The 5 main environmental indicators that scientists focus on are biological diversity, food production, average global surface temperature and CO2 emission concentration, human population, and resource depletion.
- Ecosystem services- processes by which life- supporting resources such as clean water, timber, fisheries, and agricultural crops are produced
Role of environmental indicators
We use environmental indicators in the same way sick people use a thermometer to see how sick they are. Environmental indicators help us identify and describe the current state of an environmental system. These indicators do not tell us the cause of the changes, but they do help us understand which fields need to have more research conducted to figure out the cause.
Biodiversity as an environmental indicator
For example, when we use biodiversity as an environmental indicator, we can see that there are a large number of extinctions occurring, and the rate continues to trend upwards. If the biodiversity of an ecosystem is suddenly low, we know that we have to do more research on finding the reason why the biodiversity has dropped.
- Biodiversity- the diversity of life forms in an environment
- Genetic diversity- a measure of the genetic variation among individuals in a population
- Species diversity- number of species in a region or in a particular type of habitat
- Ecosystem diversity- refers to the number of ecosystems within a certain area
- The difference is that genetic diversity only focuses on gene pools of one species, whereas species diversity is a measurement of the total number of different species in the habitat. Ecosystem diversity measures the different types of ecosystems in an area. That could mean measuring the ratio of swamps and forests and fields there are in a certain area.
Food production as an environmental indicator
Using food production as an environmental indicator can help us determine the carrying capacity of humans on Earth. Currently the outlook for food production is unclear. Scientists are unsure if food production rates will drop or rise. It's important for scientists to continue using food production as an environmental indicator because food plays such a vital role in our lives. If the food production levels drop off, scientists need to be able to rapidly figure out why because it could cause a famine for people who rely on that food.
Current trends in total and per capita grain consumption
The current trend of grain consumption in total and per capita is that the consumption is reducing.
Red line shows the trends of per capita flour use
Temperature and CO2 as environmental indicators
The global average temperature is on the rise. When scientists saw this and they observed that CO2 emissions were also at a high, they looked for similarities between the two. Eventually, scientists figured out that the increased amount of CO2 in the was fast tracking this process by acting as a greenhouse gas. Now we are understand why the Earth's temperature is continuing to rise and we know he we can slow down or stop this process.
These two factors are both trending up
What does greenhouse gases and anthropogenic mean
- Greenhouse gases- gases in Earth's atmosphere that trap heat near the surface
- Anthropogenic- derived from human activities
- Greenhouse gases like CO2 created from the burning of fossil fuels create a barrier that original UV rays from the sun can mostly get through, but when they enter the atmosphere, the UV rays continue to bounce off the greenhouse gases and get thrown back to Earth, resulting in Earth becoming warmer. Earth has always had a low concentration of these gases, but now the CO2 in the atmosphere has surpassed 400 parts per million, almost 125 parts more than in 1600
- This increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is thought to be anthropogenic. We believe that by burning fossil fuels and clear cutting forests that would otherwise take in some of the CO2, the CO2 is going straight to the atmosphere where it gets trapped.
Human population as an environmental indicator and the current trend of the human population
The human population can also be used as an environmental indicator. Currently the population rate is slowly starting to decline, going from 1.6% in the 1990s, to what it's currently at, 1.25%. By 2020, population scientists predict that that the growth rate will go below 1%. How is this an example of an environmental indicator? By observing the rate at the population growth rate is decreasing, scientists can conduct research as to why the population might Be starting to level off. Currently the global population is thought to be about 3,360,000,000
Resource depletion as an environmental indicator
Currently, the rate at which we use resources is much faster than the rate that those resources replenish. We can use resource depletion as a means of pin-pointing which resources are depleting the fastest and to invent alternatives to using that resource, Nuclear power is an example of using resource depletion as an environmental indicator by trying to slow down the use of resources because there are no fossil fuels lost in creating nuclear energy. Also, different groups and organizations are funding the replanting of trees where they were once all cut down in efforts to try to return the environment to normalcy.
Natural resources and their effects on the environment
- Natural resource- something (as water, a mineral, forest, or kind of animal) that is found in nature and is valuable to humans
- Natural resources are extremely important to humans. Without them, we would not have the fuel to run our cars or the wood to start our fires. But water has to be the most important natural resource because without water, there would be no oil or wood. The natural resource of trees play a major role in absorbing CO2 from the air and converting that back into Oxygen for animals to breathe.