Contemporary Issues in Environmental Science Final

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Acid deposition
the accumulation of acids or acidic compounds on the surface of the Earth, in lakes or streams, or on objects or vegetation near the Earth's surface, as a result of separation from the atmosphere; occurs in a wet or dry process
Age structure
categorization of the population of communities or countries by age groups which depicts growth trends, allowing demographers to make projections of the growth or decline of the particular population
Albedo
the fraction of solar energy (shortwave radiation) reflected from the Earth back into space, it is a measure of the reflectivity of the Earth's surface
Algal bloom
A rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae in an aquatic system
Alternative energy
energy, such as solar, wind, or nuclear energy, that can replace of supplement traditional fossil-fuel sources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas
Altruistic preservation
a system of thought that emphasizes the fundamental right of other organisms to exist and pursue their own interests
Aquifer
water-bearing porous soil or rock that yield significant amounts of water to wells, may either be confined (lies between two layers of much less permeable material) or unconfined (is recharged directly from infiltrating rainfall)
Bioaccumulation
the accumulation of a substance, such as a toxic chemical, in various tissues of a living organism in a trophic level
Biocapacity
the capacity of a given biologically productive area to generate an on-going supply renewable resources and to absorb its spillover wastes
Biodiversity
the degree of variation of life forms within a given species/ecosystem, it is a measure of the health of the ecosystems relative to latitude
Biofuels
fuel, such as methane, produced from renewable biological resources such as plant biomass and treated municipal and industrial waste
Biological corridors
the concept focused on preserving the physical connections between protected areas with important biodiversity with the aim of preventing fragmentation of natural habitats, these are being promoted as an innovative way to promote sustainable development as well as conservation
Biomagnification
the increasing concentration of a substance, such as a toxic chemical, in the tissues of organisms at successively higher trophic levels in a food chain; organism at the top of the food chain generally suffer greater harm from a persistent toxin or pollutant than those at lower levels
Biomass
the amount of living matter in a given habitat
Buffer zone
an area located beyond a natural reserve area, either as another forest area, free state land, or as land with certain rights, which is required and able to preserve the integrity of a natural reserve area
Carrying capacity
the maximum, equilibrium number of organisms of a particular species that can be supported indefinitely in a given environment
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
any of various halocarbon compounds consisting of carbon, hydrogen, chlorine, and fluorine; until the Montreal Protocol, once used widely as aerosol propellants and refrigerants which cause depletion of the atmospheric ozone
Clean Air Act (CAA)
first enacted in 1970, it authorized the establishment of federal and state regulation that limit emissions stationary (point) and mobile (nonpoint) sources of air pollutants
Clean Water Act (CWA)
came into effect in 1972 as the primary legislation concerning water pollution and its regulation, it establishes a permit system that must be used by point sources of pollution such as industrial facilities, government facilities, and agricultural operations
Clearcutting
felling and removing all trees in a forest area
Climate Change
a long-term change in the Earth's climates resulting from an increase in the average atmospheric temperature, can be a natural occurrence of anthropogenic
Conservation
the foresighted utilization, preservation, and/or renewal of forests, waters, lands and minerals, for the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time
Critical habitat
areas of habitat that are crucial to the survival of a species
Crop rotation
the practice of growing different crops in succession on the same land chiefly to preserve the productive capacity of the soil
DDT
a colorless contact insecticide, toxic to humans and animals when swallowed or absorbed through the skin, it has been banned since 1972 in the U.S.
Dead zone
a hypoxic (low-oxygen) area in the world's oceans and large lakes, caused by excessive nutrient pollution from human activities like agriculture coupled with other factors that deplete the oxygen required to support most marine life in bottom and near-bottom water; example would be mouth of Mississippi River where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico
Deforestation
the removal of a forest or strand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use
Demographic transition
the change that typically takes place as a country develops; the birth and death rates of its population both eventually ten to fall as per capita income rises
Directional drilling
a drilling method involving intentional deviation of a wellbore which is often used in shale fracking
Dissolved Oxygen
the amount of oxygen dissolved in a body of water such as a lake, river, or stream
Doubling time (Td)
the amount of time for a given population to double based on the annual growth rate, calculated by the rule of 70
Ecological footprint
the amount of productive land appropriated on average by each person for food, water, transport, housing, waste management, and other demands
El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO)
a quasiperiodic climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean roughly every five years
Electromagnetic Spectrum (EM)
the entire range of wavelengths or frequencies of electromagnetic radiation extending from short gamma rays to the longest radio waves and includes visible light
Endemic Species
a species which is exclusively found in a given region, location, or unique ecosystem and nowhere else in the world; especially likely to develop in geographically isolated regions; more vulnerable to introduced exotic species
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
an independent federal agency established to coordinate programs aimed at reducing pollution and protecting the environment
Environmental Resistance
the influences of regulating environmental factors which put pressure on continuing the increase in numbers of individuals within a community nearby
Equitability (Species Evenness)
the evenness which individuals are distributed among species in a given community
Eutrophication
the over enrichment of water, high concentration of nutrients, especially phosphates and nitrates; these promote excessive growth of algae, as the algae die and decompose, high levels of organic matter and decomposing organisms deplete the available oxygen making the water hypoxic, causing the death of other organisms such as fish
Fishbone pattern
a pattern found in deforested areas which typically follows road and highway construction, resulting in cleared land that resembles the skeleton of a fish
Forest degradation
a reduction in forest quality, including the density and structure of the tress, the ecological services supplies, the biomass of plants and animals, the species diversity, and the genetic diversity
Fossil fuels
hydrocarbon deposits used for fuel such as petroleum, coal, or natural gas, which formed over geologic time from the remains of living organisms
Fragmentation
A form of habitat fragmentation, occurring when forests cut down in a manner that leaves relatively small, isolated patches of forests
Global warming
an average increase in the temperature of the atmosphere near the Earth's surface and in the troposphere, which can contribute to changes in global climate patterns; in common usage, global warming refers to the warming that can occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities
Greenhouse effect
the warming of the surface and lower atmosphere of a planet that is caused by conversion of incoming shortwave solar radiation into heat in a process involving selective transmission of short wave solar radiation by the atmosphere, its absorption by the planet's surface, and reradiation as infrared which is absorbed and partly reradiated back to the surface by atmospheric gases.
Greenhouse gas (GHG)
any of the atmospheric gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect by selectively absorbing and transmitting infrared radiation produced by solar warming of the Earth's surface, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor
Groundwater
the water beneath the surface of the ground, consisting largely of surface water that has seeped down, all pore space is completely filled in the groundwater zone
Horizontal drilling
the deviation of the borehole at least 80 degrees from vertical so that the borehole penetrates a productive formation in a manner parallel to the formation; this method is often used in shale fracking
Hydraulic fracturing
an unconventional procedure of creating micro fractures in rocks and rock formations by injecting a mixture of sand and water into the cracks to force rock to open further, which the allows the natural gas to be extracted, often called fracking
Hydrocarbons
any of numerous organic compounds, such as benzene and methane, that contain only carbon and hydrogen, such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas
Ice cores
cylinders of ice obtained by drilling into a glacier, since the different layers of ice are formed over geologic time through buildup of snow, they provide information on climate and atmospheric composition from different periods
Island biogeography theory
a field within biogeography that examines the factors that affect the species richness of isolated natural communities
Keeling Curve
A graph which has plotted the ongoing change in concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere since 1958, it is based on continuous measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii under the supervision of Charles David Keeling
Keystone species
a species whose presence and role within an ecosystem has a disproportionate effect on other organisms within the system and is crucial to the structure of an ecological community
Kyoto Protocol
an international agreement first adopted in 1997 that aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the presence of greenhouse gases, countries that ratifies the Protocol Emitting more than the assigned limit will result in a penalty for the violating country in the form of a lower emission limit in the following period, the U.S. did not sign it
Methylmercury
an organic ion containing mercury, this form of mercury is most easily bioaccumulated in organisms
Monoculture
a farming system given over exclusively to a single crop, advantages are the increased efficiency of farming and a higher quality of output, disadvantages include a greater susceptibility to price fluctuations, climatic hazards, spread of disease, and the discouragement of biodiversity
Montreal Protocol (MP)
treaty signed in 1987 by 25 nations; 168 nations are now parties to the protocol, it set limits on the production of chlorofluorocarbons
National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)
a set of air quality standards set by the EPA for widespread pollutants considered harmful to the public and environment
Non-point source
pollution discharged over a wide land area, not from one specific location, these are forms of diffuse pollution caused by sediment, nutrients, organic, and toxic substances originating from land-use activities, which are carried to lakes and streams by surface runoff
Nuclear meltdown
an informal term for a severe nuclear reactor accident that results in core damage from overheating
Oil sands
sand and rock material which contains crude bitumen, considered to be an unconventional source
Organic matter (OM)
usually carbon-based substances derived from living things, examples include: everything we grow and eat, wood, waste, and humus content of soil; it can be added to soil to make it more fertile
Overshoot
the biological phenomenon used by ecologists to describe a species whose numbers exceed the ecological carrying capacity of the place where it lives
Ozone
a molecule made up of three oxygen atoms with properties that block UV radiation in the stratosphere but has harmful effects on organisms which it is created in the troposphere
Point Source
pollution discharged through a pipe or some other discrete source from municipal water-treatment plants, factories, confined animal feedlots, or combined sewers
Polar stratospheric clouds (PSC)
clouds that form in the winter polar stratosphere at altitudes of 15,000-25,000 meters
Primary pollutants
an air pollutant emitted directly from a source like nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Radiation
the process in which energy is emitted as particles or waves
Rule of 70
a way to estimate the number of years it takes for a certain variable to double, the rule states that in order to estimate the number of years for a variable to double, take the number 70 and divide it by the growth rate of that variable
Runoff
water that moves over the soil surface to the nearest surface stream frequently transporting soil
Secondary pollutants
a pollutant which is not directly emitted from a source but forms once other primary pollutants react or interact in the atmosphere, example would be the tropospheric ozone
Shale
a sedimentary rock composed of layers of claylike, fine-grained sediments
slash-and-burn
a form of agriculture in which an area of forest is cleared by cutting and burning and is then planted, usually for several seasons, before being left to return to forest
Soil degradation
occurs when soil deteriorates because of human activity and loses its quality and productivity, characterized by loss of nutrients or organic matter breakdown of the soil structure or high toxicity from pollution
Soil erosion
removal of topsoil faster than the soil formation process can replace it, due to natural, animal, and human activity, results in land infertility and leads to desertification and often devastating flooding
Species richness
the number of species compared with the number of individuals in the community, measures the diversity of species within a community
Stratosphere
the part of the Earth's atmosphere which extends from the top of the troposphere to about 30 miles above the surface and in which temperature increases gradually to about 32 degrees Fahrenheit
Stratospheric ozone
naturally occurring atmospheric ozone that is concentrated in the lower stratosphere in a layer 9-18 miles above the Earth's surface; plays a critical role for the biosphere by absorbing a large proportion of the damaging ultraviolet radiation, also known as the ozone layer
Strip cropping
the growing of a cultivated crop, such as cotton, and a sod-forming crop, such as alfalfa, in alternating strip following the contour of the land, in order to minimize erosion
Total fertility rate (tfr)
the average number of children a woman would bear during her life time
Trophic level
a group of organisms that occupy the same position in a food chain
Troposphere
the lowest region of the atmosphere where weather forms; characterized by decreasing temperature with increasing altitude
Tropospheric ozone
a molecule made up of three oxygen atoms, formed in the lower ground level as a result of chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight ,emission from industrial facilities and electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents are some of the major sources
Ultraviolet light (UV)
radiation lying in the ultraviolet range of the electromagnetic spectrum and not visible to the human eye; this type of radiation is necessary to catalyze many chemical reactions that take place in the atmosphere
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
any organic compound which is unstable and evaporates readily to the atmosphere; involved in tropospheric ozone production
Wavelength
the distance between one peak or crest of a wave of light, heat, or other energy and the next corresponding peak or crest