You are on page 1of 11


Environment & Its Components

Recommended Text Book: Introduction to Environment Management

by: M.M. Sulphey & M. M. Safeer
B-Tech [HONS] 4 Years Program Associate Professor: Azfar Javaid
Physical or Abiotic Environment 2
In biology and ecology, abiotic components or abiotic factors are non-living chemical and physical parts of
the environment that affect living organisms and the functioning of ecosystems. Abiotic factors and the phenomena
associated with them underpin all biology.

The Atmosphere
The atmosphere of Earth is the layer of gases, commonly known as air, that surrounds the planet Earth and is retained by
Earth's gravity. The atmosphere of Earth protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface
through heat retention (greenhouse effect), and reducing temperature extremes between day and night (the diurnal
temperature variation).

By volume, dry air contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of
other gases. Air also contains a variable amount of water vapor, on average around 1% at sea level, and 0.4% over the entire
atmosphere. Air content and atmospheric pressure vary at different layers, and air suitable for use in photosynthesis by
terrestrial plants and breathing of terrestrial animals is found only in Earth's troposphere and in artificial atmospheres.

Layers of Atmosphere – Earth’s atmosphere can be divided (called atmospheric stratification) into five main layers. From
highest to lowest, the five main layers are:

 Exosphere: 700 to 10,000 km (440 to 6,200 miles)

 Thermosphere: 80 to 700 km (50 to 440 miles)
 Mesosphere: 50 to 80 km (31 to 50 miles)
 Stratosphere: 12 to 50 km (7 to 31 miles)
 Troposphere: 0 to 12 km (0 to 7 miles)
Physical or Abiotic Environment 3
Dr. Denny went on to discuss Islam’s perspective on the natural resources that sustain these communities. He quoted a famous verse
on water (mentioned below).

Frederick Denny, Professor Emeritus

(Ph.D., University of Chicago) - His recent
and current research and writing have
been principally on Islam and human
rights, religion and ecology, religion-
focused cartography, and Unitarian
[Al-Ambiya 21:30] Did not the disbelievers observe that the heavens and the earth were
Universalist history and thought.
together, so We parted them, and we made every living thing from water? So will they not
accept faith? Reference:
Dr. Fred Denny at a guest lecture at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison on the
‫ تو ہم نے انہیں کھوال‬،‫کیا کافروں نے یہ خیال نہ کیا کہ آسمان اور زمین بند تھے‬ topic of environmental protection and
‫ تو کیا وہ ایمان نہ الئیں گے۔‬،‫اور ہم نے ہر جاندار چیز پانی سے بنائی‬ Islam (April 10, 2013)

By identifying the foundation of life, the verse leaves one with no doubt that the preservation of water is paramount to the natural
order found on Earth. He further explained that the attention to water was so high, that Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)
codified in his hadeeth (tradition) four categories of water and what rights humans had in relation to each:
1. Ocean and sea water = No one’s private property, belonging to all on earth like the moon, air, and sun.
2. Large rivers/lakes = No one’s property, should not be restricted to an owner.
3. Water which several people share (wells…etc.) = property of those who share it and must be fairly shared by the parties who
have a shared ownership.
4. Waters which are preserved in vessels/containers…etc. = property of a sole individual, but may be taken if no other water exists
and life is in jeopardy.
Rights to water, as outlined by the hadeeth, entails that the advantage be in favor of what sustains life. Other hadeeths, Dr. Denny
mentioned, with strong chains of narration, indicate that that denying water to those in need when others have it in excess incurs
God’s wrath on the day of judgment to those who do not share it, and that humans are partners in 3 things: water, herbage, and fire
(sources of energy). In a world where water is predicted to be the future source of conflict, and where access to clean water is
increasingly imbalanced, this hadeeth drives home a point: sharing is not just caring, it is part of an environmentally and humane
Physical or Abiotic Environment 4
The hydrosphere is combined mass of water found on, under and
above the surface of Earth.
It has been estimated that there are 1386 million cubic kilometers of
water on Earth. This includes water in liquid and frozen forms in
groundwater, oceans, lakes and streams. Saltwater accounts for
97.5% of this amount. Fresh water accounts for only 2.5%. Of this,
fresh water, 68.9% is in the form of ice and permanent snow cover in
the Arctic, the Antarctic and mountain glaciers. 30.8% is in the form of fresh groundwater. Only 0.3% of the fresh water on Earth is in
easily accessible lakes, reservoirs and river systems.
The total mass of the Earth’s hydrosphere is about 1.4 x 1018 tons, which is about 0.023% of Earth’s total mass.
The Water Cycle
The water cycle is the continuous process of water evaporating, becoming cooled and condensing, and then returning to the earth in
the form of precipitation.
Water in the oceans covers about 71% of the earth’s surface. It must also be remembered that a great deal of water is present in a
solid state in the form of ice at the poles. Water vapor is present in our atmosphere. Because of its great abundance on the earth’s
surface, water is an important weather factor.
The Heat energy from the sun warms the surface of our planet. Water molecules at the surface of bodies of water absorb heat and,
with increased energy, may escape into the air as water vapor. This transformation of a liquid to a gas is called evaporation. The
water vapor near the earth’s surface is also warmed, and the absorbed energy causes the speeding up of the molecules. The
molecules move up and away from the evaporation surface. The water vapor molecules rise into the air and come into contact with
areas of low pressure. The air expands and becomes cooler. Air may also be cooled by heat loss due to radiation. The water
molecules collect and form minute droplets. This transition of a gas into a liquid is termed as condensation. If the condensation
occurs around tiny dust particles above the earth’s surface, a cloud is formed. If the droplets collect and form larger particles, the air
currents no longer support them, and they fall to the earth. This falling moisture is known as precipitation. The form is dependent
upon the temperature. Moisture that falls to the earth may run off the surface or soak into the ground. Much of it becomes part of
streams, which flow into larger bodies of water from which evaporation takes place. Plants and animals utilize water, but also give
off water vapor to the air – plant water vapor is known as transpiration. Water molecules may this be involved in evaporation,
condensation, precipitation and run-off in a continuous cycle.
Physical or Abiotic Environment 5
Water Cycle Vocabulary
• Sun Heat from the sun warms water from oceans, lakes, rivers and streams.
• Evaporation Heated water turns into vapor and rises.
• Transpiration Plants and trees take in water through their roots – some if it passes out
through the pores in their leaves and evaporates into the air.
• Condensation When water vapor rises and cools, it become water droplets.
• Clouds Clouds are made of water droplets and ice crystals, depending on the
• Precipitation When water droplets collide and merge, rain, sleet or hail falls.
• Surface Run-off Water that does not soak into soil moves toward oceans, lakes, rivers,
and streams.
• Infiltration When water falls to Earth as precipitation, it soaks into the soil.
is the rigid, outermost shell of a terrestrial-type planet or natural
satellite that is defined by its rigid mechanical properties. On Earth, it is
composed of the crust and the portion of the upper mantle that behaves
elastically on time scales of thousands of years or greater. The outermost
shell of a rocky planet, the crust, is defined on the basis of its chemistry
and mineralogy.
Earth’s Lithosphere
Earth is made up of a number of layers, namely the core at the center
(separated into the inner and outer core), the mantle, the upper mantle,
the outer crust and the atmosphere. The core is made up mostly of iron.
The mantle, which lies between the core and the crust, consists of molten
rock, called magma which moves continuously because of convection
currents. The crust is the thin, hard outer layer that ‘floats’ on the magma
of the mantle. It is the upper part of the mantle and the crust that make
up the lithosphere.
Earth’s lithosphere includes the crust and the uppermost mantle, which
constitute the hard and rigid outer layer of the Earth.
Biotic Component 6
Biotic components are the living things that shape an ecosystem. These components usually include:

 Producers, i.e. autotrophs: e.g. plants, convert the energy [from photosynthesis (the transfer of sunlight, water, and carbon
dioxide into energy), or other sources such as hydrothermal vents] into food.
 Consumers, i.e. heterotrophs: e.g. animals, depend upon producers (occasionally other consumers) for food.
 Decomposers, i.e. detritivores & Saprotrophs: e.g. fungi and bacteria, break down chemicals from producers and consumers
(usually dead) into simpler form which can be reused.

A biotic factor is any living component that affects the population of another organism, or the environment. This
includes animals that consume the organism, and the living food that the organism consumes. Biotic factors also include human
influence, pathogens, and disease outbreaks. Each biotic factor needs energy to do work and food for proper growth.

Autotrophs – these are also called producers, convertors or transducers.

These are photosynthetic plants, generally chlorophyll bearing, which
synthesize high-energy complex organic compounds (food) from inorganic
raw materials with the help of sunlight, and the process is referred as
photosynthesis. Autotrophs form the basis of any biotic system.
Heterotrophs – these are called consumers, which are generally animals
feeding on other organisms such as Herbivores, Carnivores & Omnivores.
Saprotrophs – these are also called decomposers or reducers. They break
down the complex organic compounds of dead matter (of plants and
animals). Decomposers do not ingest their food. Instead they secrete
digestive enzymes into the dead and decaying plant and animal remains to
digest the organic material. Enzymes act upon the complex organic
compounds of the dead matter.
Decomposers absorb a part of the decomposition products for their own
nourishment. The remaining substances are added as minerals to the
substratum (this is the process of mineralization). Released minerals are
reused (utilized) as nutrients by the plants (producers).
Man & Environment [The Human Ecology] 7
Human ecology is about relationships between people and
their environment. In human ecology the environment is
perceived as an ecosystem (consider the given figure). An
ecosystem is everything in a specified area - the air, soil, water,
living organisms and physical structures, including everything
built by humans. The living parts of an ecosystem -
microorganisms, plants and animals (including humans) - are
its biological community.

Ecosystems can be any size. A small pond in a forest is an

ecosystem, and the entire forest is an ecosystem. A single farm is
an ecosystem, and a rural landscape is an ecosystem. Villages,
towns and large cities are ecosystems. A region of thousands of
square kilometers is an ecosystem, and the planet Earth is an

Although humans are part of the ecosystem, it is useful to think of human - environment interaction as interaction between the
human social system and the rest of the ecosystem (as mentioned in the above figure). The social system is everything about people,
their population and the psychology and social organization that shape their behavior. The social system is a central concept in
human ecology because human activities that impact on ecosystems are strongly influenced by the society in which people live.
Values and knowledge - which together form our worldview as individuals and as a society - shape the way that we process and
interpret information and translate it into action. Technology defines our repertoire of possible actions. Social organization, and the
social institutions that specify socially acceptable behavior, shape the possibilities into what we actually do. Like ecosystems, social
systems can be on any scale - from a family to the entire human population of the planet.

Now, as far as Ecosystem is concerned, there are certain human activities that effect health and environment.
Man & Environment [The Human Ecology] 8
Human activities in an ecosystem have many drawbacks, unless we are approaching it in an environmental friendly way. The
atmosphere, fertile soils, freshwater resources, the oceans and the ecosystems they support, play a key role in providing
humans with shelter, food, safe water and the capacity to recycle most wastes. However, pressures exerted by humans, on the
environment, in the form of pollution, resource depletion, land use changes and others affect environmental quality.
Degradation of environmental quality can, in turn, lead to adverse human exposures and eventual health effects.

The pressures excreted by the driving forces are in many instances increasing. They relate to household wastes, freshwater
use, land use and agricultural development, industrialization and energy use.
Household wastes –
 Gaseous household wastes arise mainly from heating and cooking. They contribute substantially to both outdoor and
indoor air pollution.

 Liquid wastes are the by-products of domestic activities. In most areas of developing countries, feces are recycled for use
in agriculture or deposited on land without prior destruction of pathogens. Not surprisingly, infectious disease such as
diarrheal diseases, schistosomiasis and hepatitis are endemic, and some times epidemic, in such areas.

 Solid waste can also create environmental health problems. It consists mainly of non-hazardous materials such as paper
and plastic packaging material, glass, food scraps and other residues. However, it generally also contains small quantities
of hazardous substances such as paints, medicines, solvents, cleaning materials and batteries, leading to potential
chemical exposures.

Production of household and municipal solid waste continues to increase worldwide, both in absolute and per capita terms.
Man & Environment [The Human Ecology] 9
Fresh Water –
For a large percentage of world’s population, water supplies are neither safe nor adequate. Currently, over 1000 million
people do not have access to an adequate supply of safe water for household consumption. Moreover, the world’s freshwater
resources are limited and unevenly distributed over the global land mass. Demand for water is nevertheless increasing in
several sectors: for drinking water (domestic needs), food production (agriculture) and product manufacturing (industry).

Global freshwater resources are threatened not only by overexploitation, however, but also by poor management and
ecological degradation. Untreated sewage is discharged into rivers and lakes; industrial wastes are dumped into water
bodies; and runoff from agricultural fields treated with herbicides and pesticides is leading to water contamination.

Industrial development, the exponential growth of human settlements and the ever-increasing use of synthetic organic
substances are also having serious adverse impacts on freshwater bodies. Many surface and ground waters are now
contaminated with nutrients, heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants.

For instance, the River Awetu has been degraded by untreated liquid and solid waste discharge from Jimma Town,
southwestern Ethiopia. The water is pungent and turns black just before the confluence point with the River Gilgel Gibe and
no macro-invertebrates were found at this site.

Land use and Agricultural Development –

Competition for land appears to be intensifying between sectors and production systems. Agriculture, in particular, can be
expected to become an even more dominant form of land use. Population increases and the finite extent, to which further
land can be converted to agricultural uses, mean that land availability is becoming an issue.

Erosion –
Perhaps the worst erosion problem in the world, per hectare of farmland, is in Ethiopia. Although Ethiopia has only 1/100 as
much cropland in cultivation as the United States, it is thought to lose 2 billion metric tons of soil each year to erosion.
Man & Environment [The Human Ecology] 10
Industrialization –
Industrialization is central to economic development an improved prospects for human well-being. But, if proper abatement
technology is not used, industry becomes a major source of air, water and soil pollution, hazardous wastes and noise.
Industrial workers are often at highest risk of health impacts. Furthermore, developed countries have exacerbated the
environmental problems now being experienced by developing countries through transfer of hazardous wastes industries
and technologies.

Energy –
Energy plays a critical role in basic human survival. Energy has important implications for health. Energy is also crucial to
transportation and industrial processes. However, production and use of energy, if not properly controlled my be
accompanied by adverse health and environment impacts.

In developing countries, biomass accounts for about one-third of all energy use, and in some of least-developed countries, for
as much as two-thirds. Open fires impair indoor air quality, add to the risk of accidents and jeopardize food hygiene.

Environmental treats to human health are numerous. These threats can be divided in to two:

a. Traditional Hazard – associated with lack of development. Traditional hazards related to poverty and “insufficient”
development are wide-ranging and include: lack of access to safe drinking-water; inadequate basic sanitation in the
household and the community; indoor air pollution from cooking and heating using coal or biomass fuel and inadequate
solid waste disposal.
b. Modern Hazard – associated with unsustainable development. Modern hazards are related to development that lacks
health- and environment safeguards, and to unsustainable consumption of natural resources. They include: water
pollution from populated areas, industry and intensive agriculture; urban air pollution from motor cars, coal power
stations and industry resulting in climate change stratospheric ozone depletion and trans-boundary pollution.

End of Lecture 02….. Chapter 02 Completed