APES Midterm Review Chapter 1

First, all key terms to know for chapter one:

  • Vocabulary: 1.Environment-the sum of all the conditions surrounding us that influence life.
  • 2. Environmental Science-The field of study that looks at interactions among human systems and those found in nature.
  • 3. System-The interaction between biotic factors and abiotic factors influencing nature.
  • 4. Ecosystem- A particular location on Earth with interacting biotic and abiotic components.
  • 5. Biotic - Living.
  • 6. Abiotic - Nonliving
  • 7. Environmentalist - A person who participates in environmentalism, a social movement that seeks to protect the environment through lobbying, activism and education
  • 8. Environmental Studies - The field of study that includes environmental science and additional subjects such as environmental policy, economics, literature, and ethics.
  • 9. Ecosystem services - The processes by which life-supporting resources such as clean water, timber, fisheries, and agricultural crops are produced.
  • 10. Environmental indicator - An indicator that describes the current state of an environmental system.
  • 11. Sustainability - Living on Earth in a way that allows humans to use its resources without depriving future generations of those resources.
  • 12. Biodiversity - The diversity of life forms in an environment.
  • 13. Speciation - The evolution of new species.
  • 14. Background extinction Rate - The average rate at which species become extinct over the long term.
  • 15. Greenhouse Gases - Gases in Earth's atmosphere that trap heat near the surface.
  • 16. Anthropogenic - Derived from human activities.
  • 17. Development - Improvement in human well-being through economic advancement.
  • 18. Sustainable Development - Development that balances current human well-being and economic advancement with resource management for the benefit of future generations.
  • 19. Biophilia - Love of life.
  • 20. Ecological footprint - A measure of how much an individual consumes, expressed in area of land.
  • 21. Scientific method - An objective method to explore the natural world, draw inferences form it, and predict the outcome of certain events.
  • 22. Hypothesis - A testable conjecture about how something works.
  • 23. Null Hypothesis - A statement or an idea that can be falsified or proved wrong.
  • 24. Replication - The data collection procedure of taking repeated measurements.
  • 25. Sample Size - The number of times a measurement is replicated in data collection.
  • 26. Accuracy - How close a measured value is to the actual, or true value.
  • 27. Precision - How close the repeated measurements of a sample are to one another.
  • 28. Uncertainty - An estimate of how much a measured or calculated value differs from a true value.
  • 29. Theory - A hypothesis that has been repeatedly tested and confirmed by multiple groups of researchers and has reached wide acceptance.
  • 30. Inductive Reasoning - A logical process in which multiple premises, all believed true or found true most of the time, are combined to obtain a specific conclusion.
  • 31. Deductive Reasoning - A logical process in which a conclusion is based on the concordance of multiple premises that are generally assumed to be true.
  • 32. Control Group - In a scientific investigation, a group that experiences exactly the same conditions as the experimental group, except for the single variable under study.
  • 33. Natural Experiment - A natural event that acts as an experimental treatment in an ecosystem.
  • 34. Environmental Justice - The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
  • 35. Fracking - Hydraulic fracturing, a method of oil and gas extraction that uses high-pressure fluids to force open cracks in rocks deep underground.
  • 36. Environment - The sum of all the conditions surrounding us that influence life.
Ring of Biodiversity

Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)

Hydraulic Fracturing, or fracking, is the method of oil and gas extraction that uses high-pressure fluids to force open existing cracks in rocks deep underground. The article "To Frack, or Not to Frack", that is located in the AP Environmental Science textbook discusses the issue of fracking that occurs in the United States. The US like many developed countries relies heavily on the process of extracting fuels such as coal and oil. With advances in technology oil and mining companies have only increased their reliance on fracking, and are now doing even more extraction of natural gas as opposed to oil and coal. Although extracting natural gas appeared to be more clean and beneficial for the environment it has actually been discovered as having negative consequences. Millions of gallons of water must be used for fracking, and are then pumped down into gas wells. A portion of the water used must be properly treated after use to avoid contaminating water bodies, but unfortunately there have been many cases of local water supply's being contaminated as a result of local fracking. Due to the high flammability of natural gas, water that has been contaminated with high levels of natural gas has been recorded as flames shooting out of kitchen faucets after someone ignited the water. In conclusion, although fracking appeared to be a clean way of extracting an energy source, the amount of natural gas that escapes during the fracking process can actually be quite dangerous to the nearby environment.

  • The following video discusses the division of a community dealing with fracking.
  • This picture shows the process of Hydraulic Fracturing.
Fracking

Environmental Science

Next, the general concept of environmental science is first introduced in chapter one. Environmental science offers important insights into our world and how we influence it. Humans are dependent on Earth's air, water, and soil for our existence, but the study of environmental science focuses on how humans alter the planet in many ways, both large and small, when we make use of said resources. Humans altering natural systems is a big theme in this chapter. An ecosystem is a location on Earth that includes interacting biotic and abiotic components. Systems often vary in size, and usually a large natural system will include various smaller systems within it. One cannot just study isolated events or isolated individuals when studying natural systems in environmental science. Each part of each system in the environment interacts with other aspects of that system, which in turn can have a variety of effects on the environment when one part is altered. When studying the environment on a large scale, a scientist might examine a system that includes people, fishing technology, policy, and law. Humans manipulate the systems in their environment more than any other species. We convert land from its natural state into urban, suburban, and agricultural areas. By doing so we destroy the homes and habitats of all living species in those areas, their resources and sources of energy all disappear. We are also capable of changing the chemistry of our air, water, and soil, by doing things like adding fertilizers, and pollution into the air.

*The deforestation done by humans destroys the habitat of many species.*

Environmental Indicators

Some of the common environmental indicators and their units of measurement include, human population-measured by number of individuals, ecological footprint-measured in hectares of land(or planet Earths), total food production-measured in metric tons of grain, and carbon dioxide-measured in concentration in the air.

The Five Key Global Indicators.

  • Biological Diversity - Recently, there have been a large number of extinctions, extinction rates are increasing. With extinctions only going to continue in the future the overall biodiversity of the planet may only be getting worse. Biodiversity exists on three scales, ecosystem, species, and genetic. Populations with a high genetic diversity are better able to respond to environmental change than populations with lower genetic diversity. If a population of fish possesses high genetic diversity for disease resistance, at least some individuals are likely to survive whatever diseases move through the population. Species diversity, indicates the number of species in a region or in a particular type of habitat. Scientists have observed that ecosystems with high species diversity are more productive and resilient, therefore better able to recover from disturbance. A tropical forest with a large number of plant species growing in the under-story is likely to be more productive and better able to withstand change, considering that whatever change occurs in the ecosystem, it cannot affect, and/or damage all of the species in the same way, therefore at least some would be able to survive, and reproduce.
  • Food Production - Food production on the Earth, per capita, is leveling off, which may be a factor in limiting the total number of people that Earth can support. Just as a healthy ecosystem supports a wide range of species, a healthy soil supports abundant and continuous food production. Food grains such as wheat, corn, and rice provide more than half the calories and protein that humans consume. Yet the growth of the human population is straining our ability to grow and distribute adequate amounts of food.
  • Average Global Surface Temperature (CO2 concentrations) - Carbon Dioxide concentration on the planet along with temperatures are increasing, and will most likely continue to increase in the short-term future if the human population cannot find a way to reduce carbon emissions, and find more clean sources of energy that don't lead to the trapping of sunlight on the Earth's surface, thus the rapid heating of its surface. To elaborate on this, the Earth's thick planetary atmosphere contains many gases. Some of said gases, known as greenhouse gases, trap heat near Earth's surface, the most important greenhouse gas being carbon dioxide. In the past 200 years, the concentration of greenhouse gases, specifically carbon dioxide, have risen drastically. With this increase in carbon emissions, mainly from the combustion of fossil fuels and the net loss of forests and other habitats that would otherwise take up and store CO2, more heat from the sun is being trapped on the surface, leading to the melting of polar ice caps. (*See graph below for illustration*)
  • Human Population - The population is still increasing but the growth rate is slowing. The overall impact on the quality of the environment due to the increase in the human population will be negative. The size of the human population can tell us a great deal about the health of our global environment. The current human population sits at 7.2 billion people and growing. The population of the Earth is projected to reach its maximum number at 9.6 billion in 2050, and will then stabilize between 7.1 billion and 10.5 billion by 2100. However, even if the human population stops growing, the billions of additional people will create a greater demand on Earth's finite resources, including food, energy, and land.
  • Resource Depletion - Many resources on the Earth are being depleted at a rapid rate, however the efficiency of resource use is increasing in many cases, and with the increase of wind and solar energy as being viable resources, the outlook could be positive, however the increased use of resources such as coal, oil, and even natural gas will have negative effects.
*The correlation between the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the increase in global temperatures in the last 200 years is indisputable.*
Due to the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, more and more of the sun's heat is trapped on Earth's surface.

The Ecological Footprint

The ecological footprint is a measure of how much an individual consumes, expressed in area of land. Using the ecological footprint method, one can accurately asses whether or not they are living sustainably, by measuring their impact as a person on world resources. This tool was developed in 1995 by Professor William E. Rees and his graduate student Mathis Wackernagel. Rees and Wackernagel maintained that if our lifestyle demands more land than is available, then we must be living in an unsustainable manner. The ecological footprint tool takes into account one's total water usage, food intake-specifically where the food comes from, and whether or not it is animal-based, transportation use, shelter, energy use, clothing, and other miscellaneous actions that can have an impact on the environment. A common result that one could get after taking an ecological footprint test is that it might take anywhere from 2 to 10 planet earths to support a certain kind of lifestyle, which according to Rees and Wackernagel is clearly unsustainable. For example if you shower more times than necessary, or longer than necessary, than you are wasting water, thus making your ecological footprint bigger. If you spend more than 2 hours in a vehicle each day, or drive multiple cars in one day, thus adding a relatively higher amount of carbon emissions and pollution into the atmosphere, then you will only make your ecological footprint bigger, which is not good. The ecological footprint is all about understanding, and analyzing how much of the Earth's resources you personally use/consume each and every day. Then looking at what the subsequent consequences of how you live your life in terms of the environment are, and figuring out how you can have less of a negative impact on the environment, and a smaller ecological footprint.

*Illustration of ecological footprint*
  • The following is a link to an ecological footprint quiz, to see first hand how sustainably you live your life, and to get a sense of how you can reduce your negative effects on the environment - http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/calculators/

The Scientific Method

When investigating the natural world, scientists such as those who examined the effects of fracking as described in the beginning of the chapter, have to be as objective as possible. The scientific method is an objective method to explore the natural world, draw inferences from it, and predict the outcome of certain events, processes, or changes. The scientific method consists of 5 main steps.

  • 1. Observe and question - Continuing with the fracking example, homeowners and scientists noticed, in areas where fracking occurred, that certain household wells contained high methane concentrations and they wanted to know why this was occurring. This observing and questioning is the first step to the scientific method.
  • 2. Forming a hypothesis - A hypothesis is a testable conjecture about how something works. It may be an idea, a proposition, a possible mechanism of interaction, or a statement about an effect. An example of a hypothesis is that "when air temperature rises over time, certain plant species will be more likely, and others less likely, to persist". We can test this idea by growing plants in a greenhouse at different temperatures. Another example of a testable hypothesis is " Fish kills are caused by something in the water". This is testable because it speculates that there is an interaction between something in the water and the observed dead fish.
  • 3. Collecting data/Conducting experiments - When collecting data there are some key steps that need to be taken in order to get accurate collection results. First is a procedure called replication. Replication is the data collection procedure of taking repeated measurements. The number of times a measurement is replicated is the sample size. An example of this is if a scientist chose three men out of a crowd at random and found that all of them have a shoe size of 10, she might conclude that all men have a shoe size of 10. If however she chose a larger sample size of 100 men, it is very unlikely that all 100 individuals would happen to have the same shoe size.
  • 4. Interpreting Results - The next step in the scientific method is interpreting results. Once the results have been obtained, analysis of data begins. A scientist may use a variety of techniques to assist with data analysis, including summaries, graphs, charts, and diagrams. This step usually involves two types of reasoning, inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning is the process of making general statements from specific facts or examples. If a scientist who sampled a songbird species made a statement about all of that species, she would be using inductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning is the process of applying a general statement to specific facts or situations. For example if we know that, in general, air pollution kills trees, and we see a single dead tree, we may attribute that death to air pollution. But a conclusion based on a single tree may be incorrect because the cause of the tree's death could be a variety of other things. The most careful scientists will always maintain multiple working hypotheses, so they may entertain many possible explanations for their results.
  • 5. The final step is disseminating findings (conclusion) - A hypothesis can only be confirmed by scientists repeating their experiments themselves, but also presenting papers and findings at conferences and publish the results of their investigation. The process of science involves ongoing discussion among scientists, who frequently disagree about hypotheses, expiremental conditions, results, and the interpretation of results. Therefore, when conducting a scientific experiment and utilizing the scientific method, it is key to have a clear and precise presentation of your results.

+The following video discusses the scientific method in detail*

Sources

  • Friedland and Relyea AP Environmental Science Textbook pages, 1 - 23
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMboTKOWeAs
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMGRe824kak
  • google images

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