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WSU Environmental Science 101 Exam 2 Revised
Terms in this set (28)
Atmosphere; Plant biomass; Soil carbon; Fossil carbon; Reactive sediments; Deep ocean; Surface ocean... Photosynthesis; Respiration; Microbial respiration and decomposition; Air-sea gas exchange; Photosynthesis; Respiration
Changes inert nitrogen into biologically useful ammonia by imputing substantial amounts of energy; Atmospheric nitrogen fixation is when lightning fixes nitrogen to become nitric acid; Oxygen and hydrogen come from water in the atmosphere (the lightning is strong enough to break the N2 bond which then readily combines with water)
Diversity of species; Diversity of ecosystems; Diversity of genetics
The ability to recover function after a disturbance. In an ecosystem this means still providing all the same services after a disturbance as before the disturbance. As species are lost, the ecosystem becomes less resilient because there is less species to fill "roles" in that ecosystem so it cannot "bounce back" as easily.
A species on which other species in an ecosystem largely depend on, such that if it were removed the ecosystem would change drastically.
Wolves of Yellowstone (function of that ecosystem)
With their primary predator eliminated, elk populations exploded, leading to the overgrazing of plants. Significant declines in the populations of many plant species (aspen & willow) resulted, which in turn influenced other wildlife, such as beaver and songbird populations. Intensive browsing of aspen, for example, led to a rapid decline in the number of seedlings and root sprouts growing into saplings and trees. For many stands of these trees, only large diameter trees (those that had matured before the wolves were eradicated) remained. Disappearance of these and other plant species not only caused the loss of habitat for many other animals but also influenced other ecological factors, including stream bank stability, the deposition of organic matter and fine sediment in riparian zones, water temperature regulation via shading, and nutrient cycling. The removal of wolves thus led to the instability of riparian and other environmentally sensitive areas.
Hard Path Water Solution
Involves physical structures designed to increase supply or quality. It is more expensive in the long run because they don't remove the source of the problem. It has a smaller up front cost, but must be continually administered.
Soft Path Water Solution
Includes restoration, conservation, and changes in behavior. It is more difficult to implement, but in the long run it gets more to the root of the problem.
What are GMO's?
Organisms that have been altered to contain genes from another species that adds an attribute such as disease or drought tolerance to the modified crop.
What is Food Security?
Food security is the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
Conventional vs. Organic Grown Foods
Conventionally grown is an agriculture term referring to a method of growing edible plants (such as fruit and vegetables) and other products. It is opposite to organic growing methods which attempt to produce without synthetic chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones) or genetically modified organisms. Organic foods can include fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy foods, eggs and to some extent meats and poultry. However, these foods can be more expensive than "conventional" foods. Organic foods are defined as those foods that are grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
A community supported agriculture system is extremely beneficial to a community because it "enables consumers to support local farmers, obtain food that might be fresher than store-bought food, and learn more information from farmers about how the food is grown." Our working definition for sustainable food is that it should be produced, processed, distributed and disposed of in ways that: Contribute to thriving local economies and sustainable livelihoods - both in the UK and, in the case of imported products, in producer countries; Protect the diversity of both plants and animals and the welfare of farmed and wild species; Avoid damaging or wasting natural resources or contributing to climate change; Provide social benefits, such as good quality food, safe and healthy products, and educational opportunities.
Food/Agriculture Impacts to Air and Water and Soil and Climate
Factory farms emit harmful gases and particles such as methane and hydrogen sulfide, which can contribute to global warming and harm the health of those living or working nearby. Air pollution results from the overuse of machinery, the mismanagement of manure, and the irresponsible feeding practices that characterize industrial farming. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides have turned agriculture into a leading source of water pollution in the United States. Runoff from factory farms kills fish, degrades aquatic habitats and threatens drinking water supplies. Additionally, factory farms use tremendous amounts of water, which cuts into our precious supplies of water that are not contaminated. Crops are not rotated in a way that replenishes the soil. Manure and chemical fertilizers are used to "feed" the soil, but through over-application these additives become a problem. Choosing to eat less meat is one of the most effective personal choices we can make to address climate change. This may come as a surprise. When we think about the climate crisis, we tend to think about fossil fuel or dirty coal-fired powered plants. However, the global food system is responsible for an estimated one-third of total greenhouse gas emissions.
Fossil Based Energy
Fossil fuel is a general term for buried combustible geologic deposits of organic materials, formed from decayed plants and animals that have been converted to crude oil, coal, natural gas, or heavy oils by exposure to heat and pressure in the earth's crust over hundreds of millions of years. One advantage of fossil fuels is that they are well developed. The technology we use to harness the energy in fossil fuels is well developed. The main reason for this is that fossil fuels have been used to power our world for many decades. Another is that they are cheap and reliable. Fossil fuels are cheap and reliable sources of energy. They are excellent types of fuel to use for the energy base-load, as opposed to some of the more unreliable energy sources such as wind and solar. One disadvantage is that they contribute to global warming. Fossil fuels are not green sources of energy. In fact, they contain high amounts of carbon and have been blamed for being the main contributor to global warming. Another is that they are non-renewable. Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy sources. This means that there is a finite amount of fossil fuels available and the reserves are not replenished naturally. This is not entirely correct; as fossil fuels are products of millions of years of natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition of organic matter. The thing is, as opposed to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, it takes millions of years before the formation of fossil fuels takes place in any noteworthy quantities. Fossil Fuels are also unsustainable. We are spending our fossil fuel reserves in a non-sustainable manner. Luckily, this forces us to think different when it comes to energy, which results in the growth of renewable and green sources of energy. Another is that they are incentivized. One of the major reasons why fossil fuels are as cheap is a history of government incentives. Coal, natural gas and petroleum received $4.22 billion most in direct subsidies - solar got $1.13 billion. Another disadvantage of fossil fuels is that fact that accidents happen. They are not nearly as serious as accidents related to nuclear power, but on the other hand, fossil fuels will never have the safety of solar and wind. The picture above is from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Energy generated in ways that do not deplete natural resources or harm the environment, especially by avoiding the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power. One advantage of using an alternative energy source is that they are safe for the environment. The whole reason that the United States and other countries around the world are using tax breaks and other incentives to encourage the production of alternative energy sources is concern about the environment. Fossil fuels are believed to be responsible for some of the damage to the Earth's protective ozone layer. This has led to global warming and issues such as melting ice caps and more destructive weather patterns. Fortunately, the ozone layer can repair itself, over time, if pollution is stopped. From wind power to solar energy and water power, alternative energy sources are all safe for the planet. Another is that it is available in unlimited supply. The other important aspect for alternative energy sources is that each is available in a relatively inexhaustible supply. That's because the supply of oil to be mined from the Earth is been dropping for decades. Other energy sources, such as wind power and solar energy, are not at risk of ever running out. Another advantage is that they are a practical substitute for fossil fuels. Of course, scientists point out that it's vital that a source of alternative energy can take the place of fossil fuels and act as a long-term replacement without any issues that could affect the world's financial markets. For example, when conflicts in the Middle East make it temporarily impossible for some of the largest exporters of oil to send out supplies to other countries, that lowers the world supply and drives up the price of oil. Alternative fuels like wind and geothermal power are being designed to take over for fossil fuels with no negative impacts. One disadvantage of using an alternative energy source is that they are not cost-effective. Currently, scientists are figuring out ways to produce various forms of alternative energy at a cost that's just as low as oil and gas. The concern is alternative energy will not be cost-effective and the price of energy will become a major issue in the future. Another is that they are not reliable. Depending on what type or types of alternative energy end up providing electricity for a bulk of Americans, the fuel must be reliable and always capable of delivering electricity. There are currently concerns with many types of alternative energy sources. Winds may not always blow strongly enough to supply the boost needed to spin turbines on wind farms. Rain and even air pollution can block sunlight from getting to solar panels for the process of transforming the light of the sun into electricity, not to mention nighttime hours.
A wind turbine is a device that converts kinetic energy from the wind into electrical power. A wind turbine used for charging batteries may be referred to as a wind charger. Some pros of wind energy include: Wind energy is a green energy source and does not cause pollution; The potential of wind power is enormous - 20 times more than what the entire human population needs; Wind power is renewable and there is no way we can run out of it (since wind energy originates from the sun); Wind turbines are incredible space-efficient. The largest of them generate enough electricity to power 600 U.S. homes; Wind power only accounts for about 2.5% of total worldwide electricity production, but is growing at a promising rate of 25% per year (2010); Prices have decreased over 80% since 1980 and are expected to keep decreasing; The operational costs associated with wind power are low; Good domestic potential: Residential wind turbines yields energy savings and protects homeowners from power outages. Some cons of wind energy include: Wind is a fluctuating (intermittent) source of energy and is not suited to meet the base load energy demand unless some form of energy storage is utilized (e.g. batteries, pumped hydro); The manufacturing and installation of wind turbines requires heavy upfront investments - both in commercial and residential applications; Wind turbines can be a threat to wildlife (e.g. birds, bats); Noise is regularly reported as a problem by neighboring homes; How wind turbines look (aesthetics) is a legitimate concern for some people. The advantages of using wind energy include: Green; Enormous potential; Renewable; Space-efficient; Rapid growth; Prices are decreasing; Low operational costs; Good domestic potential. The disadvantages of using wind energy include: Unpredictable; Costs; Threat to wildlife; Noise; Looks.
Managing Shared Water Resources
The Okavango River begins in Angola as the two rivers of Cubango and Cuito join. It then passes through Namibia, and finally drains into an inland delta in Botswana at the edge of the Kalahari Desert. This free-flowing river is approximately 1,100 km long with a pristine inland delta and wetlands in Botswana covering 8,000 km2 in the dry season and 15,000 km2 in the wet season. There is pressure to develop the Okavango the region where the Okavango is located is very poor and been in conflict for a very long time. The water resources of the river could help grow food and produce energy. It has not been developed yet, because it is very contentious, and they have already had a lot of civil strife in this region, which they are trying to avoid in the future. The Okavango delta is a very rich and biodiverse area. If the river were to be developed with dams or water taken out for irrigation, it could cut off they life giving supply of water and nutrients/sediment that make up the delta.
Pathways to Extinction: Over-Harvesting
Overharvesting is one of five primary activities threatening global biodiversity; others include pollution, introduced species, habitat fragmentation, and habitat destruction. Aquatic species are especially threatened by overharvesting, due to a situation known as the tragedy of the commons.
Pathways to Extinction: Invasive Species
Invasive species are plants, animals, or pathogens that are non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause harm. Globalization and international trade have created the opportunity for species to move around the planet at unprecedented rates. Humans have transported species for food, for aesthetics, for functional reasons and by accident. Some species will not survive in their new habitat without human intervention. Other species readily colonize their new habitats, some so successfully that they out complete native species and are thus called invasive species. The change in species composition in invaded ecosystems can result in a dramatic shift in ecosystem dynamics.
Pathways to Extinction: Climate Change
The extinction risk of global warming is the risk of species becoming extinct due to the effects of global warming. Habitat loss is the complete loss of habitat do to a multitude of possible factors (climate changes, removal of habitat etc). Habitat fragmentation is partial loss of habitat, where the habitat has been "fragmented" into parts. As long as the fragmentation is not extreme and the distance for the species to travel between is not to great per their requirements, species may still survive. However, habitat fragmentation can lead to habitat loss. Changes to the carbon cycle directly impact photosynthesis, respiration, and air-sea gas exchange and temperature. Changes in temperature drive changes in precipitation patterns. Organisms have evolved within habitats that have experienced relative limits of temperature and precipitation for the last 800,000 plus years. During glacial periods when northern habitats were lost under ice, species adapted or migrated (and no doubt a few went extinct). Local, abrupt change may have frequently happened; however, global-scale change occurred over thousands of years, giving species time to migrate and adapt, and there were places to which species could migrate. Human activity now covers more area than ice did in during the last ice age and our activity covers many land areas that had never been covered with ice.
Pathways to Extinction: Pollution
The advent of the Industrial Age and the utilization of fossil fuels for energy and chemicals, nuclear fission for power and weapons, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pharmaceuticals and other human endeavors have created health impacts to both humans and other organisms. At least 80,000 man-made chemicals have been produced and most have been used in the environment under conditions that expose humans and other organisms to what is essentially a cocktail of chemicals. A multitude of chemicals have been found in the tissues of most every organism (that has been tested) that resides near an urban or agricultural system. Chemicals have also been found in organisms that live far from dense human activity, such as arctic polar bears and whales. Species living close to human activity such as killer whales (Orca's) living in Puget Sound and beluga whales in the St Lawrence Seaway, have been found to have such high levels of toxins in their bodies that when a dead whale washes up on a beach, it can be considered hazardous waste.
Pathways to Extinction Case Study: Cane Toads (Invasive Species)
Cane toads are considered an invasive species because when introduced to an environment that it is not native to, it has no natural predators, emits a toxin to those critters that try to eat it, and really loves its new environment allowing them to breed uncontrollably. Cane toads were introduced into the country because they were introduced as a biological control for the sugar cane beetles. Their introduction has not been an effective mean of controlling the cane beetle. The cane beetles resided high on the sugar can out of reach of the toad, they were out at different times of the day. So essentially they did not interact at all. Cane toad are extremely productive critters. They lay many, many eggs, that grow into viable toad very quickly. Other native toad species in Australia have a much longer breeding time, so they get "choked" out by the large amount of cane toad eggs, tadpoles and full grown toads. Also, the toad emits a toxin to critters that eat it. (in its native habitat it has some predators that can keep it in check that do not exist in Australia). The Cane toad can eat many creatures, as they get quite large. Three challenges to managing cane toads include: Quick breeding; Ability to lay so many eggs; Hard to kill without killing other native frogs and toads. Cane toads have the potential to compete with native species for food and shelter sites.
Pathways to Extinction Case Study: St. Lawrence Beluga Whales (Pollution)
Intestinal cancer is being seen in the St. Lawrence Seaway beluga whales. It is hypothesized that mixtures of chemicals in the water are causing the intestinal cancer in the Beluga Whales. Scientists test the effect of chemicals on beluga whales by exposing cells of a healthy Beluga Whales to different combinations of chemicals commonly found in the St. Lawrence and observe the impact on the cells.
Drought tolerance of a GMO crop may allow it to grow in desertified soils; herbicide resistance of a specific GMO crop decreases labor in application of herbicides; may help provide food and nutrition to many in poverty; in some cases a GMO may increase production of the edible part of the plant; longer shelf life, etc; bioremediation, plants that can rehabilitate soils; grow more food on less land.
GMO's may cause allergic reactions if they contain genes that are a potential allergy; the use of GMO's in commodity crops may cause Superweeds; cross contamination of non-GMO crops and patent violation; potential to become an invasive species, loss of biodiversity.
What is water security?
Water security is the ability to access sufficient quantities of clean water to maintain adequate standards of food and goods production, proper sanitation, and sustainable health care. Water is key to food security because crops and livestock need water to grow.
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