M x C/R

M = total number of animals captured and marked in the first trapping event.

C = total number of animals captured in the second trapping event.

R. = number of animals captured int the first trap that were recaptured in the second trapping event.

What is a survivorship curve? A graph that allows population ecologists to estimate how many
members of an original study group are still alive at different time intervals.

What are the three types of survivorship curves?

Type 1 - Curve in which there are few offspring born and there is good parental care so that most of
the individuals live to an old age. (eg elephants, humans, large mammals)

Type II - The organisms die at an equal rate at all ages. There is some parental care (eg. rodents and

Type III - Many offspring are produced because many do not survive in the first few days. If they do
survive they have few predators (eg mussels, grasses, oysters etc.)
What is per capita increase in a population? The average contribution of each individual to
population growth.

What biotic potential of a population? The highest possible rate of per capita increase for a

What factors affect the growth rate of a population? The biotic and abiotic factors in the

What is environmental resistance in a population? Factors that restrict population growth thus
preventing it from achieving its biotic potential.

What are some examples of limiting factors in population growth? Limited food supply, size of habitat,
accumulation of waste, and natural disasters.

What is the difference between density dependent and density independent limiting factors? Density
dependent factors are a result of the population itself limiting growth (eg. build up of waste from the
population or overgrazing can limit the growth. Density independent factors are from an outside
influence such as fires, droughts, temperature etc.

What creates a Logistic growth pattern with population? When limiting factors cause the growth of a
population to level off this creates a logistic growth pattern.

What are the parts of a logistic growth curve?

1. slow growth - part at the beginning of the curve where population is slowly increasing

2. Exponential growth - part if the middle where the population is increasing rapidly.

3. Carrying capacity (population equilibrium) - the part at the end of the curve where the population
growth stays fairly constant. This is the maximum population size the environment can maintain.

What is the exponential growth model or curve? Curve which shows unregulated population growth.

What is an example of an organisms that follows the exponential growth model? Humans (our
population is increasing out of control).

How did improvements in agriculture affect human population growth? This lead to improved
livestock and increased crop yields so population could increase.

What caused the drop in the human growth curve in 1400 AD? There was a massive deadly
epidemic in Europe (the bubonic plague which killed over 1/3 of the population in Europe.

What lead to the greatest increase in human population growth? The discovery of antibiotics and
vaccines which prolong lives.

What factors may eventually lead to a decline in human population growth? Lack of food, space
resources etc.

What is biodiversity? The variety of living things including genetic diversity, species diversity and
ecosystem diversity

What are the three levels of biodiversity?

1. Genetic Diversity - having lots of different genes in a population

2. Species diversity - having lots of different organisms in a population.

3. Ecosystem diversity - having lots of different ecosystems in the world.

What is an ecological footprint? An estimate of the amount of land required to provide the raw
materials an individual or nation consumes including food, fuel water, housing and waste disposal.
How does our ecological footprint in Canada compare with the rest of the world? People in the
developed world (eg Canada and the US) have a much higher per person ecological footprint than
in the undeveloped world (eg India) because we use more resources per person. There is over
consumption by the individual.

What can you do to reduce your ecological footprint? Drive less, fly less, eat less meat, turn off
electronics consume less by buying only what you need, not what you want, eat locally, reduce,
reuse, recycle.

Species diversity The total number of different species in a community., the number and relative
abundance of species in a biological community ecosystem diversity variety of habitats, living
communities, and ecological processes in the living world genetic diversity sum total of all the
different forms of genetic information carried by all organisms living on Earth today

population ecology- study of the factors that affect population size and compostion

population- individuals of a single species that occupy the same area

important characteristics- 1. density, 2. disperion

density- number of individuals per unit area or volume

dispersion- pattern of spacing among individuals

types of dispersion

1. clumped, 2. uniform, 3. random

Clumped- may result from a patchy environment, may increase chances for survival (ex. schooling
behavior, flocks of birds)

Uniform-often the result of antagonistic interactions between individuals (ex. territories, spacing
between desert plants)

Random- often the result of the absence of strong attractions or repulsions between individuals, not a
common pattern

Demography- the study of the vital statistics that affect population size (ex. birth and death rates)

demographic factors- age structure of the population, birth and death rates, generation time, sex
ratio and reproductive behavior

life tables- mortality summary for a cohort of individuals, first developed from life insurance studies

life tables show- mortality rate per year, life span of the organism, fecundity (birth rate)

survivorship curve- plot of the numbers of a cohort still alive over time, 3 types

Type 1- low early deaths, high late deaths (ex. humans, other large mammals)

Type 2- constant death rate (ex. annual plants, many invertebrates)

Type 3- high early deaths, low late deaths (ex. trees, oysters)

life history strategies- "r" or opportunistic species, "k" or equilibrial species

opportunistic species- increase fitness by producing as many offspring as possible

opportunistic species does this by early maturation, many reproductive events, many offspring result
of opportunistic species maximize reproduction so that at least a few offspring survive to the next
generation, most offspring die (type 3 curve)

equilibrial species- increase fitness by having most offspring survive

equilibrial species do this by high parental care, late maturation, few reproductive events, few
offspring maximize survivorship of each offspring, few offspring but most survive (type 1 curve)

fitness-ability to survive

population growth equation- 'delta'N/'delta't = b - d ........N = population size, t = time, b = birth rate, d
= death rate rate of increase difference between birth rate and death rate

rate of increase equation r = b - d..........'delta'N/'delta't = rN...........N = population size, t = time, r = rate

of increase

regulation of population size 1. density - dependent factors, 2. density - independent factors

density - dependent factors- affect is related to N (population size); as N increases, mortality
increases (ex. food, nesting space, disease)

density - independent factors- affect is not related to N (population size), mortality not related to
population size, acts of god, (ex. weather, climate)

age structure diagrams- show the percent of a population in different age categories, method to get
data similar to a life table but at one point in time

importances of age structure diagrams- can be used to predict future population growth trends,
especially for long lived species

exponential growth- produces age structures that are a triangle or pyramid shape

logistic growth- produces age structures that have even sizes between most age categories

declining populations- produces age structures with a narrow base and wider middles

individualistic hypothesis- HA Gleason, community as a chance assemblage of species because of

similar abiotic requirements

interactive hypothesis- FE Clements, community as a linked assemblage of species that function as

an integrated whole

plant defenses- morphological, life styles, secondary chemical compounds

morphological defenses- thorns, spines, prickles, hairs

life styles- grow back faster if eaten

secondary chemical compounds- poisons in plants, poison leaves (mustard, toxicodendron), poison
ivy, oak, sumack, milkweed (cardiac glycoside)

interspecific interactions- interaction between species, may be positive, negative,or neutral (ex.
coevolution, predation, mimicry, competition, symbiosis)

ecology- the study of interactions between species in an area

coevolution- when two species have reciprocal evolution to each other (flowers and their pollinators)

predation- predator and prey relationships (ex. lynx and hares), often results in interesting defenses or
adaptations (plant defenses, cryptic coloration, aposematic coloration)

cryptic coloration (camoflage)- a passive defense where the prey is camouflaged against its

aposematic coloration (warning)- the use of conspicuous colors in toxic or unpalatable organisms to
warn off predators

mimicry- defense mechanism where the mimic has a resemblance to another species (the model),
two types

batesian- palatable species mimics an unpalatable model

mullerian- two unpalatable species resemble each other

competition- when 2 species rely on the same limiting resource, intraspecific competition usually
more severe than interspecific competition

competitive exclusion principle- predicts that two species with same requirment can not co-exist in
the same community, one species will survive and the second will go extinct
ecological niche- how a species "fits into" an ecosystem, species can not have niche overlap, the
competitive exclusion principle, 2 types

fundamental- what a species is theoretically capable of using realized what a species can actually

resource partitioning- a way that species avoid niche overlap by splitting up the available resources
(anolis lizards) symbiosis when two different species live together in direct contact, 3 types

true- population limiting factors keep a population from increasing indefinitely

false; density dependent- density independent factors include parasites and disease

false; increased- on isle royale, the population of moose decreased as the population of wolves

true- competition can occur within a species or between two different species

exponential- which type of growth rate comes first

true- if honduras were to experience a low birthrate and death rate in the next five years, it would be
undergoing a demographic transition

true- once the world reaches zero population growth, the age structure will be more balanced

true- technology has allowed humans to temporarily increase carrying capacity of earth

false; more- people in industrially developed countries use a lot fewer resources than people in
developing countries

false- the current rate of extinction is decreasing significantly

true- island species are especially vulnerable to extinction

false- only a few factors threaten biodiversity

true- the primary cause of extinction is loss of habitat

false- introduced species make biodiversity stronger and more stable

overexploitation- excessive use of a species for economic value

destruction of habitat- clearing of a region that wipes out a habitat

disruption of habitat- changes to one part of an ecosystem that can affect the whole ecosystem

fragmentation of habitat- separation of an ecosystem into small pieces

pollution of habitat- changes the composition of air, soil, and h2o

acid precipitation- chemicals from burning fossil fuels

eutrophication- occurs when chemicals get into underwater habitats

introduced species- nonnative species transported to a new habitat

what are the 2 classes of natural resources

renewable- replaced faster than they are consumed; solar energy, plants, animals

nonrenewable- found only in limited amounts; fossil fuels, mineral deposits, radioactive uranium