Elements in the environment and human activities contribute to environmental changes through the variance and movement of a great number of materials and energy.
The natural elements transform the sun’s energy into living matter and cause changes by cycling materials through biological, oceanic, geological, and atmospheric processes.
While on the other hand, Human processes transform materials and energy into products and services to meet man’s demands and satisfy wants adding to the examples of environmental changes.
What is an Environmental Change?
Environmental changes are a transformation or disturbances of the environment most often caused by human-induced activities and natural ecological processes.
Environmental changes include various factors, such as natural disasters, human interference, or animal interaction.
Environmental change encompasses not only physical changes but also changes in the biogeochemical processes of the environment.
Any alteration or change in the natural form state of an ecosystem is considered environmental change. This can be the result of natural events which can lead to climatic and atmospheric changes.
For example, large volcanic eruptions release tiny particles into the atmosphere that block sunlight, resulting in surface cooling that can last for some years, variations in ocean currents such as El Niño can also change the distribution of heat and precipitation, the discharge of lightning causes a spark of a forest fire.
It can also result from human activities like the destruction of the natural forest either for construction purposes, recreation, commercial purpose (tree lumbering), or agricultural purposes.
Examples of Environmental Changes
- Biodiversity Loss
- Ozone Depletion
- Climate Change
This is the removal or clearing of forest trees and then they are been for non-forest use. This conversion can be for farm, urban use, or ranches. It can also be said to be the purposeful or intentional removal of forested farmland.
However, deforestation might also occur accidentally when a fire destroys large areas such as lightning discharge that leads to a forest fire. In the case of history, forests have been removed for the sole aim of satisfying human needs.
Deforestation is a major environmental threat in some areas as a result of a lack of regulations and policies. Negative consequences of large, unrestricted deforestation can pose a serious challenge not only to the area involved but also to the environment and ecological balance.
On the other hand, there is a need for more trees to be planted and the enforcement of forest regulatory policies to reduce the excessive rate of forest removal and loss of plants.
Trees provide oxygen, food, water, and medicine for everyone all over the globe, and also serves as habitat for diverse species in the ecosystem.
But if deforestation continues at the rate it’s occurring, we won’t have much of the valuable forestry left.
With natural wildfires, illegal logging, and the mass amount of timber being harvested for commercial use, our forests are decreasing at an alarming rate.
As well as reducing our supply of oxygen, the loss of forests is contributing to around 15% of our greenhouse gas emissions.
2. Biodiversity Loss
Biodiversity is the most complex and vital feature of our planet. This is the variety of animals, plants, fungi, and even microorganisms like bacteria that make up the natural world.
And each of these species works together in the ecosystems to maintain balance and support life.
Many species as been discovered are been threatened with extinction due to human activities, which puts the earth’s munificent species at risk.
With the increase in global warming, pollution, and deforestation, biodiversity is in danger. Billions of species are going or have gone extinct all over the world.
Some scientists are suggesting that we are at the beginning of a 6th mass extinction, posing issues for our planet and ourselves.
The earth’s diverse species are been reduced drastically on a daily basis as this goes a long way to affect the ecosystem, therefore it is a call to action for immediate and consistent implementation of biodiversity conservation policies and regulations around the world.
This is the introduction of harmful materials into the environment in an amount that is harmful to the environment and species present in the environment. These substances and materials are called pollutants.
Pollutants can be natural such as volcanic as well as the human-induced release of substances from industries both as solid and liquid, dumping improper refuse dumping.
Pollution is an environmental problem that cannot be overemphasized as it is seen in human daily activities in as much as there is continuous production and consumption of materials,
Pollutants damage the quality of air, water, and land. Pollution is one of the primary causes of many other environmental concerns, including climate change and the decline in biodiversity.
All the seven key types of pollution which include air, water, soil, noise, radioactive, light, and thermal are affecting our environment which has posed a great global problem.
All types of pollution, and environmental concerns, are interlinked and influence one another. So, to tackle one is to tackle them all.
4. Ozone Depletion
This is the gradual reduction of the Earth’s ozone layer in the upper atmosphere which is caused by the release of chemical compounds containing gaseous bromine or chlorine from industries and other human processes.
Some compounds release chlorine and bromine on exposure to high ultraviolet light, which goes a long way to expose the earth to direct contact with ultraviolet rays and further leads to global warming than climate change.
These substances that contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer are known as Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODSs).
The Ozone Depleting Substances that contain chlorine include chlorofluorocarbon, carbon tetrachloride, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, and methyl chloroform.
Whereas the Ozone-Depleting Substances that contain bromine are halons, methyl bromide, and hydro bromofluorocarbons.
Chlorofluorocarbons are known as the most abundant Ozone-Depleting Substance, they are the main cause of Ozone Depletion and are released by solvents, spray aerosols, refrigerators, air conditioners, etc.
However, the ozone has been discovered to be depleted by certain natural processes such as stratospheric wind and sunspots, also volcanic eruptions are responsible for the depletion of the Ozone all these just have a 1-2% contribution to the depletion.
Ozone depletion is a major environmental change because it increases the amount of ultraviolet radiation that reaches the earth’s surface, which has major adverse health effects on human being such as skin cancer, genetic and immune damage, and eye cataract.
To this effect, the Montreal Protocol, rectified in 1987, was the first comprehensive international agreement enacted to halt the production and use of Ozone-Depleting Substances
5. Climate Change
This is known as the shift in temperature and weather patterns over a long period. This shift may be caused by natural factors such as variations in the solar cycle.
However, human activities have been the main cause of climate change, basically due to the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas.
The burning of fossil fuels generates greenhouse gas emissions with serve as covering the earth and trap’s sun’s heat and increase temperature.
These greenhouse gases that are causing climate change include Methane (CH4), Carbon (iv) oxide (CO2), Chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs), water vapor, nitrous oxide (N2O), and Ozone (O3).
A greater percentage of these gases are released into the atmosphere as a result of human activities such as the use of gasoline for driving a car, coal for heating a building, clearing land and forests which release carbon (iv) oxide, landfills and livestock farming which serves as major sources of methane emissions.
As pointed out by a recent UN report, without ‘unprecedented changes in our actions and behavior, our planet will suffer drastically from global warming in just 12 years.
Desertification, which is also known as desertization, is the process by which natural or human causes reduce the biological productivity of drylands (arid and semiarid lands).
It is also said to be the process by which a piece of land becomes dry, empty, and unsuitable for growing trees or crops on.
This occurs may be the result of both natural and human-induced factors such as climate change, deforestation, drought, overgrazing, poverty, political instability, unsustainable irrigation practices, etc.
Research has shown that a third of Africa is under threat of desertification.
Over time, the earth’s environment has changed for the better (e.g transforming deserts into agricultural areas) and the worse (e.g., ozone depletion, pollution in different Environmental aspects, desertification, deforestation, etc.).
However, the change seen in the environment is more prevalent in the negative aspect as human activities have to a large extent degraded and reduced the environment quality and altered the original environmental state.
Therefore it is essential that we become aware of the occurring changes in the environment and responsibly guide and monitor those changes on our home planet.
6 Examples of Environmental Changes-FAQs
Which environmental changes are caused by human activities?
Human impact on the environment has been seen in changes that occur in the biophysical aspects of the environment and these impacts are seen in so many ways, which includes: pollution, fossil fuel burning, over-exploitation, and deforestation. All these changes have increased climate change, poor air quality, unsafe water, poor agricultural farmlands, and soil erosion.
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Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst and Content writer. He is the CEO of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious college in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.