Saturday, 17 December 2016

Standing tall for giraffes

Source: Short Day
Imagine this: A dire world without the tallest land mammal in the world: The Giraffe. This can soon be reality if we don’t stick our necks out for giraffes – we have taken them for granted for far too long!

Unfortunately, the conservation status of giraffes  (Giraffa camelopardalis), has, for the first time, been classified as ‘Vulnerable to extinction’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in its Red List of Threatened Species report. These species were previously classified as ‘Least Concern’. But, their survival is in jeopardy as their populations are declining considerably. The animal faces extinction in the wild in the medium-term future if nothing is done to minimize the threats to its life or habitat. It came as a shock to many people as they didn’t see it coming. Julian Fennessy, executive director of Giraffe Conservation Foundation, calls it the “silent extinction”.

Source: ABC

Source: BBC
The sad fact is that they once roamed extensively across Africa's savannas and woodlands, but now only occupy half of the range they did a century ago. This remarkable yet humble animal is under severe pressure in East, Central, and West Africa, their core ranges. Here, the populations are sparse and fragmented due to i.e. roads and mines. Their woodland habitat has been cleared for farms or burnt for charcoal, they’ve been hunted by poachers for their 'trophy' tails, and a vast expanses of remote, biologically rich ecosystems to new development pressures and increasing human-wildlife conflict have occurred.

Source: The Verge
Their total numbers have declined by 40% in just the last few decades from more than 150,000 in 1985 to just over 97,000 in 2015. Moreover, they have disappeared entirely from seven African countries, namely Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Guinea, Malawi, Mauritania, Nigeria, and Senegal. Their decline has been so abruptly because they reproduce slowly, occasional attacks by lions and hyenas, and they are unable to effectively adapt to their hostile surroundings.

Source: IB Times UK
We have to stop assuming that giraffes will survive one generation to the next. We all have to ensure that conservation take place while ensuring sustainable societies. Saving the iconic giraffe will be a tall order before we lose them forever, but will absolutely be worthwhile. Your grandchildren will be thankful that you helped these tall, majestic animals so that they, too, can learn more about these stunning animals, but, most importantly, abundantly experience the stunning picture below in real-life:

Source: Short Day

Friday, 16 December 2016

Coral Reefs

Coral reefs
Source: Genetic Literacy Project
Source: From the Grapevine
There is no doubt: Coral reefs are some of the most stunning places on Earth and colourful and diverse ecosystems. Though the total area of the world's coral reefs amounts to less than one quarter of 1% of the entire marine environment, they have a huge effect on the health of the rest of the world (Mother Nature Network). Coral reefs are extremely important to life in the ocean. Healthy coral reefs mean healthy oceans which means healthy planet (Mother Nature Network). The variety of life supported by coral reefs rivals even that of the Amazonian or New Guinea tropical forests. Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet (Darling and Fraser 2013) as they are home to tens of thousands of marine species. In fact, they are second only to rainforests in biodiversity of species. They cover less than 0.2% of our oceans but contain 25% of the world's marine fish species! Interestingly, although coral reefs are kind of like an enigma as they are among the most flourishing ecosystems on Earth, and they support high diversity and high biomass, yet they achieve this in some of the least fertile waters on Earth.

Defining Coral Reefs
Geologically speaking, reefs can be defined as “masses of carbonate limestone, built up from the sea floor by the accumulation of the skeletal material of many coral reef plants and animals”. They can also be described as “diverse underwater ecosystems held together by calcium carbonate structures secreted by corals”.  Corals are not plants - they're actually ancient animals and are relatives of jellyfish and anemones. They are built by “colonies of tiny animals found in marine waters that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups”. Corals are simple, clonal invertebrates that serve as ecosystem engineers, building living structures (reefs) so large that they can be seen from space (Burkepile and Hay 2008). It is important to note that a coral reef mustn’t be seen as a “biome” or “ecosystem”, but rather like a living community.

There are three types of reefs:
·      Fringing reefs occur along shorelines of continents and islands. It is commonly found in Hawaii and the Caribbean. It gets its name from being closer to shore than a barrier reef. They are arranged like a fringe around the shallow waters.
Source: Wikipedia
 ·      Barrier reefs are found farther offshore and in deeper waters. They are found most often in the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean.
Source: Britannica
·         Atolls are a series of low coral islands surrounding a central lagoon, frequently found in the Indo-Pacific.
Source: Ducati Performance Parts
Each polyp excretes a calcium carbonate exoskeleton beneath it and, over an extended period, the skeletons of many coral colonies add up to build the structure of a coral reef.

Range and Location
Source: NOAA CoRIS
Coral reefs cover more than 250,000 km2 of the ocean (all of them in the world add up to less than one per cent of the sea floor – an area about the size of France). Coral reefs are found all around the world in clear, tropical and subtropical oceans, and even in unexpected places have discovered cold water coral reefs off the coast of Norway and deep underwater in the Mediterranean Sea. The greatest diversity of species occurs in the Indo-Pacific region and a second, less diverse, region centred on the western Atlantic. One third of the world's coral reefs are located in South East Asia, hosting some of the highest levels of marine biodiversity on Earth. Coral reefs need water that is between 68 - 82°F (20 - 28°C), which is often located along the eastern shores of land. Corals live normally close to the surface where the sun's rays can reach the algae. They are typically found in shallow areas at a depth of less than 150 feet because they need sunlight to survive. But, some coral reefs can extend even deeper (up to about 450 feet deep).

Large coral reefs are rarely found in areas above 29 latitude where ocean temperatures fall below 18oC for extended periods as this slows coral growth and their capacity to build large reefs (Burkepile and Hay 2008). Reefs are abundantly found in areas with shallow coastlines and clear, warm water where riverine discharge of sediments is low (Burkepile and Hay 2008). The most biologically diverse reefs occur in the tropical Indo-Pacific in the areas around Indonesia and the Philippines and house over 550 species of coral and thousands of species of fish (Burkepile and Hay 2008). The Great Barrier Reef off north-eastern Australia is the largest reef in the world with more than 2800 individual reefs occupying over 1800 km of the Australian coastline and can be seen from outer space (Burkepile and Hay 2008).

An individual coral (polyp) is a small organism consisting largely of a stomach topped by a tentacle-bearing mouth. These polyps extend their tentacles at night to sting and ingest tiny organisms (plankton) and other small creatures. Reefs only occur in shallow areas that are reachable by sunlight as a result of their relationship with algae. Many types of microscopic algae (Symbiodinium) live inside of the coral and provide them with food and help them to grow faster. In many ways, reef-building corals are animals that act like plants – they stay in one place and get some of their energy from the sun. Corals get most of their nutrients from the by-products of the algae's photosynthesis. But they also have barbed, venomous tentacles they stick out, usually at night, to grab zooplankton and even small fish.

They usually develop in areas that have a lot of wave action as the waves bring in food, nutrients and oxygen to the reef. Waves prevent sediment from falling on the reef. Reefs need calcium from the water to grow, which is often only available in shallow warm waters.

Importance of Coral Reefs
Coral reef ecosystems are important for many reasons:
·         Coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse and economically important ecosystems on the planet. Corals provide valuable and vital ecosystem services. They act as home and nursery grounds for many economically important marine species, protect coastlines from erosion, and provide food sources and income to millions of people living along coastlines (Zvulonic et al 2015). It provides immense ecological and economic benefits that contribute to the welfare of millions of people (Darling and Fraser 2013). They provide services that are vital to human societies and industries through fisheries, coastal protection, building materials, new biochemical compounds, and tourism.
·         They not only provide incredible value as wildlife habitat, but also protect coastlines from storms. Moreover they provide billions of dollars of food and jobs every year to people around the world.  
·         They form the nurseries for about a quarter of the ocean's fish - including commercially important species.
·         The biodiversity translates directly into food security, income, and a multitude of other benefits to people.
·      Coral reefs play an important role in the survival of our planet because it not only directly supports a marine ecosystem, but it also provides important benefits for mankind.
·         For several coastal areas, coral reefs are also able to provide an important barrier against storms, hurricanes, and typhoons.
·         Reefs assist also in being nurseries for large fish species, keeping them safe until they are large enough to strike out into the deeper ocean. A myriad of animals use coral reefs either as a stopping point (like an oasis) as they travel the deep blue sea, or they live as residents at the reef.
·         Coral reefs are vital for ocean and human health as well as our wellbeing.
·         Corals are tiny organisms (polyps) that attach themselves to the hard reef and live there indefinitely.
·         Coral reefs are valuable to the fishing and tourism industries, as well as protecting shorelines from storm damage.
·         Reefs are an important location for finding food, shelter, mates and places to reproduce.
·         They remove and recycle carbon dioxide (a gas that contributes to global warming).
·         They protect land from harsh weather by absorbing the impact from strong waves and storms.
·         They provide food, for example, lobster and conch. Coral reefs are also a huge tourist attraction.
·         Coral reefs are a large source of biodiversity.
·         Without the reef, many of these plants and animals would die.
·         Coral reefs are a useful educational tool as people can learn more about biomes and ecosystems, and the interrelationship between organisms and their environment by studying these coral reefs.
·         Particularly, fish, invertebrates, algae and microorganisms – make their homes on and around reefs.
·         A coral colony is formed when thousands of identical polyps live together.

Roughly one-quarter of coral reefs worldwide are already considered damaged beyond repair, with another two-thirds under serious threat (WWF). Scientists have predicted that in the next 50 years many of the coral reefs on Earth will be gone. We have already lost 27% of the world's coral reefs and if present rates of destruction continue, 60% of the world's coral reefs will be destroyed over the next 30 years. Reefs often recover from acute disturbances such as storms but infrequently recover from chronic disturbances. The coupling of acute natural disturbances with chronic anthropogenic disturbances often leads to precipitous declines in coral reef health (Burkepile and Hay 2008; Zvulonic et al 2015).

There are many problems facing not only coral reefs but also their habitats today. Coral reefs around the world have been declining at an alarming rate due to increasing human impacts. Despite the significance of coral reefs, these wildlife habitats are imperiled throughout the world. Sadly, fragile coral reefs that are already under increasing pressure associated with a range of natural and human causes has resulted in substantial degradation. This has ultimately led to a loss of coral cover and shifts in community structure. It should be noted that the impacts of these events have varied spatially and taxonomically. Even some of the most remote and pristine reefs are losing species. An estimated 75 per cent of remaining coral reefs are currently threatened. They are subject to many terrestrial, atmospheric, and oceanic influences. Many of these are directly related to human activities. Over the past years, losses and changes of marine biodiversity in coral reef ecosystems by anthropogenic activities, natural phenomena, and poor land management practices have become urgent issues (Zvulonic et al 2015). Coral reefs are also one of the most vulnerable ecosystems to climate change (these rapid environmental changes are occurring against a background of other widespread human-induced disturbances (anthropogenic activities) such as overexploitation, destructive fishing practices which removes species with important ecological functions, coastal runoff, coastal development, pollution,  climate change, ocean acidification, unsustainable tourism, and invasive species, which may ultimately stress corals to the brink of extinction (Darling and Fraser 2013; Zvulonic et al 2015; Burkepile and Hay 2008). Reefs located near human population centres are subjected to multiple stresses simultaneously and so suffer losses in diversity and cover. Meeting local demands can have multiple negative effects on the local environment. More than half of the world’s coral reefs are faced with high levels of human activities. The cumulative impacts of local and global stressors have resulted in widespread losses of live coral cover and an elevated risk of extinction to one-third of all reef-building corals.  The loss of healthy reefs may therefore limit the protection they can provide to coastal communities. The concept of resilience now underpins much of the thinking about the management of coral reefs (Darling and Fraser 2013).

Notably, coral reef ecosystems are particularly sensitive to climate-induced changes in the physical environment. Coral reef communities are likely to change in the future as reef organisms respond differently to various stressors. In order to predict future reef compositions, we apply estimates of coral and fish vulnerability to two key stressors; climate change (bleaching) and fishing. Most corals were vulnerable to one or both stressors, and future coral communities are likely to comprise stress-tolerant and weedy life histories (McClanahan et al 2014). Over the past 150 years, sea surface pH has dropped by 0.1 units and sea surface acidity has increased by 26% (Darling and Fraser 2013). Ocean warming and acidification are only two of the many manifestations of climate change. Other potential influences include sea level rise and changes in storm regimes caused by warmer SSTs (Darling and Fraser 2013).

Although biotic interactions (e.g., competition and herbivory) are emphasized as having important consequences for coral reef structure, abiotic disturbances such as hurricanes, temperature fluctuations, sedimentation stress, and sea-level change also produce long-lasting effects on reefs (Burkepile and Hay 2008).

Coral Bleaching
Coral bleaching is  rapidly becoming a global concern. Abnormally high ocean temperatures are being observed more frequently, and these temperatures could lead to mass bleaching event. Over the past century, average global sea surface temperatures (SSTs) have risen by 0.6 C and temperature anomalies, i.e., deviations from long-term temperature averages, are occurring more frequently (Darling and Fraser 2013). Furthermore, bleaching is caused by elevated sea surface temperatures, low temperature, sedimentation, extreme salinities or light levels, or bacterial infection.
Coral Bleaching - before and after. Source: New Heaven Dive School
Rising seawater temperature due to climatic changes is an extremely serious and global cause of stress to corals. When temperatures are too high, the relationship between corals and their symbiotic microalgae unfortunately breaks down. The algae are responsible for giving corals their mesmerizingly bright colour but when this occurs, corals appear white (“bleached”). Coral bleaching occurs when corals degrade or expel their dinoflagellate symbionts in response to environmental stressors such as elevated sea surface temperature and increased UV radiation. Just one degree above the typical summer max can cause corals to become bleached. What is more is that if the temperature is too high for too long, corals (and their microalgae) are unable to recover. Over the last couple of decades, bleaching has become more frequent, intense, and widespread which has ultimately led to massive, global die offs of corals (Burkepile and Hay 2008).

Source: Atlas Obscura
In severe cases, bleaching may occur on the scale of hundreds to thousands of kilometers and radically alter coral cover and composition with coral mortality from bleaching events approaching 100% in extreme cases (Burkepile and Hay 2008). Large-scale bleaching and mortality of branching corals can suppress fish populations that are dependent on live coral for shelter and food (Burkepile and Hay 2008). Moreover, due to warmer oceanic temperatures, there are more disease-related problems as these high-temperatures allow corals to become sick more easily, and allow disease-causing organisms to grow faster.

Ocean Acidification

Source: Sound Waves Monthly Newsletter - US Geological Survey
Ocean acidification is another serious threat to coral reefs. Because carbon dioxide (CO2) is more frequently released into the atmosphere and it has adverse effects on the oceans. Some of the excess CO2 from the atmosphere is absorbed by seawater which ultimately cases the oceans to become more acidic. Shockingly, the oceans’ acidity has increased by 25 per cent over the past 200 years. Consequently, these acidic conditions dissolve coral skeletons (which make up the structure of the reef) and limit coral to grow effectively. If something isn’t done, scientists estimate that the oceans could become 150 per cent more acidic by the end of this century. This will mean that corals will have a hard time to grow.

Source: NOAA National Ocean Service
Coral reefs are negatively impacted by destructive fishing and exploitation to supply the coral reef wildlife trade. Frequently poisons (e.g. cyanide) are dumped into the water in order to stun fish to easily catch them. Sadly, it not only kills fish, but also corals, other forms of wildlife. This also leads to degrading the reef habitat. Overfishing affects the ecological balance of coral reef communities negatively, warping the food chain.

Sediments, nutrients, and toxins released from deforestation, agriculture, and industry, are hydrologically transported to coral reefs through local rivers which ends up in the ocean, where it can 'smother' corals by depriving them of the light needed to survive.

Source: NOAA National Ocean Service
Urban and industrial waste, sewage, agrochemicals, and oil pollution are unfortunately poisoning reefs as it is dumped directly into the ocean or carried by river systems from sources upstream. Sewage and runoff from farming increase nitrogen levels in seawater which causes an overgrowth of algae, ‘smothering’ reefs by cutting their sunlight off.

Climate change
Source: NOAA National Ocean Service
Climate change is an unprecedented threat. Corals cannot survive if the water temperature is too high. Unfortunately, global warming has already led to increased levels of coral bleaching and will increase in frequency and severity in the next few decades. Climate change is fundamentally altering ocean chemistry. Approximately one-third of atmospheric CO2 emissions are absorbed by the oceans and dissolve to reduce ocean pH, effectively increasing the acidity of seawater (Darling and Fraser 2013).  If even the conservative predictions of global climate models are realized, these climate changes could result in the fundamental reorganization of the ecology of coral reefs (Burkepile and Hay 2008).

Resilience is a measure of the persistence of systems and of their ability to absorb change and disturbance, and still maintain the same relationships between populations or state variables. Ecosystems are dynamic, spatially and temporally heterogeneous, and can exist in multiple alternative states depending on environmental conditions. An ecosystem may be resilient for two reasons. On the one hand, an ecosystem may be resistant to a given perturbation. Carpenter et al. (2001) defined resistance as the amount of external pressure needed to bring about a given amount of disturbance in a system. On the other hand, two ecosystems may have similar resistance to a given perturbation, but may differ in their potential for recovery, that is their ability and/or swiftness to return to a state that is functionally similar to the pre-disturbance state (Darling and Fraser 2013).

Crazily cool facts about Coral Reefs
·         The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the largest living thing on the planet.
Source: Science
Source: WWF
·      Reefs that are noticeable in size (like the aforementioned reef) are between 5 and 10,000 years old.
·         The Great Barrier Reef comprises of 900 smaller reefs! It covers about 1,200 miles (1900 km) and crosses over 500 islands. Unsurprisingly, it is one of the most visited reefs in the world, and, judging by the pictures below, one can easily see why:
Source: Serge the Concierge
·         The shape of a coral reef forms a natural protective barrier against storm waves and the waves break apart on the reef, so they don’t hit the shore at full force. A reef is called a “barrier” when its presence is able to protect the shallow waters along the shore from the open sea, thereby protecting and promoting the survival of several sea plants and animal life.
·         A coral reef is a community of life that lives and thrives in one location.
·         Interestingly, what we think of as the base of the reef and what we see when it is dry and removed from the water are only one small aspect of a living reef!
·         Various fish and sea creatures choose to spawn in reefs as their eggs will be safe from predators.
·         Coral reefs assist in improving the nearby water quality as they act as a filter, trapping things floating in the water, which makes for cleaner water all around.
·         Reefs essentially grow where there are stronger wave patterns and currents as it delivers more food for the ecosystem that creates the reef structure.
·         A coral reef needs sunlight to grow and, thus, they hardly ever grow in waters deeper than 45 feet.
·         Corals can be an assortment of colours, white, red, pink, green, blue, orange, and purple, due to natural pigments and the zooxanthellae in their tissues.
·         They also are more likely to be found in tropical oceans, as the water is clearer and warmer.
·         Coral reefs provide a space for feeding and raising babies for many of the sea mammals because the coral reef can stabilize the seabed for seagrasses.
·         Coral reefs play an imperative role in helping to manage carbon monoxide levels.
·         Wherever coral reefs grow, the sea bed is more stable and it helps seagrass and other sea plants to survive in the area. The more plants are growing on the sea bed, the less impact storms and surges will have on seabed too.
·         Coral reefs are found in 109 countries but significant reef degradation has occurred in 93 countries.
·         More than 80% of the world's shallow reefs are severely over-fished.
·         Southeast Asia is the global epicentre of marine diversity: Its 100,000km2 of coral reefs (34% of the world's total) are home to over 600 of the 800 reef-building coral species in the world.
·         Indonesia and the Philippines hold 77% of Southeast Asia's coral reefs and nearly 80% of threatened reefs.
·         All corals have been listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) since 1990.
·         More than 450 million people live within 60 kilometres of coral reefs, with the majority directly or indirectly deriving food and income from them.
·         There can be as many different types of fish in two acres of coral reef in Southeast Asia as there are species of birds on the entire continent of North America.
·         Corals are related to i.e. sea anemones and sea jellies. They make use of their tentacles for defence and to capture their prey.

Coral reefs have survived tens of thousands of years of natural change, but without urgent action to address threats, these beautiful and life-sustaining organisms could disappear, and their survival would be unknown.

Burt, J.A., Coles, S., van Lavieren, H., Taylor, O., Looker, E., & Samimi-Namin, K. 2015. Oman's coral reefs: A unique ecosystem challenged by natural and man-related stresses and in need of conservation. Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Burkepile, D.E. & Hay, M.E.2008. Coral Reefs. Elsevier B.V.

Chavanicha, S., Soong, K., Zvulonic, A., Rinkevichd, B., Alinoe, P.2015. Conservation, management, and restoration of coral reefs. Zoology 118 p. 132–134.

Darling, E.S. & Cote, I.M. 2013. Vulnerability of Coral Reefs.

McClanahan, T.R., Graham, N.A.J., & Darling, E.S. 2014. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 7:59–64.

Mother Nature Network. Fascinating Facts about Coral Reefs.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Pressing environmental issues

Source: One in a billion
There are several environmental concerns the Earth is currently facing. These issues affect all people, animals, communities, and nations around the world. Some of these changes are small and only affect a few ecosystems, but others are drastically changing landscapes. Environmental problems unfortunately make us vulnerable to disasters and tragedies, both now and in the future. Our environment is constantly changing. But human-related activities have certainly contributed towards accelerating such change which has negatively impacted Mother Nature. In fact, our planet is on the brink of a severe environmental crisis. We are heading to a state of planetary emergency. One thing is for sure: Earth is fragile and the need for change is critical so as to ensure a sustainable future. 

Source: Inhabitat
The environment is the habitat in which living things maintain their reciprocation and interact with each other throughout their lifetimes. Because life and environment are interdependent, environment is a vital human element. Human life and natural life are based on various balances. The environmental balance that human beings maintain is among the most important. Extraneous effects on the chain links that make up this natural balance will negatively affect this balance and lead to environmental problems. According to Watson and Halse (2005), human beings profoundly affect these environmental problems, and these human effects unprecedentedly reveal themselves in issues such as global warming, rain forest destruction, ozone layer breaches, and biological variety threats (Genc 215).Thus, it is vitally important that all people become increasingly aware about the various environmental problems that our planet is facing.

Source: WWF
Here is a look at the most pressing environmental issues of today that require urgent attention:

1.      Climate Change
Source: Youtube

Source: Climate Change Central
Climate change, as a serious environmental problem, has occurred over the few decades. Global warming is a contested environmental issue: many scientists are of the belief that the phenomenon is real. Other people are sceptical. However, undoubtedly several consequences of climate change can already be observed including the melting polar ice caps, gradual rise in sea level, unnatural patterns of precipitation such as flash floods, catastrophic weather, excessive snow, desertification, threatened ecosystems, and change in overall weather scenario. Moreover, humans have undeniably influenced climate change with the production of greenhouse gases (stemming from carbon dioxide and methane). One thing is for sure: Our planet is warming and changes will continue to occur stronger and negatively affecting the ecosystems.

2.      Water
Source: National Geographic Society

Source: Children's Environmental Literacy Foundation
In many parts of the world, water sources are scarce. The global reserves of drinkable water are a fraction of 1% and 1 in 5 humans doesn’t have access to potable water. Water pollution is also a worrisome occurrence. Other issues include acid rain, ocean dumping, urban runoff, oil spills, ocean acidification, and wastewater. In essence, potable drinking water is fast becoming a rare commodity.

3.      Pollution
Source: WWF
Air, water, and soil pollution have greatly occur all over the world. The number one pollutant is probably Industry and motor vehicle exhaust. Heavy metals, nitrates, and plastic are toxins responsible for pollution. Water pollution is caused by oil spill, acid rain, and urban runoff. Air pollution is primarily caused by gases and toxins released by industries and factories and combustion of fossil fuels. And soil pollution is predominantly caused by industrial waste, depriving soil from essential nutrients.

4.      Ecosystems and Endangered Species
Many species are under continuous threat, including indicator species (when this type of species becomes threatened, endangered, or extinct, an entire ecosystem faces collapse) and evolutionarily unique species. The consequences have a global impact.

5.      Ocean Acidification
The world's oceans have absorbed nearly a third of the excess carbon dioxide emitted as a result of anthropogenic activities. A side effect of carbon dioxide absorption is ocean acidification. Excessive CO2 production leads to ocean acidification (Sponberg 2007). The ocean acidity has increased by the last 250 years but by 2100, it may increase by 150 %.

6.      Ozone Layer Depletion
This is one of the most important and current environmental problem. The ozone layer (an invisible layer of protection around the planet protecting us from the sun’s harmful rays, preventing harmful UV radiation from reaching the earth) is depleted at unprecedented rates which can be attributed to pollution caused by Chloro-floro carbons (CFC’s). After these toxic gases reach the upper atmosphere, it causes a hole in the ozone layer and, sadly, the biggest of which is above the Antarctic. Nowadays, CFC’s are banned in many industries and consumer products.

7.      Natural resource depletion
Source: Futurism
Source: Emaze
Natural resource depletion is another crucial current environmental problems. Resource depletion is most commonly used with reference to farming, fishing, mining, water usage, and consumption of fossil fuels. The three main natural resources that are depleted are water, oil, and forests. Thankfully there has globally been a shift towards using more renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, biogas, and geothermal energy.

8.      Deforestation

Source: Conserve Energy Future
Forests can be seen as natural sinks of carbon dioxide. It produces fresh oxygen and help to regulate temperature and rainfall. Presently, forests cover about 30% of the land. However, annually high percentage of tree cover is lost due to growing population as they have a greater demand for food and shelter. Thus, deforestation (clearing of green cover, making land available for residential, industrial, or commercial purposes) takes place at unprecedented rates.

9.  Acid Rain
Acid rain occurs as a result of the presence of certain pollutants in the atmosphere, either through the combustion of fossil fuels, erupting volcanoes, or rotting vegetation which release sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. Consequences of acid rain not only have serious impacts on human health but also on wildlife and aquatic species.

10.  Overpopulation
Source: Woolman blog
Source: Alternet
Overpopulation, an undesirable condition whereby the number of existing human population exceeds the carrying capacity of Earth, is another serious problem. The population of the planet has reached unprecedented, unsustainable levels which have led to several water, fuel, and food shortages. In particular, exceptional population growth in developing countries is straining the already scarce resources.

11.  Consumerism

Source: Wilsonlms
     Over-consumption and their effect on the planet are also persistent.

12.  Ecosystem destruction
Ecosystem destruction and associated environmental concerns, such as aquaculture, estuaries, shellfish protection, landscaping, wetlands, and ecological restoration has occurred tremendously. Human-induced activities have led to the extinction of species and habitats and loss of biodiversity. Ecosystems are in danger when any species population is destroyed. An example is the destruction of coral reefs in the various oceans, supporting the rich marine life.

13.  Carbon footprint
Carbon footprint (and the responsibility of individuals to reduce their effect on the environment, including the use of renewable energy sources (solar power, geothermal heat pumps), recycling, and sustainable living) must also be looked at.

14.  Fishing-related issues
Fishing and its effect on marine ecosystems, blast fishing, cyanide fishing, bottom trawling, whaling, and over-fishing require urgent attention and the proper management thereof.

The one thing that is certain is the fact that environmental protection and preservation of the planet is the responsibility of every individual and community on Earth. By raising important environmental awareness, you can assist in contributing towards a more environmentally conscious and friendly place where future generations can live in a clean, healthy, environmentally sustainable place.

Genc, M. 2015. The project-based learning approach in environmental education, International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, 24:2, 105-117.

Sponberg, A.F. 2007. Ocean Acidification: The Biggest Threat to Our Oceans? American Institute of Biological Sciences.