Table of Contents
Introduction to Biodiversity and Eco-Systems
Environmental Impacts on the Eco-Systems
Principles and Fundamentals in Environmental Impact Assessment
Policy Implications and the Institutional Framework in EIA
Final Overview: Recommendations and Conclusion
The course in environmental Impact assessment concentrates on identifying the major factors responsible for environmental stability and instability, ad methods in determining or estimating the extent of their effect. Therefore this course; prepares the ability for identifying, developing and implementing effective solutions to environmental challenges, especially in an international context.
The learning outcomes of this course study include knowledge and understanding of a range of environmental topics as well as intellectual, practical and transferable skills and competences, as detailed below;
- Acquire knowledge of current scientific theories, paradigms, concepts and principles of natural and human-induced environmental processes that are essential for formulating modern environmental policies.
- Gain understanding of existing political, economic, legal, international, and social implications of human interactions with the environment
- Understand environmental policy processes and principles of effective environmental governance as well as main factors of environmental politics.
- Learn how the private sector can handle environmental issues and mainstream the environment in business strategies.
- Understand the basic principles of environmental assessment, auditing and life cycle assessment.
- Understand the purpose, scope and limitation of key methods by which environmental and related information can be gathered, processed and interpreted
- Learn the key social factors that impact the environment.
Our environment is a key defining factor that can be used to establish and to predict the health status, economic progress and downfall, social and economic development, human interactions and quality of regulation and policies operating in the given community or at the national level.
Though environments may vary from one to another in terms of health status, bio-diversity, pollution, and extent of exploitation by human activities, economic value but yet in even when these factors are present all environments share a fundamental feature which is their ability to support life and hence they provide reliance for man’s natural existence.
Though science and technological advancements are changing the trends in environmental support and reliance to man’s existence, yet all these inventions are always aimed at devising means of increasing and boosting the support of the environment towards man and for his wellbeing. Any threats and endangering of the human environment both to the biotic and abiotic components does not actually exert its effect on the environment itself but rather onto those that are supported by it. The concept or idea is that the environment only exists for our good and t no time or extent has the environment turned negatively impacting to man unless destabilized by man himself.
This idea therefore, is elaborative of the implications of man to the environment and not that of the environment because it is man who is supported first or in other words human existence emerges from the environment. Science has it well explained through the topic of ecology that for an efficient and reliable eco-system to exist, both man and the environment must exert a positive impact to each other to a particular extent. This is because the eco-system is made up of biotic interrelations namely; food webs, food chains, and energy flow cycles.
This study is a scope therefore, into these environmental dynamics and its relevance to health is vital not in mere theoretical approaches but more so in the general practice for every person but we are all stake holders when it comes to environmental; protection, dependency and reliance. Achieving a positive human environment that is supportive in all spheres of man’s involvement and enjoyment there is need to analyse the state or status of the environmental exploitation and degradation and responsible use of it at an international scale.
This study presents research outcomes and revised approaches that can be applied in assessing the impacts of the environment to human health and existence and after this it outlines elaborately the various policies and strategies that have been and can be used to change the negative and threatening impacts of the environment onto man and his future existence.
Chapter One Introduction to Biodiversity and Eco-Systems
The human environment can also be regarded as the natural environment in which variety of biodiversity is found to interrelate and cause impact to each other. The biodiversity of the natural environment is regarded as the life consuming factors which also include both plants and animals. There has been a social neglect in the understanding of the components of biodiversity where man only concentrates on the plants and animals.
Biodiversity is treated as a contraction of the term “biological diversity” and according to Luc Hens biodiversity can be defined as the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems” (CDB).
There are so many living organisms that are not necessarily plants or animals but falling into other categories of the living organisms. Consider the main kingdoms below in which all the living organisms are categorised;
1. Kingdom prokaryote; this kingdom is sometimes referred to as monera and it comprises of tinny unicellular micro-organism that lack an organized and enveloped nucleus. These organisms also lack a variety of membrane bound cell organelles.
The common example of organism in this kingdom is the bacteria whose size ranges in diameter from 0.2µm-4µm with the length from 0.3 µm-10µm and from this size it can only be seen with an aided eye while using magnifying lenses (Principles of Biology). The role origin of the bacterium is essential in the study of human science because it offers the basis for the evolution of man and the disease micro-organisms.
2. Kingdom Protista: this kingdom is mainly composed of protozoans and other simple multicellular. There distinctive feature is the organized envelope for the nuclear material such as the genetic composition for the organism. These organism play a vital role in the establishment of efficient food chains and food webs in the aquatic life and in other types of eco-systems. The common of these are the planktons, amoeba, paramecium, euglena, and zooplanktons. This kingdom also contains self-supporting organisms called algae that have pigments that trap sunlight which provide the solar energy used in the synthesis of their food e.g. the spirogyra (Concepts in Biology).
3. Kingdom fungi: this kingdom comprises of heterotrophic organisms that live as parasites or saprophytes. Most of them are multicellular but a few are unicellular.
The bodies of the multicellular fungi consist of a branching system of threadlike filaments called hyphae. The common examples to man’s routine environment are the rhizopus, mushrooms and the mucor. The fungi are common environment factors in medicine and nutrition hence they are of principle importance (Biology, Advanced topics 4th edition).
4. Kingdom plantae: this is a common group of organisms which are characterized by their ability to synthesize food with the help of the chlorophyll pigment.
Plants are basically multicellular in nature and they are of various phyla, classes and families. Plants exist as flowering and no flowering in which they exhibit sexual and asexual modes of reproduction.
5. Kingdom animalia: this kingdom comprises of the more familiar green plants. They are multicellular and heterotrophic obtaining food from the bodies of plants and other animals. The animal kingdom can be considered as the most abundant and diverse one in comparison to the rest of the kingdoms (Wikipedia).
The definition of biodiversity mainly concentrates on the differences in species or their heterogeneity more than on the factors on to which these variables are culminate. The difference or variables in biodiversity are basically addressed at these three hierarchies; genes, species and eco-systems.
These components of biodiversity can be illustrated in figure 1 below
Figure1: Table showing examples of biodiversity components, composition and attributes
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Genetic Number of unique in an The relative abundance of each adaptation In ecological community Unique gene in a population.
Source: Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data, Main entry under title: Ecological concepts, principles and applications to conservation (2008)
From biology it is asserted that the species is the group of closely interrelated organisms that are capable interbreeding and resulting into fertile offspring’s. In taxonomy therefore, it can be regarded as a basic unit of classification.
Species are a complete, self-generating, unique ensemble of genetic variation, capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. They (and their subspecies and populations) are generally considered as the only self-replicating units of genetic diversity that can function independently (UNCED).
Species richness aims at estimating the number of the different species living or sharing the same habitat and where each one contributes value or an effect.
This form of biodiversity is illustrated by the genetic composition of the differing organisms but of the same species. The gene pool of the same species organisms is very narrow even when they are distant from each other. Genetic composition of an organism is not altered or determined by the environmental factors but instead it is a hereditary orientation passed on or inherited from the parent individual to the new offspring.
Determination of biodiversity can pose a challenging factor due to the fact that genes differ in dominance and hence their expression may betray the results. Some genes are dominant in which case they suppress the effect of the other they co-exist with hence on the phenotypic scale the recessive gene is marginalized or completely absent though this does not mean that it is absent in the genotype.
However, since all the observable characteristics and functionalities of organisms are renderings or derive their originality from their genetic composition, the genetic factor can be of significance in the estimation of biodiversity.
These can simply be defined as self-sustainable units of the environment in which organisms of various species interact with each other. The eco-systems vary from one type to another depending on the place of location and the types of organisms occupying. However, it should be noted that some organisms are not restricted to a single type of eco-system while others are, and this characteristic is more dependant on its nature and flexibility to nature.
Take for instance the fish, whose features and behavioral activities are basically adapted to aquatic environments, and hence due to lack of environmental flexibility, it won’t be able to survive the terrestrial conditions as provided by the unfavorable environment.
The significance of biodiversity to human existence
Biodiversity to man is an immediate environment from which basics of human nourishment are obtained and at the same time a great determinant in the human health and wellness. Therefore the best way to understand the effect of the environmental to human life is to establish the parameters or the underlying features on which human life connects with the immediate environment.
Ecology establishes the existence of food relationships between organisms among which are also humans because they part of the eco-system, such as the food webs and food chain. In a food chain you will find the single direction of energy flow through eating and being eaten. While in the food web, an organism has alternative food sources varying from vegetation to animals and in all this case man exists at the most dominant position.
Another way of interluctions is through the natural habitats of forest, deserts, semi-arid and other orientations. Man can stay alone but this rendering is ineffective and short formed as we can realize with time and on considerations of our daily ventures that existence is far different from residence. Existence is supported by various factors ranging from both biotic and abiotic terms, in which case man finds great reliance on these two factors as rendered by the environment. These living organisms sharing the habitat or the immediate environment with man are of great impact to human health either positively or negatively. Discussing the disease distribution and vectors, bacteria and arthropods are always in the fore front of science study though these at the same time act as contributors for wellness and in one or the other help in advancing the adaptation to disease and medicine.
From the analysis on the human environment it is very important to conceptualize some of the underlying fundamentals in the man’s existence in relation to biodiversity and this can be summed up in the following ideas;
First and fore most, the impact of man’s activities in the environment is of great effect in promoting the changes on the physical world in comparison to the extent of impacts induced by the rest of the biodiversity. Consider for instance the impacts of industrialization, human settlements which have also been the dominant activities through which extinction of life has been caused in the environment due to their innovative approach which basically rotates on eliminating natural life and replacing it with modern structures.
If it is taken into consideration, assessing the effects of these activities in comparison to the effects caused by the wildlife even in the contained establishment the results will be shocking. As it will show that almost 80% of the natural life systems and food chains have been eliminated though in the wildlife containment such a percentage is impossible to be graduated. Biodiversity uses relies on items like forests and water bodies for its nourishment and yet these are the endangered or most haunted facilities of the environment by man in his venture for industrialization and settlement.
Secondly, biodiversity plays a very great epidemiological role in the distribution of disease and health in the human environment and this trend depends on the exploitation and maintenance induced onto it by man. It is evident that the majority of the pandemic outbreaks have always been spread or introduced by animal species that and that man only acts as a secondary stage in the spread cycle. The center for disease control has over the years illustrated disease prevalence and spread as originating from wildlife other than from home. This therefore, implies that disease control and health wellness can also be improved and achieved through maintaining a stable immediate environment as relating to biodiversity.
Another fact to conceptualize is that the environmental biodiversity derives less material resources from man than what it contributes to man. Man is of great resource to biodiversity through social and non-material impacts and these greatly support life in the wildlife. This is applicable simply because naturally the environment can mechanize self-existence even without addition of materials or nutrients from activities; this implies that the environmental regulations and policies for maintenance are of more value than the former factor. For through policies and regulations the environment is protected from the extinctive effects of industrialization and human settlements.
In other words, it is applicable to state that the interrelationship between man and the immediate biodiversity is of more manipulative effects against the non-human organisms while favoring the human side. This should not however, be a point of celebration and pride to operate since it indicates the vulnerability of human towards extinction other than existence and this derives its fundamental fact from the supportive feature of the immediate environment. Neglecting the policies and regulations that aim to protect the environment and failure to maintaining it only cuts the branches of support that man stands on to flourish in existence and development.
The abiotic factors of the environment also play an important role in the existence of man because these enhance conditions that nourish nutrient substances used by man. The abiotic factors of the environment include; climate factor, temperatures, soil nature, PH, concentration of the air in the atmosphere.
The human environment is mainly made up of nutrient formation cycles, nutrient recycling cycles and human and environment interluctions cycles. Take for instance the carbon cycle that illustrates the value and impacts of carbon and its compounds to the human environments. According to the unified theory of ecology as stipulated by Stephen Hubbell, ecological community of sympatric species that are capable of competing in a local area for the same or similar resources, complex ecological interactions are applicable among these kind of individuals.
In other words from the unified theory it can be asserted that the differences in the structure and species orientations of individual organisms of the same ecological community exerts no implicative threat to co-existence but on the other side it only results in either competitiveness and instructiveness of the organisms. However, even under the guise of this null theory on ecological instructiveness we discover that man’s activities are a great change in the game of neutrality as they culminate into negative impacts to the threat of species extinction.