Friday, 18 December 2015


Salinization will be evaluated by referring to the causes, humans as contributors, and the effect of vulnerability and consequences in order to get a better idea of what the phenomenon of salinization entails.

Salinization causes

Source: Azernews
Salinity is a significant environmental contaminant. As Cañedo-Argüelles et al. (2013) note, both “primary (accumulation of salts originating from natural sources) and secondary salinization (which refer to anthropogenic increases in salinity and which is further amplified by climate change)” are responsible for this phenomena.

Extensive land-use changes in dryland regions occur, causing run-off salinities to increase as salt is mobilized from subsurface waters. Secondary salinization is caused by irrigation. Natural lakes’ salinities in drylands accelerate as water is diverted from inflows for irrigation. Deforestation leads to salinization. Mining activity is responsible for salts that enter rivers. Rising saline groundwater tables cause the salinization of some fresh waters. In the cold regions of the world stream salinization is the result of the use of salts as de-icing agents for roads (Williams et al., 2000; Löfgren, 2001; Ruth, 2003; Cañedo-Argüelles et al. 2013). Clearing of natural vegetation is another source.
Coal and salt mining, soda production factories, sewage and industrial effluents, and increases in river salinities may result from the construction of impoundments are also sources of salinization. (Williams 2001; Cañedo-Argüelles et al. 2013). Salinity intrusion can be caused by sea level rise (SLR) and extreme events such as cyclones. Natural salinity of rivers is complex including, “weathering of the catchment; sea spray; small amounts of salts dissolved in rainwater as a consequence of evaporation of seawater (Cañedo-Argüelles et al. 2013).
Salinization causes leading to other impacts
Dryland salinity causes soil erosion. The removal of indigenous plants and the clearing of forests lead to soil erosion, and amplify the occurrence of more salts present in the soil. Salinity can be ascribed to prolonged wetness and where there is limited surface cover. This will lead to soils to erode. Cyclone and storm surges induced by climate change force saline water into agricultural lands along the coast, which damages crops not only in the year the cyclone hits, but for several years afterwards (Rabbani et al. 2013). The risk of flooding occurs when shallow water tables occur as soils don’t have the capacity to adequately absorb rainfall, which ultimately leads to higher run-off rates. Terrestrial biodiversity is also negatively impacted as it’s destroyed at an unprecedented rate, causing loss of biodiversity in salt-affected areas. Food shortages will be prevalent and would then ultimately lead to famine.

Spatial and temporal scale
Salinity and its severity is greatly felt in dryland countries, and semi-arid and arid regions. Salinization occur in arid and cold regions. In the arid and semi-arid regions of the world where crop production consumes large quantities of water, irrigation and rising of groundwater tables are the main causes of secondary salinization In the cold regions of the world stream salinization is the result of the use of salts as de-icing agents for roads. It is significant in parts of central and South America, south-western North America, the Middle East and central Asia, and parts of Australia. Coastal communities are experiencing saline intrusion caused by extreme events. The salinization of freshwater lakes is most obvious and significant in dryland regions but is not confined to them (Cañedo-Argüelles et al. 2013; Williams 2001).

Salts can be stored in soils, sub-soils and groundwater because of aridity previously experienced and then released after a long period and occurs at different time scales. Irrigation leads to mobilising large fossil salt storage, dating from another saline geographical history in the soil. Cyclone and storm surges induced by climate change force saline water into agricultural lands along the coast, which damages crops not only in the year the cyclone hits, but for several years afterwards.
Future changes will lead to further salinization. Climate change is likely to increase river salinity in some regions e.g. a decrease in the amount of precipitation. The Australian Dryland Salinity Assessment (NLWRA, 2000)(as cited in Cañedo-Argüelles et al. 2013), predicted that 3.1 million ha of land will be affected by salt by the year 2050 and up to 20,000km of streams could be significantly salt affected over the next 20 years.
Humans as contributors
Salinization can be natural or human-induced. Many inland waters are becoming more saline from human activities. Change is being brought about by secondary or anthropogenic salinization. In this process, catchment changes and other anthropogenic disturbances to hydrological cycles increase salt loads to water-bodies: fresh waters become saline and saline waters become even more saline (Rabbani et al. 2013; Williams 2001).

Anthropogenic salinization is distinct from natural or primary salinization which is responsible for the development of natural salt lakes. Primary salinization involves the accumulation in closed basins of salts from rainwater and leached from terrestrial sources at rates unaffected by human activities. Natural salt lakes have been the focus of most limnologic studies of saline waters (Williams 2001).
Increasing energy demands are likely to increase mining activity, e.g. coal consumption for electricity is expected to increase 42% from 2008 to 2030 (US Department of Energy, 2008). Therefore, the future predictions clearly indicate that river salinization will globally increase (i.e. more streams will be impacted and the salt stress will increase in already degraded streams) (Cañedo-Argüelles et al. 2013).
Poverty, low-level resilience, and lack of alternative livelihoods, together with climate-induced hazards, are responsible for huge losses. The proportion of salinity-free farmland has gone down over the past 20 years, from more than 60% to nil. Almost all saline-free and low-salinity farmland has turned into medium- or high-salinity farmland, which has a severe impact on agricultural productivity. Salinity intrusion is the main cause of declining rice production (Rabbani et al. 2013).
Climate change, including salinity intrusion caused by extreme events (e.g., cyclone and storm surge) and slow-onset events (e.g., SLR) are leading to negative impacts on almost every economic sector, including agriculture, livelihood activities, food security and public health. A future cyclone with a higher level of storm surge could cause saline intrusion further into the landmass, thus threatening the whole coastal region and its 33 million people. Poorer households will experience significantly greater loss and damage as a result (Rabbani et al. 2013).
The extreme poor are disproportionately affected by salinity as a percentage of their income, by comparison to non-poor households. About one-third of people living on the coast will be badly affected. This is mainly because most of the coastal population depends on rice cultivation for their livelihoods and food security. Poor farmers are severely affected by salinity intrusion in rice fields (Rabbani et al. 2013).
Households are bearing the burden of loss and damage in rice farming, and the costs of repair and reconstruction of damaged infrastructure and local facilities. Loss of productivity due to illness caused by food shortages would push these poorer groups into even greater poverty. Increasingly, people are moving from the coast, mainly because of loss of livelihood opportunities. This internal migration (rural-urban, coastal-central) will intensify as sea levels continue to rise, as extreme weather events become more frequent, and if adaptation options remain inadequate (Rabbani et al. 2013).
By 1980, between 80 and 110 million ha of irrigated land (34–47% of all irrigated land) had been effected by salinization to some degree (FAO 1990). The impacts of anthropogenic salinization are far-reaching, increasing, deleterious, and largely irreparable. Environmental, social, and economic costs are high. In some countries, anthropogenic salinization represents the most important threat to water resources (Williams 2001). Economic losses include the loss or a diminished value of water supplies for domestic, agricultural, and other needs.
The relative importance of salt lakes is now rapidly and significantly increasing. Management responses are of several sorts. Cessation of vegetation clearance, restriction of dryland agriculture, and tree-planting will mitigate further salinization. Integrated catchment management is the key practice and needs to be emphasized more than the management of salinized waters (Williams 2001).

Cañedo Argüelles, M., B.J. Kefford, C. Piscart, N. Prat, R.B. Schäfer and C.-J. Schulz (2013).

'Salinization of rivers: an urgent ecological issue'. Environmental Pollution, Volume 173, pp157–167.
Rabbani, G., Rahman, A., and Mainuddin, K. 2013. Salinity-induced loss and damage to farming households in coastal Bangladesh. International Journal of Global Warming, Volume 5, pp 400.
Middleton, N. 2008. A Global Casino: An introduction to Environmental Issues. 4th Edition. London: Hodder Education.
Williams, W.D. 2001. Anthropogenic salinization of inland waters. Hydrobiologia, Volume 466, pp 329-337.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

An ocean full of plastic

Marine animals, already being susceptible to the dangers of other man-made processes, must be also confronted by the threat of plastic debris. The accumulation of anthropogenic debris (in particular plastic pollution) have resulted in huge threats on marine biota. The plastic threat is a growing global phenomenon. People have seen the ocean as an inexhaustible food source as well as a dumping ground without thinking about the consequences thereof. However, the ocean isn’t limitless and sustainability of our seas isn’t taking place. Marine litter is degraded at a very slow rate, and coupled with the exponential pace and quantity of debris that is disposed, ultimately leads to an unfortunate increase in plastic pollution. Thus, greater awareness on this significant problem is required.

Defining marine plastic debris
Marine debris is defined as any persistent manufactured or processed solid material discarded, disposed of or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment. It includes items made or lost by people, and those deliberately discarded into or unintentionally lost in the marine environment (Gall & Thompson 2015). Glass, metal, paper, and plastic are some of the most commonly found marine debris materials.

Source: Ocean Leadership Organisation

Ocean plastic statistics
Source: Ocean Conservancy
Plastic debris is of specific concern due to its abundance and persistent occurrence in oceans. One reason for a rapid decline in biological diversity is because of unsustainable human activities and as a result of this have accelerated extinction rates.

Land-based sources are responsible for around 80 per cent of all marine pollution. Global production of plastics has increased considerably over the last few decades from 5 million tonnes per year in the 1960s to 280 million tonnes per year in 2011. There are estimated to be over 5 trillion plastic pieces weighing over 250,000 tonnes afloat at sea ((UN, 2004 & Eriksen et al., 2014 as cited in WWF Living Blue Planet Report 2015; Gall & Thompson 2015).

It is estimated that about 6.4 million tons of marine litter are disposed in the oceans and seas each year. According to other estimates and calculations, some 8 million items of marine litter are dumped in oceans and seas every day, approximately 5 million of which (solid waste) are thrown overboard or lost from ships. Furthermore, it has been estimated that over 13,000 pieces of plastic litter are floating on every square kilometre of ocean today (UNEP. 2005. Marine Litter: An analytical overview).

There are approximately 35,500 tonnes of microplastics (tiny plastic particles) floating in our ocean (Eriksen et al., 2014 as cited in WWF Living Blue Planet Report 2015). Even with improved waste disposal management and recycling initiatives, a large amount of plastics will be swept into watercourses, which will eventually end up in the oceans. Over 60% of the world population live within 100km. Furthermore, because of rapidly growing global population, land-based activities it will ultimately lead to marine pollution taking exponentially place. 

Reasons why this phenomenon occurs and its various contributors
Reasons why plastic is utilised
Plastic materials are commercially successful as they are durable and economically affordable. Moreover, because they are low cost, plastic is readily available and utilised as a disposable material source. The very qualities of durability that make plastic convenient to use, however, also make it a persistent, non-degradable, permanent presence in the marine environment. When discarded, lost, or abandoned in the world's seas, plastic debris adversely affects living creatures there. (Joyner & Scot Frew 1991).

Types, sources, and locations of ocean plastic debris
Plastic pollution poses a serious threat as it is concentrated in areas where marine life is abundantly found. Marine debris can travel vast distances. Plastic fragments on beaches are derived either from inland sources and are transported to coasts by rivers, wind, man-made drainage systems or human activity, or directly from the oceans where low density floating varieties accumulate and are transported across great distance. Marine litter can blow around; remain floating on the water surface; drift in the water column; get entangled on shallow, tidal bottoms; or sink to the seabed at various depths. It is found in oceans and seas, in salt marshes and estuaries, in mangroves, on coral reefs, and on all kinds of shores. Beachgoers also contribute tremendously when they accidentally lose, carelessly handle, or leave behind plastic materials. There are major inputs of plastic litter from land-based sources in densely populated or industrialized areas, most in the form of packaging. Types and amounts of plastic debris on beaches are controlled mainly by topography, current and storm activity, proximity to litter sources and extent of beach use. Deposition and retention of plastics on beaches however, are largely controlled by the composition and degradation rates of the plastic particles (Corcoran et al. 2009; Derraik 2002; UNEP Marine Litter: An analytical overview 2005).

Source: Denver Post
Impacts on people and marine species
Unfortunately, plastic debris into the ocean has become an increasingly growing problem and the density thereof has also taken place at an astronomically fast rate.

Human-related impacts
Undoubtedly knowledge about plastic’s harmful impacts on marine biota has increased and relates to environmental, economic, safety, health, and cultural impacts. It also detrimentally impacts human health, while simultaneously damages people’s livelihoods, as well as spoil the beaches aesthetically and for people’s enjoyment, it creates navigation hazards, and negatively affects tourism, too. Therefore it has negative socio-economic consequences.

Impacts on marine species
Conversely, the marine environment has been perniciously affected by the plastic revolution which have resulted in a serious environmental issue. Marine populations have fallen significantly as numerous important habitats have been destroyed. Importantly, plastic pollution significantly threatens ecosystems and is harmful to organisms, it increases the transport of organic and inorganic contaminants, it smothers coral reefs, disturb habitats from mechanical beach cleaning, and breakdown by chemical weathering and mechanical erosion is minimal at sea. Marine litter is also a source of accumulation of toxic substances in the marine environment, and environmental changes due to the transfer and introduction of invasive species (UNEP Marine Litter: An analytical overview 2005). The biological and ecological performance of certain individuals will unfortunately be compromised.

Species of crustaceans, fish, turtles, marine birds, and mammals are affected and the scope and severity of it varies according to the species and plastic type. Species listed on the IUCN Red List are particularly vulnerable as they are at a greater risk of becoming extinct. At least 17 per cent of species affected by entanglement and ingestion of marine debris are listed as threatened or near threatened on the IUCN Red List (Gall and Thompson, 2014; WWF Living Blue Planet Report 2015).
Non-degradable plastic
The greatest threat is the durable properties of plastic as plastic materials persist in the marine environment long after disposal and may take up to 400 years to degrade. What is worrisome is the fact that more and more plastic are disposed of every day, and accumulate in the oceans at an even faster rate. These non-biodegradable items attract encrusting organisms as drift plastics. The drifting debris acts as a kind of oasis, attracting other marine animals in search of prey (Joyner & Frew 1991). Unfortunately, the durable properties of plastic lead to killing repeatedly. Another potential danger is the accumulation of plastic debris on the sea floor as certain seabirds select specific plastic shapes and colours, mistaking them for prey.

The impact of marine debris on marine life is of particular concern, resulting into ingestion of plastic debris and entanglement in packaging bands, drift nets and synthetic ropes and lines. More than half of all known species of marine mammal and sea bird have ingested or become entangled in marine debris. The severity of the impact of it vary according to the type of debris and vary between species, and even between individuals as some are able to withstand it better than others. Furthermore, fatalities of birds, turtles, fish, and marine mammals are well-documented.

(Warning, some of the pictures below are disturbing).

Entanglement in plastic debris, especially with regards to discarded fishing gear, poses a serious threat to marine animals. When an animal is entangled, it may drown, or impair its ability to catch food or to avoid predators, reduce its fitness as it leads to an increase in energetic costs of travel, or incur wounds from abrasive or cutting action of the debris. Sea birds with stomachs full of plastic waste and turtles entangled in plastic bags are a serious marine problem. Lost or abandoned fishing nets pose a particular great risk.

Source: Wikipedia
Sea birds
Recreational fishermen also contribute to the problem as they don’t properly discard plastic line and birds dive beneath the water for their prey but become ensnared in the nearly invisible plastic monofilament line. It also reduce food consumption, limiting their ability to lay down fat deposits and thus reduces fitness.

Source: Earth Rangers
Ingested plastic particles regularly remain inside species, leading to harmful effects. Many organisms ingest small plastic particles, working their way up to the food chain. Among seabirds, plastic ingestion is directly correlated to foraging strategies and technique, and diet. The durable properties of plastic prevent species from easily digesting it. Small fish and seabirds who ingest plastic debris lead to a reduction in food uptake, cause internal injury, and, sadly, death following blockage of intestinal tract. While feeding on schools of fish, whales can unintentionally ingest plastic debris. Other species mistake translucent plastic bags for squid. Afflicted animals may be eaten or sink to the sea bottom.

Source: Shutterhead

Source: Wikipedia

All known species of sea turtle have ingested or become entangled in marine debris. Sea turtle hatchlings, which spend their juvenile stage along ocean fronts, can unintentionally consume plastic pellets. In later life, sea turtles sometimes frequent ocean fronts in search of food. These turtles are known to ingest plastic bags, which are mistaken for jellyfish which can be fatal (Joyner & Frew 1991). Young sea turtles are significantly vulnerable and their survival is at risk.

Source: Energy Digital
Source: Project Aware

Solutions to the problem
Plastic pollution has severely affected the marine environment. Usage of plastics continues to increase, while simultaneously accelerating the amount of plastics polluting the marine environment. The fact is that marine debris does not belong in the marine environment. The threat of plastics to the marine environment has been ignored for a very long time and its severity and serious have only been recognised recently. However, solutions have so far only been a drop in the ocean and more effective solutions are required. Gall & Thompson (2015) suggest that “finding effective solutions requires a holistic approach, considering the entire life cycle of items that become marine debris including green chemistry and design and manufacturing as well as effective waste management and prevention and removal of marine debris”. Nevertheless, attempts have been made to conserve the world’s oceans by way of international legislation. The biggest challenge here is to enforce it effectively in such a vast area as the world’s oceans.

Education is another valuably powerful tool and can be particularly effective in schools. Through this way children can change their own habits while concurrently positively impacting their local community, too, starting with their family and friends. Thus, they can be a catalyst for important change which would lead to a community be willing to act sustainably in order to make also an eco-friendly contribution and foster an enhancement of ecological consciousness. Derraik (2002) notes that “thinking globally and acting locally is a fundamental attitude to reduce such an environmental threat”. He further notes that “the general public and the scientific community have the responsibility of ensuring that governments and businesses change their attitudes towards the problem”.

These two aspects can successfully and effectively be the best way forward to solve such a dire environmental problem.

Beaches across the globe are strewed with plastic debris and pose an imminent and global threat to marine species. Marine habitats, including shorelines, estuaries, and the sea surfaces, are negatively impacted by manmade debris. An ecosystem degraded by pollution and fragmented by development will recover slower from the effects of overfishing and less resilient to the impacts of climate change (WWF Living Blue Planet Report 2015). It is axiomatic that plastic debris pollution, being an environmental hazard that threatens our oceans’ biodiversity, must be urgently addressed.

Derraik, J.G.B. 2002. The Pollution Of The Marine Environment By Plastic Debris: A Review. Marine Pollution Bulletin 44 842–852.

Corcoran, P.L., Biesinger, M.C., & Grifi, M. 2009. Plastics And Beaches: A Degrading Relationship. Marine Pollution Bulletin 58 80–84.

Gall, S.C., & Thompson, R.C. 2015. The Impact Of Debris On Marine Life. Marine Pollution Bulletin 92 170–179.

Joyner, C.C. & Scot Frew, S. 1991. Plastic Pollution In The Marine Environment. Ocean Development & International Law 22:1, 33-69.

WWF. 2015. Living Blue Planet Report: Species, Habitats And Human Well-Being.

UNEP. 2005. Marine Litter: An Analytical Overview.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Deforestation and Desertification: A comprehensive look at its causes, contributors, spatial and temporal characteristic and human impacts thereof

Two of the most important and widespread environmental changes will be discussed in detail. The first is the occurrence of deforestation which is globally a problem and desertification also occurring on the majority of continents. Deforestation has an impact on desertification. Various aspects such as the spatial and temporal scale, the causes, and contributors of such manifestation, as well as human impacts and whether all types of global environmental change can be generalised, will be comprehensively considered.

Introduction to Deforestation
An important environmental issue, deforestation, is both a complex global and local problem and Africa, being a developing continent, is being most widely and devastatingly affected by such rapid occurrence. It compromises the notion of sustainable development by impacting the environment in a very immediate and detrimental way. Even though forests play an imperatively environmental vital role, as it supports vital ecosystems and houses a myriad of fauna and flora, it is being destroyed and cleared at an astronomically fast rate without having enough time to restore itself, causing inestimable habitat changes, as well as reducing carbon storage. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that, from 1990 to 1995, the annual loss was estimated at 12.7 million hectares Furthermore, deforestation account for roughly one-sixth of total anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and degradation may account for 10% of total emissions in the tropics. Tropical deforestation is responsible for 6–17% of global carbon dioxide emissions that affect climate change (Angelsen & Kaimowitz 1999; Pfaff et. al 2013; Cassea et. al 2004).

Spatial characteristics
It is widely known that deforestation occurs in both developed and developing countries, but at different geographical contexts in specific localities and are characterised by different regional aspects, such as aridity, as well as diverse human-environment conditions. For example, deforestation occurring in Africa will markedly differ from that occurring in Asia because of factors such as poverty and a more arid climate. Each type experiences deforestation at a different rate and extent. Within Brazil, as in most tropical countries, the native forests are being lost through conversion to agriculture”. Brazil and Indonesia have accounted for a large portion of the global deforestation totals. The scale (magnitude) at which it occurs also significantly differs as it can either be on a small or larger scale, depending on what kind of activities (e.g. agricultural and logging) take place. Tropical forests are disappearing as a result of many pressures, both local and regional, acting in various combinations in different geographical locations. Some of the most important places where deforestation is taking place, specifically in developing countries, include Africa, in particular the Congo, in South America, referring to Peru and Brazil, and India, Indonesia, and China as well as developed countries, such as Russia, Canada, the USA, and Australia (Pfaff et. al 2013; Geist and Lambin 2002).

   Map 1: Deforestation data on occurrence around the world (Source: The World Bank 2011).

Deforestation, concisely described as the permanent clearing of forests, takes place as a result of myriad activities, most notably include agricultural expansion, such as permanent and shifting cultivation, cattle ranching, and wood extraction for commercial use as well as fuelwood and charcoal production.

Causes and contributors of deforestation
Deforestation occurs at different times at different regions around the world as land use changes, leading to deforestation, varies over time. Forests are depleted over a few years and are used for different activities. As a result of multifaceted socio-economic and geographical problems, especially faced by Africa, deforestation is taking place. Mostly notably the highest contributors to deforestation are small farmers, forest-dependent people, loggers, ranchers, as well as plantation companies.

There are several explanation as why forests are shrinking significantly. However, Cassea et. al (2004) argue that “it is more difficult to establish links between underlying factors and deforestation than between direct or immediate causes and deforestation”. Nonetheless, a clear distinction can be made between direct, proximate causes that directly impact forest cover, that originate from intended land use, pertaining from agriculture activities and expansion, wood collection, infrastructure extension, pasture land as well as indirect, underlying causes underpinning the direct causes which include social processes, referring to migration, human population dynamics, export prices, property rights, and government policies. This clearly indicates that socio-economic considerations impact deforestation considerably. Deforestation is driven by identifiable regional patterns of causal factor synergies, referring to economic factors, institutions, national policies, and remote influences driving agricultural expansion, wood extraction, and infrastructure extension (Cassea et. al 2004; Geist and Lambin 2002; Pfaff et. al 2013; Angelsen & Kaimowitz 1999).

There is one primary and direct factor which contributes the most to deforestation and land-use changes, namely, agricultural expansion. It includes forest conversion for permanent cropping, cattle ranching, shifting cultivation, and colonization agriculture. In permanent cultivation, the expansion of food-crop cultivation for subsistence is three times more frequently reported than the expansion of commercial farming (less than 25% for all regions). This is particular true for developing countries. Land is frequently converted to pasture or crops when forest is cleared. At the underlying, indirect level, deforestation can be attributed to driving factors that act synergistically and being driven by the interplay of economic, institutional, technological, cultural, and demographic variables.

Economic rationality
It is no surprise that economic factors, too, lead to deforestation as commercialization and the growth of timber markets and market failures drive deforestation. Such economic variables can include low domestic costs (for land, labour, fuel, or timber), product price increases (mostly for cash crops) and the requirement to generate foreign exchange earnings also has an impact. By clearing forests it is possible to create agricultural land, higher prices for agricultural products, produce staple food, commodities (e.g. biofuel), and even profiting from timber sales. Thus, there are socio-economic incentive to exploit forests in this way. As frontier agriculture becomes more profitable, both the existing population and migrants from other areas begin to shift resources into forest clearing. Development also impact the rate at which deforestation occur. Ecosystem services don’t generate revenue, thus aren’t part of many countries’ decision-making processes (Angelsen & Kaimowitz 1999; Geist and Lambin 2002).

Institutional factors
These relates to formal pro-deforestation measure including land use policies and economic development of colonisation, transportation (for agriculture and logging and fuelwood collection), and policy failures (e.g. corruption).

Technological factors
These include agro-technological change, with agricultural intensification having no distinct impact separate from agricultural expansion, and poor technological applications in the wood sector (leading to wasteful logging practices). Technology has both a direct effect on farmers’ behaviour and an indirect effect resulting from its impact on product and factor prices (including wages)(Geist and Lambin 2002; Angelsen & Kaimowitz 1999).

Cultural or socio-political factors
These include variables such as economic and policy forces and attitudes of the public.

Demographic factors
In-migration and population pressures also lead contribute to it. An increase in population density is also stressful on forests as this land is used for construction, fuel, and agriculture.

Other discernible causes can also be included, such as land use and clearing for housing and as a result of urbanisation, wildfires and overgrazing can unintentionally lead to the clearing of forests, fire charcoal and palm oil production (especially in Indonesia and Malaysia and in some parts of Africa), and mining are also a contributor, farmers clear forests to plant and cultivate staple crops or to let livestock graze on land. When land productivity declines, the land is furthered exploited for cattle grazing. People, especially poor people, who live close to forests are dependent on it to sustain themselves, as their subsistence depends on the source of forests as it provides critical fuelwood and food sources. Therefore, their livelihoods depends on an unlimited forest resource.

Human influences on phenomena
It is indisputable and inevitable that anthropogenic activities can, and have, caused deforestation to take place at an accelerated rate. In fact, humans are the primary cause of such clearing of forests. Many people, especially in the poorer, more developing parts of the world, forests are a source for survival and subsistence and rely totally on it and therefore are forest-dependent people. Farmers, loggers and ranchers modify the land to suit their needs, and forging and collecting wood from the land, thereby altering the quality of the forest.

Introduction to Desertification
Desertification is principally a man-made phenomenon and a widespread and irretrievable type of land degradation which occurs primarily in dryland environments. Desertification is linked to global environmental change through climate, biodiversity loss, human dimensions, and land change”. Over the last couple of years, desertification has rapidly occurred which has led to the considerable loss of arable land, leading to marginalisation. Desertification is the spread of desert-like conditions in arid and semi-arid conditions. It is a result of pressure from both climatic and human factors (Laki 1994; Middleton 2008; Phillips 1993). Phillips (1993) further elaborates, stating that “it may be the result of inherent biophysical feedbacks in dryland systems”. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (as cited in Middleton 2008) defines desertification as “land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities. At least 35% of the earth’s land surface is threatened, inhabited by 20 % of the world’s population.” Many earth surface systems are unstable, and thus such aspects would inevitably lead to permanent decline. Natural vegetation clearing has taken place at a considerably fast rate, especially over the last couple of years which leads to desertification.

Spatial characteristics
Desertification specifically occurs in drylands, including arid, semi-arid, and dry subhumid zones. For example, in the Sahel, high pressure air-mass movement is thought to have contributed to desertification (Laki 1994). Food security inexorably affect desertification. Phillips (1993) notes that “this degradation occurs on all continents (except Antarctica)” indicating just how extensive and its reach truly are and that it takes place in spite of geology and temperature variances.
Map 2: Global Desertification Vulnerability - Source: United States Department of Agriculture 2003.

Causes and contributors of desertification
Land that are extensively used, contribute to desertification and as Middleton (2008) note, “they can be classified in intensive grazing, wood cutting, livestock overpopulation, over cultivation, overexploitation of vegetation, and a high demand for water resources”. These worries then lead to an inherent instability in vulnerable areas. These all have an exponential and long-term impact on the environment. Salinization of irrigated cropland is also responsible. Laki (1994) notes that the main factors contributing to desertification include “drought, population growth, the spread of extensive agriculture, deforestation, rapid urbanization, the erosion of local political power, the lack of economic institutions and the absence of social institutions which have tended to reduce the capacity of the local people to cope with the resource degradation problem”. Thus, like in the case of deforestation, it is widely influenced by human-induced activities, but also because of climatic factors such as climate change. It also, in turn, causes weather fluctuations especially drought. This have an enormous detrimental impact on valuable ecosystems. As such, desertification is a serious ecological problem and as Laki (1994) argues “the rate at which the process has been occurring has been estimated at 5-10 km per year”. Furthermore, erosion will take place as there is no vegetation cover. Land-ownership patterns also lead to desertification.

An enormous human population growth has occurred in the areas that are facing desertification, coupled with the inevitable need for natural resources, but the land can’t sustain all of these demands. Drought, naturally occurring or exacerbated by the human stresses and exploitation of land resources, have also resulted in greater occurrences of desertification. Different physical factors of soil are influenced by desertification, including depth, organic matter and the fertility of soil.

Desertification can thus be divided in three broad causes: continuing climatic changes; short-term weather oscillations; and human factors. In these regions, the ecological balance between climatic conditions, soil, vegetation cover, animal life and soil biota is so precarious that any incidental vicissitude may upset it’. The damage may be irreversible with severe and continued misuse (Laki 1994). Phillips (1993) argues that “the two-way relationships between seven key components in desertification (vegetation, albedo, temperature, precipitation, soil moisture, wind erosion, and water erosion) result in inherent instability”.

Arid areas are exceedingly influenced by climate. The climate of these arid lands is characterized by highly variable rainfall, high temperatures, strong winds and high evapotranspiration rates that exceed annual average (Laki 1994). Desertification leads to significant changes in microclimates. A reduction in rainfall, also unavoidably causes desertification. Soil worsening can be ascribe to human settlements but also their animals. Sand encroachment also lead to a decline in vegetation. Resource abuse (over cultivation, overgrazing, and woodcutting) is primarily responsible for desertification. Agricultural activities are exposing the soils to water and wind erosion.

As Laki (1994) explains, “marginal areas are brought into cultivation during periods of high rainfall. When dry years follow wet, the ploughed loose soil is susceptible to wind erosion, where the clays and silts are carried away as dust and the sand drifts to form dunes”. Deforestation contributes to desertification by making the microclimate more arid. Burning of grasslands is also a major contributor to desertification. Laki (1994) notes that “fire destroys forage and induces changes in the botanical composition of the predominant vegetation formations and communities”. The impact of desertification is also widespread which include hunger and thirst, as crop and animal production deteriorates. Which in turn leads to poverty and a loss of home, and can lead to a loss of life too.

Human influences on phenomena
Even though desertification can be triggered by climate variability (e.g. drought), it is irrefutable that form the above-mentioned statistics and data, desertification inevitably and inextricably are influenced by anthropogenic activities. Numerous examples such as overgrazing, intensive grazing, wood cutting, overpopulation, over cultivation, overexploitation of vegetation, and a high demand for water resources all occur as result of medication or altering the land for human’s needs. One thing is sure, desertification is highly unpredictable and is certainly exacerbated by human-induced land activities.

For deforestation it would be wrong to assume that it will and have the same causes and contributors. Many parts are primarily concerned with technological and economic advancement (thus capital-driven) and in other parts, like Africa who is a developing world, many people solely rely on forests for their fuelwood and food. Thus different causes will result from this. Different localities experience different causes, for example, in Africa it is more arid and poverty will also occur more frequently. The rate and extent of the occurrence of deforestation will also vary tremendously among differ parts of the world.

Both deforestation and desertification are two of the most important (and detrimental) environmental changes facing the world today. The poorer communities which live close to forests and deserts are the most vulnerable to such changes. It is clear that desertification can both be influenced by biophysical and socio-economic factors. It is intensified and exacerbated by human-induced land activities that are taking at an unsustainably rate place.

Angelsen, A., & Kaimowitz, D. 1999. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development: Rethinking the Causes of Deforestation: Lessons from Economic Models. The World Bank Research Observer vol. 14, no. 1. pp. 73–98.

Cassea, T., Milhøjb, A., Ranaivosonc, S., Randriamanarivoc, J.R. 2004. Causes of deforestation in southwestern Madagascar: what do we know? Forest Policy and Economics 6 (2004) 33–48.

Geist, H.J., &  Lambin, E.F. 2002. Proximate Causes and Underlying Driving Forces of Tropical Deforestation. BioScience Journal Vol. 52 No. 2 p. 143-150.

The World Bank. 2011. Data and Statistics: Deforestation.

Laki, S.L. 1994. Desertification in the Sudan: causes, effects and policy options. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, 1:3, 198-205.

Middleton, N. 2008. The Global Casino: An introduction to Environmental Issues. 4th Edition. Hodder Education: London.

Pfaff, A., Amacher, GS., Sills., EO., Coren, MJ., Streck, C., & Lawlor, K. 2013. Deforestation and Forest Degradation: Concerns, Causes, Policies, and Their Impacts. Encyclopedia of Energy, Natural Resource and Environmental Economics.

Phillips, J.D. 1993. Biophysical Feedbacks and the Risks of Desertification, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 83:4, 630-640.

Reynolds, J.F., D. Mark Stafford-Smith, D.M., & Lambin, E. 2003. Do Humans Cause Deserts? An Old Problem Through The Lens Of A New Framework: The Dahlem. Proceedings of the VIIth International Rangelands Congress August 2003, Durban.

United States Department of Agriculture. 2003. Natural Resources Conservation Service: Soils- Global Desertification Vulnerability.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Barriers to recycling

The current emphasise on raising important awareness on climate change has helped people to realise that they play an exponential role in reducing their own waste via recycling. Unfortunately due to a variety of reasons, recycling doesn’t always takes place, both locally and globally. The four main categories of these barriers can be ascribe to household/individual behaviour; services/local situation; attitudes/motivation; information and knowledge.
1)  Household/individual behaviour

Many times household waste material hasn’t become regularised into people’s daily household routines – therefore it hasn’t been carried out automatically. Many factors, including time, personal cost, space, labour, practicality, and inconvenience, all impose demands on households when participating in recycling activities. Many times people also forget to sort at the source. Practicality specifically refers to houses not being big enough to keep several waste storage containers and therefore, storage problems ensue. Furthermore, another barrier to waste separation is that of social dilemma: short-term rationality impels people to act for their own benefit.

2)   Services / local situation

This category varies by locality. Although people frequently want to protect the environment and desire to participate in recycling, that concern is often hampered by the lack of access to recycling centres.

3)   Attitudes /motivation

It is axiomatic that motivation and attitudes can predict behaviour. Half-truths from the media or neighbours about what happens to the waste can negatively impact such behaviour.

4)   Information and knowledge

Sometimes people are unsure what exactly they are expected to do and what exactly which materials are to go in which receptacle. Recycling schemes have to be easier, more convenient, less time consuming, less effort but at the same time more enjoyable and rewarding.

Barr, S. 2007. Factors Influencing Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors: A U.K. Case Study of Household Waste Management. Environment and Behavior Volume 39 Number 4.

People’s behaviours and perceptions about recycling activities

Waste minimisation behaviours are multi-dimensional, complex, and varied. In order to fully minimise waste in landfills, it is important to understand what factors influence individual behaviour patterns. Predictors of recycling behaviour comprise several variables. Much recent attention has focused on individual recycling schemes, their participation rates, and the characteristics and attitudes of recyclers. Public awareness and attitudes to waste can affect the population's willingness to cooperate and participate in waste management practices. Respondents are frequently divided into recyclers or non-recyclers. Information can make people aware of the consequences of their behaviour and influence their awareness, opinions, attitudes, and knowledge. Pro-recycling attitudes and previous recycling experience are a key contributor to recycling behaviour which is influenced by having the appropriate opportunities, facilities and knowledge to recycle. Expressing the environmental benefits of recycling activities can motivate a person to participate in such activities. Raising awareness motivates individuals to act.

Behavioural Variables
Environmental values, situational characteristics, and psychological factors play a significant role in the prediction of waste management behaviour. It can be attributed to several groups of independent variables: environmental values, cognitive variables (e.g., knowledge, behavioural skills), situational variables, and personality variables (e.g., attitudes, locus of control/self-efficacy) and psychological factors which influence environmental behaviour.

Environmental values
Environmental values, classified as underlying orientations held by individuals toward the physical environment are important in looking at people’s individual perceptions of recycling and what influence their waste management behaviour. It is used interchangeably with environmental concerns, ecological worldviews, and environmental attitudes. Moreover, the relationship between social and environmental values can be interpreted as a socio-environmental basis for examining values toward environment. Environmental concern (or related concepts such as environmental values or ecological worldview) relate to an individual’s orientation towards, or concern for, the preservation, restoration, or improvement of the environment. People who believe recycling substantially reduces the use of landfills and conserves natural resources are more likely to recycle. Furthermore, Individuals who are more open to change, more altruistic, and feel closer to nature are more likely to be pro-environmental. Relational aspects of environmental values concern the implicit understanding of individuals to the relationship between nature and culture, or environment and human. It also to behavioural domains relating to the way in which humans treat the environment.

Situational Variables
Situational Variables influence waste management behaviour and are defined by given personal situation with regard to behavioural context (for example, service provision), individual characteristics (such as socio-demographics) and individual knowledge and experience of the behaviour. Behavioural context has been examined by a relatively small number of authors and has focused around the extent to which access to a structured kerbside recycling collection enhances recycling behaviour and degree to which static recycling provision influences action. Situational factors are embrace enabling and disabling influences and classed as contextual, sociodemographic, knowledge based, and experience based. Those with better access to static recycling also tend to recycle more.

Environmental and behavioural knowledge is important in shaping waste management and general pro-environmental behaviour. Environmental knowledge is the abstract knowledge for action, being a representation of general knowledge about the state of the environment and an awareness of environmental problems, such as waste issues. Knowledge regarding both environmental problems and an awareness of how to perform environmental behaviours is of importance. One can distinguish between ‘abstract’ and concrete (providing more scope to predict recycling and other environmental behaviours. Moreover, personal experience of the behaviour is a significant prediction of waste management behaviour; a strong link has been found between behavioural experience in one domain and action in another, whereby participation in one behaviour leads to more willing uptake of other actions.

Psychological Factors
Psychological factors (factors are unique perceptual traits of the individual and are personal perceptions of the individual in question that affect their overall behaviour) are all linked by the fact that they are personality characteristics of the individuals and the perceptions of those individuals toward the actions that they are undertaking and include altruistic influences on recycling behaviour. Psychological factors relate to personality and perceptional traits of individuals that determine their overall attitudes regarding an environmental behaviour. These variables are based on a recycling behaviour score; environmental concern score; facility provided attitude score; recycling attitude score; waste recycling confidence score; community identity score; difficulties in sorting household waste.

It relates to the degree to which recycling could be seen as altruistic, or helping, behaviour.

Intrinsic motivation
Intrinsic motivation to act is an important predictor of environmental and waste management behaviour. Individuals who find recycling enjoyable and derive inner satisfaction from helping the environment are more likely to both initiate and continue with pro-environmental behaviour.

Threat to wellbeing
A belief that environmental problems can be perceived as so much of a threat to well-being and health that they override many of the traditional predictors of environmental behaviour in their importance. The personalisation of an environmental problem may urge individuals to act as a matter of self-interest so as to avoid harm.

Extent of behaviour
The extent to which undertaking a given behaviour will also have a tangible impact. Individual actions can have little or no impact toward a given problem. Behaviour is predicted by behavioural intention, as well as the situational and psychological factors. In turn, behavioural intention would be predicted by environmental values, situational and psychological factors.

Importance of others’ recycling behaviour
The importance of others’ recycling behaviour is also likely to be significant in increasing individual recycling rates and when individuals are aware of a given social norm and accept this norm.

Public awareness and attitudes
Public awareness and attitudes to waste can affect the population's willingness to cooperate and participate in adequate waste management practices. General environmental awareness and information on health risks due to deficient solid waste management are important factors which need to be continuously communicated to all sectors of the population.

Self-efficacy may also be seen as a significant predictor of waste management. There exist a relationship between the degree to which respondents felt competent to and actually did undertake the behaviour and their action as well as their perception that such action will have a tangible positive effect.

Environmental citizenship
Individuals who conform to certain characteristics are more likely to behave in an appropriate manner because they feel involved within society and most importantly have a notion of citizenship. This include a balance between rights and responsibilities, an active involvement within society, characterized by a feeling of good community spirit and a part in the local decision making processes regarding the environment.

Recycling behaviour can be facilitated by convenience. Making recycling more convenient and accessible would be expected to enhance attitudes towards behaviour.

Understanding the factors that influence or promote recycling behaviour can lead to more efficient recycling programmes. Thus, four broad categories of explanatory variables relate to recycling behaviour (internal motivators (psychological factors that lead individuals to be self-motivated in continuing a certain act or task), external motivators (are psychological factors that motivate individuals in continuing an act through things they cannot control), internal facilitators (are factors that provide individuals with the knowledge and mental capacity to complete a task properly), and external facilitators (characteristics of the surrounding physical environment that allow for the completion of a task and also barriers that can discourage individuals from doing a task).

People’s perceptions, behaviours and opinions all differ as a result of differing environmental values, situational factors, and psychological factors. One thing remains certain, recycling is a viable solution, in terms of environmental, economic, and social aspects, to minimise the waste that has rapidly occurred over the recent years.

Barr, S. 2007. Factors Influencing Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors: A U.K. Case Study of Household Waste Management. Environment and Behavior Volume 39 Number 4.

Barr, S. & Gilg, A.W. 2007. A Conceptual Framework for Understanding and Analyzing Attitudes towards Environmental Behaviour. Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography, Vol. 89, No. 4 (2007), pp. 361-379.

Riley, M. 2008. From Salvage to Recycling – New Agendas or Same Old Rubbish? Jstor Area, Vol. 40, No. 1, pp. 79-89.

Swami, V., Chamorro-Premuzic, T., Snelgar, R., Furnham, A. 2011. Personality, individual differences, and demographic antecedents of self-reported household waste management behaviours. Journal of Environmental Psychology 31 (2011) 21e26.

Tonglet, M., Phillips, P.S., & Bates, M.P. 2004. Determining the drivers for householder pro-environmental behaviour: waste minimisation compared to recycling. Resources, Conservation and Recycling 42 (2004) 27–48.

Woodard, R., Harder, M.K., Bench, M. 2006. Participation in curbside recycling schemes and its variation with material types. Waste Management 26, 914–919.

Don’t waste your waste - Benefits of recycling

Source: Recycling Guys
Researchers have been writing about recycling since the 1970s and it is a heavily researched topic and therefore a lot is already understood about this topic. Recycling has become an established norm for many communities. Recycling is a viable means of addressing the problems associated with municipal waste disposal. Recycling can not only benefit yourself, but also the environment.

·       Less Pressure on Landfills - Reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators and that must be dispose of;

·       Sustainable use of Resources;

·       It lessens the need to extract the planet’s limited raw material resources and conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals;

·       Prevents pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials; Recycling of industrial products cuts down pollution levels significantly;

·       Saves energy - A large amount of energy is consumed by processing raw materials during manufacturing and recycling ultimately minimises this;

·       Prevents Loss of Biodiversity: Less raw material is needed when you engage yourself in recycling products and it will prevents loss of biodiversity and ecosystems. Soil erosion and water pollution, enabling indigenous plants and animals to survive in forests;

·        Recycling reduces the pressure to expand forestry and mining production - recycled paper made from certain trees is re-used repeatedly to minimize felling/ deforestation;

·       Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change - human activities have contributed to an accelerated warming of the Earth’s surface through the increase of emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and have altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere;

·       Helps sustain the environment for future generations;

·       It is a very helpful environmental education tool – all people (from young children to elders) can participate in recycling initiatives to protect our precious resources;

·       Helps create new well-paying jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries;

·       Motivate the Use of Greener Technologies: By participating in recycling has helped people to use greener technologies e.g. renewable energy sources like solar and wind;

·       Greater economic development; and

·       Well-run recycling programs cost less to operate than waste collection, landfilling, and incineration.

United States Environmental Protection Agency