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Portal:Environment

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Welcome to the Environment Portal
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Introduction

Land management has preserved the natural characteristics of Hopetoun Falls, Australia while allowing ample access for visitors.

The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally, meaning in this case not artificial. The term is most often applied to the Earth or some parts of Earth. This environment encompasses the interaction of all living species, climate, weather and natural resources that affect human survival and economic activity. The concept of the natural environment can be distinguished as components:

In contrast to the natural environment is the built environment. In such areas where humans have fundamentally transformed landscapes such as urban settings and agricultural land conversion, the natural environment is greatly modified into a simplified human environment. Even acts which seem less extreme, such as building a mud hut or a photovoltaic system in the desert, the modified environment becomes an artificial one. Though many animals build things to provide a better environment for themselves, they are not human, hence beaver dams, and the works of mound-building termites, are thought of as natural.

People seldom find absolutely natural environments on Earth, and naturalness usually varies in a continuum, from 100% natural in one extreme to 0% natural in the other. More precisely, we can consider the different aspects or components of an environment, and see that their degree of naturalness is not uniform. If, for instance, in an agricultural field, the mineralogic composition and the structure of its soil are similar to those of an undisturbed forest soil, but the structure is quite different.

Natural environment is often used as a synonym for habitat, for instance, when we say that the natural environment of giraffes is the savanna. Read more...

A biophysical environment is a biotic and abiotic surrounding of an organism or population, and consequently includes the factors that have an influence in their survival, development, and evolution. A biophysical environment can vary in scale from microscopic to global in extent. It can also be subdivided according to its attributes. Examples include the marine environment, the atmospheric environment and the terrestrial environment. The number of biophysical environments is countless, given that each living organism has its own environment.

The term environment can refer to a singular global environment in relation to humanity, or a local biophysical environment, e.g. the UK's Environment Agency. Read more...

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The five components of the climate system all interact.

Earth's climate arises from the interaction of five major climate system components: the atmosphere (air), the hydrosphere (water), the cryosphere (ice and permafrost), the lithosphere (earth's upper rocky layer) and the biosphere (living things). Climate is the average weather, typically over a period of 30 years, and is determined by a combination of processes in the climate system, such as ocean currents and wind patterns. Circulation in the atmosphere and oceans is primarily driven by solar radiation and transports heat from the tropical regions to regions that receive less energy from the Sun. The water cycle also moves energy throughout the climate system. In addition, different chemical elements, necessary for life, are constantly recycled between the different components.

The climate system can change due to internal variability and external forcings. These external forcings can be natural, such as variations in solar intensity and volcanic eruptions, or caused by humans. Accumulation of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, mainly being emitted by people burning fossil fuels, is causing global warming. Human activity also releases cooling aerosols, but their net effect is far less than that of greenhouse gases. Changes can be amplified by feedback processes in the different climate system components. Read more...
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Chemical structure of carbon dioxide

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Credit: Orthogenetic Evolution in the Pigeons

The passenger pigeon was a species of pigeon that was once the most common bird in North America. It is estimated that there were as many as five billion passenger pigeons in the United States at the time Europeans colonized North America. They lived in enormous flocks, and during migration, one could see flocks of them a mile (1.6 km) wide and 300 miles (500 km) long, taking several days to pass and probably containing two billion birds. The species had not been common in the Pre-Columbian period, until the devastation of the American Indian population by European diseases.

Over the 19th century, the species went from being one of the most abundant birds in the world to extinction. At the time, passenger pigeons had one of the largest groups or flocks of any animal, second to only the desert locust.

Some decimation in numbers occurred as a result of loss of habitat, when the Europeans started settling further inland. However, the primary factor emerged when pigeon meat was commercialized as a cheap food for slaves and the poor in the 19th century, resulting in hunting on a massive scale. There was a slow decline in their numbers between about 1800 and 1870, followed by a catastrophic decline between 1870 and 1890, at the end of which they were rare and beyond the point of recovery. 'Martha', thought to be the world's last passenger pigeon, died on September 1, 1914 in Cincinnati.

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Ehrlich in 1974

Paul Ralph Ehrlich (born May 29, 1932) is an American biologist, best known for his warnings about the consequences of population growth and limited resources. He is the Bing Professor of Population Studies of the Department of Biology of Stanford University and president of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology.

Ehrlich became well known for the controversial 1968 book The Population Bomb which he co-authored with his wife Anne, in which they famously stated that "[i]n the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." Among the solutions suggested in that book was population control, including "various forms of coercion" such as eliminating “tax benefits for having additional children," to be used if voluntary methods were to fail. Ehrlich has been criticized for his opinions; for example, Ronald Bailey termed Ehrlich an "irrepressible doomster". Ehrlich has acknowledged that some of what he predicted has not occurred, but maintains that his predictions about disease and climate change were essentially correct and that human overpopulation is a major problem. Read more...

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The Wildlife Trusts, the trading name of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, is an organisation made up of 46 local Wildlife Trusts in the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and Alderney. The Wildlife Trusts, between them, look after around 2,300 nature reserves covering more than 98,500 hectares. they have a combined membership of over 850,000 members.

The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT) is an independent charity, with a membership formed of the 46 individual charitable Trusts. It acts as an umbrella group for the individual Wildlife Trusts, as well as operating a separate Grants Unit which administers a number of funds. Read more...

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The following are images from various environment-related articles on Wikipedia.

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Sir David Attenborough
Were we and the rest of the back-boned animals to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well.

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