Environmental Science 14th Edition
A Search for Solutions Environmental science focuses on understanding challenges that affect our lives, and on finding solutions to those challenges. Your decision to study environmental science will help you develop the tools to find answers to some of the most important problems facing us today. Coral reefs (shown on the cover, and the focus of the opening case study for chapter 11, Biodiversity: Preserving
Species) are one of many fascinating systems explored in environmental science. These ecosystems are built on complex, intricately evolved symbiotic and competitive relationships. Energy and nutrients that flow through these systems support countless varieties of organisms— fish, shrimp, crabs, colorful snails and worms, and many others. Species that spend at least part of their life cycle in reefs provide nourishment for hundreds of millions of people. Thus, humans are also part of the reef system. Like other ecosystems, coral reefs are also affected by factors in the surrounding environment: temperatures, nutrient sources, the sun’s energy, and also human-caused pollution, disturbances, and, increasingly, climate warming that results primarily from burning fossil fuels. Researchers warn that we’ve already lost about one third of our existing reefs, and that another 60 percent are threatened by human activities.
An increasingly frequent consequence of climate warming is coral bleaching, the loss of the vivid colors characteristic of coral reefs. Bleaching was an unusual and mysterious phenomenon only a decade or so ago. Biologists have now shown that when stress occurs in a coral system, due to especially high temperatures, it causes coral polyps to eject the colorful symbiotic algae that give a reef its brilliance—and the energy for survival. Long-lasting bleaching causes death of the corals. A cascading chain of loss follows, as the countless fish, crustaceans, crabs, and other creatures inhabiting the reef lose their food and shelter. Human communities dependent on, reef-based ecosystems become part of the cascade as well.
There Are Many Ways to Address Complex Problems
In addition to societal changes aimed at removing the threats to coral reef survival, there are many efforts, as you’ll read in chapter 11, to restore these biological marvels. This is part of a larger movement to repair damage to our environment, and to rebuild natural systems. Like many of the issues in environmental science, threats to coral reefs are complex and often global. The global nature of the problem also means that no matter where you live, you can help find answers. The survival of reefs and many other ecosystems depends on strategies such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, developing renewable energy systems, better practices of pollution prevention, development of sustainable farming systems, and sustainable consumption patterns. These are all topics you can study in this course.
As you will find in the “What Can You Do?” boxes in every chapter, there are numerous practical opportunities to protect and sustain natural resources. It doesn’t always take a huge project to do important work for your local environment. Individuals and small groups have many opportunities to make positive change. All these ideas make environmental science an exciting and important subject. As you read this book, you can discover many ways to engage with the issues and ideas involved in environmental science. Whether you are a biologist, a geologist, a chemist, an economist, a political scientist, a writer, or an artist or poet who can capture our imagination, you can find fruitful and interesting ways to connect with the topics in this book.
We Are Surrounded by Challenges and Progress
All around us are examples of continuing challenges and evidence of progress. Human population growth continues, but it is slowing almost everywhere as women’s education and economic opportunity allow for small, well-cared-for families. We remain addicted to fossil fuels, but new energy technologies now provide reliable alternatives in many countries. Solar, wind, biomass, geothermal energy, and conservation could supply all the energy we need, if we chose to invest in them. Water quality and air pollution remain dire problems in many areas, but we have shown that we can dramatically improve water quality, air quality, and environmental health, when we put our minds to it.
Governments around the world are acknowledging the costs of environmental degradation and are taking steps to reduce their environmental impacts. From China to Europe to North America and developing countries, policymakers have plans to restore forests, conserve water, reduce air and water pollution, and develop sustainable energy supplies. Public support for environmental protection has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Grants and tax incentives, historically given to polluting industries, are now also supporting more sustainable energy and millions of green jobs. Businesses everywhere now recognize the opportunities in conservation, recycling, producing nontoxic products, and reducing their ecological footprints. New jobs are being created in environmental fields. Public opinion supports environmental protection because voters see the importance of environmental health for the economy, society, and quality of life.
College and university students are also finding new ways to organize, network, and take action to protect the environment they will inherit (see chapter 25). Ecologist Norman Meyers has said, “The present has a unique position in history. Now, as never before, we have technical, political, and economic resources to solve our global environmental crisis. And if we don’t do it now, it may be too late for future generations to do so.”
1 Understanding Our Environment 8
2 Principles of Science and Systems 33
3 Matter, Energy, and Life 49
4 Evolution, Biological Communities,
and Species Interactions 72
5 Biomes: Global Patterns of Life 97
6 Population Biology 116
7 Human Populations 131
8 Environmental Health
and Toxicology 152
9 Food and Hunger 177
10 Farming: Conventional and
Sustainable Practices 197
11 Biodiversity: Preserving Species 225
12 Biodiversity: Preserving Landscapes 249
13 Restoration Ecology 274
14 Geology and Earth Resources 300
15 Climate Change 322
16 Air Pollution 349
17 Water Use and Management 376
18 Water Pollution 400
19 Conventional Energy 426
20 Sustainable Energy 449
21 Solid, Toxic, and Hazardous Waste 477
22 Urbanization and Sustainable Cities 498
23 Ecological Economics 518
24 Environmental Policy, Law,
and Planning 542
25 What Then Shall We Do? 563
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