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Environmental protection is a practice of protecting the natural environment on individual, organization controlled on governmental levels, for the benefit of both the environment and humans. Due to the pressures of overconsumption, population and technology, the biophysical environment is being degraded, sometimes permanently. This has been recognized, and governments have begun placing restraints on activities that cause environmental degradation. Since the 1960s, activity of environmental movements has created awareness of the various environmental problems. There is no agreement on the extent of the environmental impact of human activity and even scientific dishonesty occurs, so protection measures are occasionally debated.

Approaches with regards to environmental protection[edit]

Voluntary environmental agreements[edit]

In industrial countries, voluntary environmental agreements often provide a platform for companies to be recognized for moving beyond the minimum regulatory standards and thus support the development of best environmental practice. For instance, in India, Environment Improvement Trust (EIT) has been working for environment & forest protection since 1998. A group of Green Volunteers get a goal of Green India Clean India concept. CA Gajendra Kumar Jain a Chartered Accountant, is the founder of Environment Improvement Trust in Sojat city a small village of State of Rajasthan in India [1] In developing countries, such as throughout Latin America, these agreements are more commonly used to remedy significant levels of non-compliance with mandatory regulation.[2] The challenges that exist with these agreements lie in establishing baseline data, targets, monitoring and reporting. Due to the difficulties inherent in evaluating effectiveness, their use is often questioned and, indeed, the whole environment may well be adversely affected as a result. The key advantage of their use in developing countries is that their use helps to build environmental management capacity.[2]

Ecosystems approach[edit]

An ecosystems approach to resource management and environmental protection aims to consider the complex interrelationships of an entire ecosystem in decision making rather than simply responding to specific issues and challenges. Ideally the decision-making processes under such an approach would be a collaborative approach to planning and decision making that involves a broad range of stakeholders across all relevant governmental departments, as well as representatives of industry, environmental groups and community. This approach ideally supports a better exchange of information, development of conflict-resolution strategies and improved regional conservation.Religions also play an important role in conservation of environment.Ref-Hadiya Habib (Role of religious education and different religions in conservation and maintenance of environment, 07, July 2017, special issue.[3]

International environmental agreements[edit]

Many of the earth's resources are especially vulnerable because they are influenced by human impacts across many countries. As a result of this, many attempts are made by countries to develop agreements that are signed by multiple governments to prevent damage or manage the impacts of human activity on natural resources. This can include agreements that impact factors such as climate, oceans, rivers and air pollution. These international environmental agreements are sometimes legally binding documents that have legal implications when they are not followed and, at other times, are more agreements in principle or are for use as codes of conduct. These agreements have a long history with some multinational agreements being in place from as early as 1910 in Europe, America and Africa.[4] Some of the most well-known international agreements include the Kyoto Protocol and others.


Main article: Kyoto Protocol

Discussion concerning environmental protection often focuses on the role of government, legislation, and law enforcement. However, in its broadest sense, environmental protection may be seen to be the responsibility of all the people and not simply that of government. Decisions that impact the environment will ideally involve a broad range of stakeholders including industry, indigenous groups, environmental group and community representatives. Gradually, environmental decision-making processes are evolving to reflect this broad base of stakeholders and are becoming more collaborative in many countries.[5]

Many constitutions acknowledge the fundamental right to environmental protection and many international treaties acknowledge the right to live in a healthy environment.[6] Also, many countries have organizations and agencies devoted to environmental protection. There are international environmental protection organizations, such as the United Nations Environment Programme.

Although environmental protection is not simply the responsibility of government agencies, most people view these agencies as being of prime importance in establishing and maintaining basic standards that protect both the environment and the people interacting with it.


Tanzania is recognised as having some of the greatest biodiversity of any African country. Almost 40% of the land has been established into a network of protected areas, including several national parks.[7] The concerns for the natural environment include damage to ecosystems and loss of habitat resulting from population growth, expansion of subsistence agriculture, pollution, timber extraction and significant use of timber as fuel.[8]


History of environmental protection[edit]

Environmental protection in Tanzania began during the German occupation of East Africa (1884-1919) — colonial conservation laws for the protection of game and forests were enacted, whereby restrictions were placed upon traditional indigenous activities such as hunting, firewood collecting and cattle grazing.[9] In year 1948, Serengeti was officially established as the first national park for wild cats in East Africa. Since 1983, there has been a more broad-reaching effort to manage environmental issues at a national level, through the establishment of the National Environment Management Council (NEMC) and the development of an environmental act. In 1998 Environment Improvement Trust (EIT) start working for environment & forest protection in India from a small city Sojat. Founder of Environment Improvement Trust is CA Gajendra Kumar Jain working with volunteers.[10]

Government protection[edit]

Division of the biosphere is the main government body that oversees protection. It does this through the formulation of policy, coordinating and monitoring environmental issues, environmental planning and policy-oriented environmental research.The National Environment Management Council (NEMC) is an institution that was initiated when the National Environment Management Act was first introduced in year 1983. This council has the role to advise governments and the international community on a range of environmental issues. The NEMC the following purposes: provide technical advice; coordinate technical activities; develop enforcement guidelines and procedures; assess, monitor and evaluate activities that impact the environment; promote and assist environmental information and communication; and seek advancement of scientific knowledge.[11]

The National Environment Policy of 1997 acts as a framework for environmental decision making in Tanzania. The policy objectives are to achieve the following:

  • Ensure sustainable and equitable use of resources without degrading the environment or risking health or safety
  • Prevent and control degradation of land, water, vegetation and air
  • Conserve and enhance natural and man-made heritage, including biological diversity of unique ecosystems
  • Improve condition and productivity of degraded areas
  • Raise awareness and understanding of the link between environment and development
  • Promote individual and community participation
  • Promote international cooperation[11]

Tanzania is a signatory to a significant number of international conventions including the Rio Declaration on Development and Environment 1992 and the Convention on Biological Diversity 1996. The Environmental Management Act, 2004, is the first comprehensive legal and institutional framework to guide environmental-management decisions. The policy tools that are parts of the act includes the use of: environmental-impact assessments, strategics environmentals assessments and taxation on pollution for specific industries and products. The effectiveness of shifing of this act will only become clear over time as concerns regarding its implementation become apparent based on the fact that, historically, there has been a lack of capacity to enforce environmental laws and a lack of working tools to bring environmental-protection objectives into practice.


Formal environmental protection in China House was first stimulated by the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, Sweden. Following this, they began establishing environmental protection agencies and putting controls on some of its industrial waste. China was one of the first developing countries to implement a sustainable development strategy. In 1983 the State Council announced that environmental protection would be one of China's basic national policies and in 1984 the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) was established. Following severe flooding of the Yangtze River basin in 1998, NEPA was upgraded to the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) meaning that environmental protection was now being implemented at a ministerial level. In 2008, SEPA became known by its current name of Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People's Republic of China (MEP).[12]

Pollution control instruments in China

Command-and-controlEconomic incentivesVoluntary instrumentsPublic participation
Concentration-based pollution discharge controlsPollution levy feeEnvironmental labeling systemClean-up campaign
Mass-based controls on total provincial dischargeNon-compliance finesISO 14000 systemEnvironmental awareness campaign
Environmental impact assessments (EIA)Discharge permit systemCleaner productionAir pollution index
Three synchronization programSulfur emission feeNGOsWater quality disclosure
Deadline transmission tradingAdministrative permission hearing
Centralized pollution controlSubsidies for energy saving products
Two compliance policyRegulation on refuse credit to high-polluting firms
Environmental compensation fee

Environmental pollution and ecological degradation has resulted in economic losses for China. In 2005, economic losses (mainly from air pollution) were calculated at 7.7% of China's GDP. This grew to 10.3% by 2002 and the economic loss from water pollution (6.1%) began to exceed that caused by air pollution.[13] China has been one of the top performing countries in terms of GDP growth (9.64% in the past ten years).[13] However, the high economic growth has put immense pressure on its environment and the environmental challenges that China faces are greater than most countries. In 2010 China was ranked 121st out of 163 countries on the Environmental Performance Index.

China has taken initiatives to increase its protection of the environment and combat environmental degradation:

  • China's investment in renewable energy grew 18% in 2007 to $15.6 billion, accounting for ~10% of the global investment in this area;[14]
  • In 2008, spending on the environment was 1.49% of GDP, up 3.4 times from 2000;[14]
  • The discharge of CO (carbon monoxide) and SO2 (sulfur dioxide) decreased by 6.61% and 8.95% in 2008 compared with that in 2005;[14]
  • China's protected nature reserves have increased substantially. In 1978 there were only 34 compared with 2,538 in 2010. The protected nature reserve system now occupies 15.5% of the country; this is higher than the world average.[14]

Rapid growth in GDP has been China's main goal during the past three decades with a dominant development model of inefficient resource use and high pollution to achieve high GDP. For China to develop sustainably, environmental protection should be treated as an integral part of its economic policies.[15]

Quote from Shengxian Zhou, head of MEP (2009): "Good economic policy is good environmental policy and the nature of environmental problem is the economic structure, production form and develop model."[14]

European Union[edit]

Environmental protection has become an important task for the institutions of the European Community after the Maastricht Treaty for the European Union ratification by all the Member States. The EU is already very active in the field of environmental policy with important directives like those on environmental impact assessment and on the access to environmental information for citizens in the Member States.


In Russia, environmental protection is considered an integral part of national safety. There is an authorized state body - the Federal Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology. However, there are a lot of environmental problems.

Latin America[edit]

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has identified 17 megadiverse countries. The list includes six Latin American countries: Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. Mexico and Brazil stand out among the rest because they have the largest area, population and number of species. These countries represent a major concern for environmental protection because they have high rates of deforestation, ecosystems loss, pollution, and population growth.


Brazil has the largest amount of the world's tropical forests, 4,105,401 km2 (48.1% of Brazil), concentrated in the Amazon region.[16] Brazil is home to vast biological diversity, first among the megadiverse countries of the world, having between 15%-20% of the 1.5 million globally described species.[17]

The organization in charge of environment protection is the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment (in Portuguese: Ministério do Meio Ambiente, MMA).[18] It was first created in year 1973 with the name Special Secretariat for the Environment (Secretaria Especial de Meio Ambiente), changing names several times, and adopting the final name in year 1999. The Ministry is responsible for addressing the following issues:

  • A national policy for the environment and for water resources;
  • A policy for the preservation, conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems, biodiversity and forests;
  • Proposing strategies, mechanisms, economic and social instruments for improving environmental quality, and sustainable use of natural resources;
  • Policies for integrating production and the environment;
  • Environmental policies and programs for the Legal Amazon;
  • Ecological and economic territorial zoning.

In 2011, protected areas of the Amazon covered 2,197,485 km2 (an area larger than Greenland), with conservation units, like national parks, accounting for just over half (50.6%), and indigenous territories representing the remaining 49.4%.[19]


With over 200,000 different species, Mexico is home to 10–12% of the world's biodiversity, ranking first in reptile biodiversity and second in mammals[20]—one estimate indicates that over 50% of all animal and plant species live in Mexico.[21]

The history of environmental policy in Mexico started in the 1940s with the enactment of the Law of Conservation of Soil and Water (in Spanish: Ley de Conservación de Suelo y Agua). Three decades later, at the beginning of the 1970s, the Law to Prevent and Control Environmental Pollution was created (Ley para Prevenir y Controlar la Contaminación Ambiental).

In year 1972 was the first direct response from the federal government to address eminent health effects from environmental issues. It established the administrative organization of the Secretariat for the Improvement of the Environment (Subsecretaría para el Mejoramiento del Ambiente) in the Department of Health and Welfare.

The Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Secretaría del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, SEMARNAT[22]) is Mexico's environment ministry. The Ministry is responsible for addressing the following issues:

  • Promote the protection, restoration and conservation of ecosystems, natural resources, goods and environmental services, and to facilitate their use and sustainable development.
  • Develop and implement a national policy on natural resources
  • Promote environmental management within the national territory, in coordination with all levels of government and the private sector.
  • Evaluate and provide determination to the environmental impact statements for development projects and prevention of ecological damage
  • Implement national policies on climate change and protection of the ozone layer.
  • Direct work and studies on national meteorological, climatological, hydrological, and geohydrological systems, and participate in international conventions on these subjects.
  • Regulate and monitor the conservation of waterways

In November 2000 there were 127 protected areas; currently there are 174, covering an area of 25,384,818 hectares, increasing federally protected areas from 8.6% to 12.85% its land area.[23]



In 2008, there was 98,487,116 ha of terrestrial protected area, covering 12.8% of the land area of Australia.[24] The 2002 figures of 10.1% of terrestrial area and 64,615,554 ha of protected marine area[25] were found to poorly represent about half of Australia's 85 bioregions.[26]

Environmental protection in Australia could be seen as starting with the formation of the first National Park, Royal National Park, in 1879.[27] More progressive environmental protection had it start in the 1960s and 1970s with major international programs such as the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972, the Environment Committee of the OECD in 1970, and the United Nations Environment Programme of 1972.[28] These events laid the foundations by increasing public awareness and support for regulation. State environmental legislation was irregular and deficient until the Australian Environment Council (AEC) and Council of Nature Conservation Ministers (CONCOM) were established in 1972 and 1974, creating a forum to assist in coordinating environmental and conservation policies between states and neighbouring countries.[29] These councils have since been replaced by the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) in 1991 and finally the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) in 2001.[30]

At a national level, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is the primary environmental protection legislation for the Commonwealth of Australia. It concerns matters of national and international environmental significance regarding flora, fauna, ecological communities and cultural heritage.[31] It also has jurisdiction over any activity conducted by the Commonwealth, or affecting it, that has significant environmental impact.[32] The act covers eight main areas:[33]

There are several Commonwealth protected lands due to partnerships with traditional native owners, such as Kakadu National Park, extraordinary biodiversity such as Christmas Island National Park, or managed cooperatively due to cross-state location, such as the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves.[34]

At a state level, the bulk of environmental protection issues are left to the responsibility of the state or territory.[29][32] Each state in Australia has its own environmental protection legislation and corresponding agencies. Their jurisdiction is similar and covers point-source pollution, such as from industry or commercial activities, land/water use, and waste management. Most protected lands are managed by states and territories[34] with state legislative acts creating different degrees and definitions of protected areas such as wilderness, national land and marine parks, state forests, and conservation areas. States also create regulation to limit and provide general protection from air, water, and sound pollution.

At a local level, each city or regional council has responsibility over issues not covered by state or national legislation. This includes non-point source, or diffuse pollution, such as sediment pollution from construction sites.

Australia ranks second place on the UN 2010 Human Development Index[35] and one of the lowest debt to GDP ratios of the developed economies.[36] This could be seen as coming at the cost of the environment, with Australia being the world leader in coal exportation[37] and species extinctions.[38][39] Some have been motivated to proclaim it is Australia's responsibility to set the example of environmental reform for the rest of the world to follow.[40][41]

New Zealand[edit]

At a national level, the Ministry for the Environment is responsible for environmental policy and the Department of Conservation addresses conservation issues. At a regional level the regional councils administer the legislation and address regional environmental issues.


See also: Environmental protection in Switzerland

The environmental protection in Switzerland is mainly based on the measures to be taken against global warming. The pollution in Switzerland is mainly the pollution caused by vehicles and the litteration by tourists.

United States[edit]

Since 1969, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working to protect the environment and human health.[42] All U.S. states have their own state departments of environmental protection.[43]

The EPA has drafted "Seven Priorities for EPA's Future", which are:[44]

In literature[edit]

There are many works of literature that contain the themes of environmental protection but some have been fundamental to its evolution. Several pieces such as A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, Tragedy of the commons by Garrett Hardin, and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson have become classics due to their far reaching influences.[citation needed] Environmental protection is present in fiction as well as non-fictional literature. Books such as Antarctica and Blockade have environmental protection as subjects whereas The Lorax has become a popular metaphor for environmental protection. "The Limits of Trooghaft"[45] by Desmond Stewart is a short story that provides insight into human attitudes towards animals. Another book called "The Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury investigates issues such as bombs, wars, government control, and what effects these can have on the environment.

See also[edit]


  1. ^Karamanos, P., Voluntary Environmental Agreements: Evolution and Definition of a New Environmental Policy Approach. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 2001. 44(1): p. 67-67-84.
  2. ^ abBlackman, A., Can Voluntary Environmental Regulation Work in Developing Countries? Lessons from Case Studies. Policy Studies Journal, 2008. 36(1): p. 119-141.
  3. ^The California Institute of Public Affairs (CIPA) (August 2001). "An ecosystem approach to natural resource conservation in California". CIPA Publication No. 106. InterEnvironment Institute. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  4. ^Mitchell, R.B., International Environmental Agreements: A Survey of Their Features, Formation, and Effects. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 2003. 28(1543-5938, 1543-5938): p. 429-429-461.
  5. ^Harding, R., Ecologically sustainable development: origins, implementation and challenges. Desalination, 2006. 187(1-3): p. 229-239
  6. ^Jonathan Verschuuren (1993). "Environmental Law, Articles". Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  7. ^Earth Trends (2003). "Biodiversity and Protected Areas-- Tanzania"(PDF). Earth Trends Country Profiles. Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  8. ^Jessica Andersson; Daniel Slunge (16 June 2005). "Tanzania – Environmental Policy Brief"(PDF). Tanzania – Environmental Policy Brief. Development Partners Group Tanzania. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  9. ^Goldstein, G., Legal System and Wildlife Conservation: History and the Law's Effect on Indigenous People and Community Conservation in Tanzania, The. Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, 2005. Georgetown University Law Center (Spring).
  10. ^Pallangyo, D.M. (2007). "Environmental Law in Tanzania; How Far Have We Gone?".LEAD: Law, Environment & Development Journal 3 (1).
  11. ^ abTanzania Government. "Environment Tanzania". Tanzania Government. Retrieved 20/9/2011.
  12. ^Zhang, Kunmin; Wen, Peng (2008). "Review on environmental policies in China: Evolvement, features, and evaluation". Environ. Sci. Engin. China. 2 (2): 129–141. doi:10.1007/s11783-008-0044-6. 
  13. ^ abZhang, Kun-min; Wen, Zong-guo. (2008). "Review and challenges of policies of environmental protection and sustainable development in China". Journal of Environmental Management. 88: 1249–1261. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2007.06.019. 
  14. ^ abcdeChunmei, Wang; Zhaolan, Lin. (2010). "Environmental Policies in China over the past 10 Years: Progress, Problems and Prospects". International Society for Environmental Information Sciences 2010 Annual Conference (ISEIS). 2: 1701–1712. doi:10.1016/j.proenv.2010.10.181. 
  15. ^Liu, Jianguo; Diamond, Jared. (2008). "Revolutionizing China's Environmental Protection". Science. 319: 37–38. doi:10.1126/science.1150416. PMID 18174421. 
  16. ^Ministério do Meio Ambiente (MMA) Secretaria de Biodiversidade e Florestas (2002), ‘ Biodiversidade Brasileira’,, retrieved September 2011
  17. ^Lewinsohn, T. M.; Prado, P. I. (2004) ‘Biodiversidade Brasileira: Síntese do Estado Atual do Conhecimento’, Contexto Academico
  18. ^Ministério do Meio Ambiente (2012). "Ministério do Meio Ambiente". Ministério do Meio Ambiente (in Portuguese). Ministério do Meio Ambiente. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  19. ^Veríssimo, A., Rolla, A., Vedoveto, M. & de Furtada, S.M. (2011) Áreas Protegidas na Amazônia Brasileira: avanços e desafios, Imazon/ISA
  20. ^Mittermeier, R. y C. Goettsch (1992) ‘La importancia de la diversidad biológica de México’, Conabio, México
  21. ^Viva Natura. "Principal ecosystems in Mexico". Viva Natura. Viva Natura. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  22. ^Official site:
  23. ^Official site:
  24. ^"Collaborative Australian Protected Areas Database 2008". Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  25. ^"Collaborative Aus tralian Protected Areas Database 2002". Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  26. ^Paul Sattler and Colin Creighton. "Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002". National Land and Water Resources Audit. Department of Sustainabililty, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  27. ^"Royal National Park". NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  28. ^Australian achievements in environment protection and nature conservation 1972-1982. Canberra: Australian Environment Council and Council of Nature Conservation Ministers. 1982. pp. 1–2. ISBN 0-642-88655-5. 
  29. ^ ab"Background to the Councils". Australian Government Primary Industries Ministerial Council and Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  30. ^"ANZECC". Environment Protection and Heritage Council. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  31. ^"Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act". Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  32. ^ ab"About the EPBC Act". Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  33. ^"Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) fact sheet". Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  34. ^ ab"Protected areas". Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  35. ^"Human Development Index (HDI) - 2010 Rankings"(PDF). Human Development Report Office; United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  36. ^"Overview of the Australian Government's Balance Sheet". Budget Strategy and Outlook 2011-12. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  37. ^"The Australian Coal Industry - Coal Exports". Australian Coal Association. Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2011. 
  38. ^Jeff Short and Andrew Smith (1994). "Mammal Decline and Recovery in Australia". Journal of Mammalogy. 75 (2): 288–297. doi:10.2307/1382547. 
  39. ^Johnson, Chris (2006). Australia's Mammal Extinctions. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. pp. vii. ISBN 0-521-84918-7. 
  40. ^Murphy, Cameron. "Australia as International Citizen - From past failure to future Distinction". 22nd Lionel Murphy Memorial Lecture. The Lionel Murphy Foundation. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  41. ^"Climate Change and Energy". The Australian Greens. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  42. ^The United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved on (August 23, 2008). "About Us (section)". U.S. EPA.
  43. ^"State Environmental Agencies". United States Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed May 2010.
  44. ^ ab"Seven Priorities for EPA's Future"Archived 2012-08-18 at the Wayback Machine.. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed May 2010.
  45. ^Stewart, Desmond (February 1972). "The Limits of Trooghaft". Encounter. London. 38 (2): 3–7. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
Kyoto Protocol Commitment map 2010
Zebras at the Serengeti savana plains in Tanzania
Top 5 Countries by biological diversity
The axolotl is an endemic species from the central part of Mexico

For the biology term, see Environment (biophysical). For other uses, see Environment.

"Natural force" redirects here. It is not to be confused with Natural Force.

The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally, meaning in this case not artificial. The term is most often applied to the Earth or some parts of Earth. This environment encompasses the interaction of all living species, climate, weather, and natural resources that affect human survival and economic activity. [1] The concept of the natural environment can be distinguished as components:

  • Complete ecological units that function as natural systems without massive civilized human intervention, including all vegetation, microorganisms, soil, rocks, atmosphere, and natural phenomena that occur within their boundaries and their nature.
  • Universal natural resources and physical phenomena that lack clear-cut boundaries, such as air, water, and climate, as well as energy, radiation, electric charge, and magnetism, not originating from civilized human actions

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

People seldom find absolutely natural environments on Earth, and naturalness usually varies in a continuum, from 100% natural in one extreme to 0% natural in the other. More precisely, we can consider the different aspects or components of an environment, and see that their degree of naturalness is not uniform.[2] If, for instance, in an agricultural field, the mineralogic composition and the structure of its soil are similar to those of an undisturbed forest soil, but the structure is quite different.

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


Main article: Earth science

Earth science generally recognizes 4 spheres, the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and the biosphere[3] as correspondent to rocks, water, air, and life respectively. Some scientists include, as part of the spheres of the Earth, the cryosphere (corresponding to ice) as a distinct portion of the hydrosphere, as well as the pedosphere (corresponding to soil) as an active and intermixed sphere. Earth science (also known as geoscience, the geosciences or the Earth Sciences), is an all-embracing term for the sciences related to the planet Earth.[4] There are four major disciplines in earth sciences, namely geography, geology, geophysics and geodesy. These major disciplines use physics, chemistry, biology, chronology and mathematics to build a qualitative and quantitative understanding of the principal areas or spheres of Earth.

Geological activity[edit]

Main article: Geology

The Earth's crust, or lithosphere, is the outermost solid surface of the planet and is chemically and mechanically different from underlying mantle. It has been generated greatly by igneous processes in which magma cools and solidifies to form solid rock. Beneath the lithosphere lies the mantle which is heated by the decay of radioactive elements. The mantle though solid is in a state of rheicconvection. This convection process causes the lithospheric plates to move, albeit slowly. The resulting process is known as plate tectonics. Volcanoes result primarily from the melting of subducted crust material or of rising mantle at mid-ocean ridges and mantle plumes.

Water on Earth[edit]

Most water is found in one or another natural kind of body of water.


Main article: Ocean

An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface (an area of some 362 million square kilometers) is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas. More than half of this area is over 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) deep. Average oceanic salinity is around 35 parts per thousand (ppt) (3.5%), and nearly all seawater has a salinity in the range of 30 to 38 ppt. Though generally recognized as several 'separate' oceans, these waters comprise one global, interconnected body of salt water often referred to as the World Ocean or global ocean.[5][6] The deep seabeds are more than half the Earth's surface, and are among the least-modified natural environments. The major oceanic divisions are defined in part by the continents, various archipelagos, and other criteria: these divisions are (in descending order of size) the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean and the Arctic Ocean.


Main article: River

A river is a natural watercourse,[7] usually freshwater, flowing toward an ocean, a lake, a sea or another river. A few rivers simply flow into the ground and dry up completely before reaching another body of water.

The water in a river is usually in a channel, made up of a stream bed between banks. In larger rivers there is also a wider floodplain shaped by waters over-topping the channel. Flood plains may be very wide in relation to the size of the river channel. Rivers are a part of the hydrological cycle. Water within a river is generally collected from precipitation through surface runoff, groundwater recharge, springs, and the release of water stored in glaciers and snowpacks.

Small rivers may also be termed by several other names, including stream, creek and brook. Their current is confined within a bed and stream banks. Streams play an important corridor role in connecting fragmented habitats and thus in conserving biodiversity. The study of streams and waterways in general is known as surface hydrology.[8]

Further information: Stream


Main article: Lake

A lake (from Latin lacus) is a terrain feature, a body of water that is localized to the bottom of basin. A body of water is considered a lake when it is inland, is not part of an ocean, and is larger and deeper than a pond.[9][10]

Natural lakes on Earth are generally found in mountainous areas, rift zones, and areas with ongoing or recent glaciation. Other lakes are found in endorheic basins or along the courses of mature rivers. In some parts of the world, there are many lakes because of chaotic drainage patterns left over from the last Ice Age. All lakes are temporary over geologic time scales, as they will slowly fill in with sediments or spill out of the basin containing them.


Main article: Pond

A pond is a body of standing water, either natural or man-made, that is usually smaller than a lake. A wide variety of man-made bodies of water are classified as ponds, including water gardens designed for aesthetic ornamentation, fish ponds designed for commercial fish breeding, and solar ponds designed to store thermal energy. Ponds and lakes are distinguished from streams by their current speed. While currents in streams are easily observed, ponds and lakes possess thermally driven micro-currents and moderate wind driven currents. These features distinguish a pond from many other aquatic terrain features, such as stream pools and tide pools.

Atmosphere, climate and weather[edit]

The atmosphere of the Earth serves as a key factor in sustaining the planetary ecosystem. The thin layer of gases that envelops the Earth is held in place by the planet's gravity. Dry air consists of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 1% argon and other inert gases, such as carbon dioxide. The remaining gases are often referred to as trace gases,[12] among which are the greenhouse gases such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Filtered air includes trace amounts of many other chemical compounds. Air also contains a variable amount of water vapor and suspensions of water droplets and ice crystals seen as clouds. Many natural substances may be present in tiny amounts in an unfiltered air sample, including dust, pollen and spores, sea spray, volcanic ash, and meteoroids. Various industrial pollutants also may be present, such as chlorine (elementary or in compounds), fluorine compounds, elemental mercury, and sulphur compounds such as sulphur dioxide [SO2].

The ozone layer of the Earth's atmosphere plays an important role in depleting the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation that reaches the surface. As DNA is readily damaged by UV light, this serves to protect life at the surface. The atmosphere also retains heat during the night, thereby reducing the daily temperature extremes.

Atmospheric layers[edit]

Main article: Earth's atmosphere

Principal layers[edit]

Earth's atmosphere can be divided into five main layers. These layers are mainly determined by whether temperature increases or decreases with altitude. From highest to lowest, these layers are:

  • Exosphere: The outermost layer of Earth's atmosphere extends from the exobase upward, mainly composed of hydrogen and helium.
  • Thermosphere: The top of the thermosphere is the bottom of the exosphere, called the exobase. Its height varies with solar activity and ranges from about 350–800 km (220–500 mi; 1,150,000–2,620,000 ft). The International Space Station orbits in this layer, between 320 and 380 km (200 and 240 mi).
  • Mesosphere: The mesosphere extends from the stratopause to 80–85 km (50–53 mi; 262,000–279,000 ft). It is the layer where most meteors burn up upon entering the atmosphere.
  • Stratosphere: The stratosphere extends from the tropopause to about 51 km (32 mi; 167,000 ft). The stratopause, which is the boundary between the stratosphere and mesosphere, typically is at 50 to 55 km (31 to 34 mi; 164,000 to 180,000 ft).
  • Troposphere: The troposphere begins at the surface and extends to between 7 km (23,000 ft) at the poles and 17 km (56,000 ft) at the equator, with some variation due to weather. The troposphere is mostly heated by transfer of energy from the surface, so on average the lowest part of the troposphere is warmest and temperature decreases with altitude. The tropopause is the boundary between the troposphere and stratosphere.
Other layers

Within the five principal layers determined by temperature are several layers determined by other properties.

  • The ozone layer is contained within the stratosphere. It is mainly located in the lower portion of the stratosphere from about 15–35 km (9.3–21.7 mi; 49,000–115,000 ft), though the thickness varies seasonally and geographically. About 90% of the ozone in our atmosphere is contained in the stratosphere.
  • The ionosphere, the part of the atmosphere that is ionized by solar radiation, stretches from 50 to 1,000 km (31 to 621 mi; 160,000 to 3,280,000 ft) and typically overlaps both the exosphere and the thermosphere. It forms the inner edge of the magnetosphere.
  • The homosphere and heterosphere: The homosphere includes the troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere. The upper part of the heterosphere is composed almost completely of hydrogen, the lightest element.
  • The planetary boundary layer is the part of the troposphere that is nearest the Earth's surface and is directly affected by it, mainly through turbulent diffusion.

Effects of global warming[edit]

Main article: Effects of global warming

The potential dangers of global warming are being increasingly studied by a wide global consortium of scientists. These scientists are increasingly concerned about the potential long-term effects of global warming on our natural environment and on the planet. Of particular concern is how climate change and global warming caused by anthropogenic, or human-made releases of greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide, can act interactively, and have adverse effects upon the planet, its natural environment and humans' existence. It is clear the planet is warming, and warming rapidly.–This warming is also responsible for the extinction of natural habitats, which in turn leads to a reduction in wildlife population.The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the group of the leading climate scientists in the world) concluded that the earth will warm anywhere from 2.7 to almost 11 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 6 degrees Celsius) between 1990 and 2100.[13] Efforts have been increasingly focused on the mitigation of greenhouse gases that are causing climatic changes, on developing adaptative strategies to global warming, to assist humans, other animal, and plant species, ecosystems, regions and nations in adjusting to the effects of global warming. Some examples of recent collaboration to address climate change and global warming include:

A significantly profound challenge is to identify the natural environmental dynamics in contrast to environmental changes not within natural variances. A common solution is to adapt a static view neglecting natural variances to exist. Methodologically, this view could be defended when looking at processes which change slowly and short time series, while the problem arrives when fast processes turns essential in the object of the study.


Main article: Climate

Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and numerous other meteorological elements in a given region over long periods of time.[citation needed] Climate can be contrasted to weather, which is the present condition of these same elements over periods up to two weeks.[citation needed]

Climates can be classified according to the average and typical ranges of different variables, most commonly temperature and precipitation. The most commonly used classification scheme is the one originally developed by Wladimir Köppen. The Thornthwaite system,[17] in use since 1948, incorporates evapotranspiration in addition to temperature and precipitation information and is used in studying animal species diversity and potential impacts of climate changes.[citation needed]


Main article: Weather

Weather is a set of all the phenomena occurring in a given atmospheric area at a given time.[18] Most weather phenomena occur in the troposphere,[19][20] just below the stratosphere. Weather refers, generally, to day-to-day temperature and precipitation activity, whereas climate is the term for the average atmospheric conditions over longer periods of time.[21] When used without qualification, "weather" is understood to be the weather of Earth.

Weather occurs due to density (temperature and moisture) differences between one place and another. These differences can occur due to the sun angle at any particular spot, which varies by latitude from the tropics. The strong temperature contrast between polar and tropical air gives rise to the jet stream. Weather systems in the mid-latitudes, such as extratropical cyclones, are caused by instabilities of the jet stream flow. Because the Earth's axis is tilted relative to its orbital plane, sunlight is incident at different angles at different times of the year. On the Earth's surface, temperatures usually range ±40 °C (100 °F to −40 °F) annually. Over thousands of years, changes in the Earth's orbit have affected the amount and distribution of solar energy received by the Earth and influence long-term climate

Surface temperature differences in turn cause pressure differences. Higher altitudes are cooler than lower altitudes due to differences in compressional heating. Weather forecasting is the application of science and technology to predict the state of the atmosphere for a future time and a given location. The atmosphere is a chaotic system, and small changes to one part of the system can grow to have large effects on the system as a whole. Human attempts to control the weather have occurred throughout human history, and there is evidence that civilized human activity such as agriculture and industry has inadvertently modified weather patterns.


Main articles: Life, Biology, and Biosphere

Evidence suggests that life on Earth has existed for about 3.7 billion years.[22] All known life forms share fundamental molecular mechanisms, and based on these observations, theories on the origin of life attempt to find a mechanism explaining the formation of a primordial single cell organism from which all life originates. There are many different hypotheses regarding the path that might have been taken from simple organic molecules via pre-cellular life to protocells and metabolism.

Although there is no universal agreement on the definition of life, scientists generally accept that the biological manifestation of life is characterized by organization, metabolism, growth, adaptation, response to stimuli and reproduction.[23] Life may also be said to be simply the characteristic state of organisms. In biology, the science of living organisms, "life" is the condition which distinguishes active organisms from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, functional activity and the continual change preceding death.[24][25]

A diverse variety of living organisms (life forms) can be found in the biosphere on Earth, and properties common to these organisms—plants, animals, fungi, protists, archaea, and bacteria—are a carbon- and water-based cellular form with complex organization and heritable genetic information. Living organisms undergo metabolism, maintain homeostasis, possess a capacity to grow, respond to stimuli, reproduce and, through natural selection, adapt to their environment in successive generations. More complex living organisms can communicate through various means.


Main article: Ecosystem

An ecosystem (also called as environment) is a natural unit consisting of all plants, animals and micro-organisms (biotic factors) in an area functioning together with all of the non-living physical (abiotic) factors of the environment.[26]

Central to the ecosystem concept is the idea that living organisms are continually engaged in a highly interrelated set of relationships with every other element constituting the environment in which they exist. Eugene Odum, one of the founders of the science of ecology, stated: "Any unit that includes all of the organisms (ie: the "community") in a given area interacting with the physical environment so that a flow of energy leads to clearly defined trophic structure, biotic diversity, and material cycles (i.e.: exchange of materials between living and nonliving parts) within the system is an ecosystem."[27]

The human ecosystem concept is then grounded in the deconstruction of the human/nature dichotomy, and the emergent premise that all species are ecologically integrated with each other, as well as with the abiotic constituents of their biotope.

A greater number or variety of species or biological diversity of an ecosystem may contribute to greater resilience of an ecosystem, because there are more species present at a location to respond to change and thus "absorb" or reduce its effects. This reduces the effect before the ecosystem's structure is fundamentally changed to a different state. This is not universally the case and there is no proven relationship between the species diversity of an ecosystem and its ability to provide goods and services on a sustainable level.

The term ecosystem can also pertain to human-made environments, such as human ecosystems and human-influenced ecosystems, and can describe any situation where there is relationship between living organisms and their environment. Fewer areas on the surface of the earth today exist free from human contact, although some genuine wilderness areas continue to exist without any forms of human intervention.


Main article: Biome

Biomes are terminologically similar to the concept of ecosystems, and are climatically and geographically defined areas of ecologically similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, often referred to as ecosystems. Biomes are defined on the basis of factors such as plant structures (such as trees, shrubs, and grasses), leaf types (such as broadleaf and needleleaf), plant spacing (forest, woodland, savanna), and climate. Unlike ecozones, biomes are not defined by genetic, taxonomic, or historical similarities. Biomes are often identified with particular patterns of ecological succession and climax vegetation.

Biogeochemical cycles[edit]

Main article: Biogeochemical cycles

Global biogeochemical cycles are critical to life, most notably those of water, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus.[28]

  • The nitrogen cycle is the transformation of nitrogen and nitrogen-containing compounds in nature. It is a cycle which includes gaseous components.
  • The water cycle, is the continuous movement of water on, above, and below the surface of the Earth. Water can change states among liquid, vapour, and ice at various places in the water cycle. Although the balance of water on Earth remains fairly constant over time, individual water molecules can come and go.
  • The carbon cycle is the biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged among the biosphere, pedosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the Earth.
  • The oxygen cycle is the movement of oxygen within and between its three main reservoirs: the atmosphere, the biosphere, and the lithosphere. The main driving factor of the oxygen cycle is photosynthesis, which is responsible for the modern Earth's atmospheric composition and life.
  • The phosphorus cycle is the movement of phosphorus through the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. The atmosphere does not play a significant role in the movements of phosphorus, because phosphorus and phosphorus compounds are usually solids at the typical ranges of temperature and pressure found on Earth.


Main article: Wilderness

Wilderness is generally defined as a natural environment on Earth that has not been significantly modified by human activity. The WILD Foundation goes into more detail, defining wilderness as: "The most intact, undisturbed wild natural areas left on our planet - those last truly wild places that humans do not control and have not developed with roads, pipelines or other industrial infrastructure."[29] Wilderness areas and protected parks are considered important for the survival of certain species, ecological studies, conservation, solitude, and recreation. Wilderness is deeply valued for cultural, spiritual, moral, and aesthetic reasons. Some nature writers believe wilderness areas are vital for the human spirit and creativity.[30]

The word, "wilderness", derives from the notion of wildness; in other words that which is not controllable by humans. The word's etymology is from the Old Englishwildeornes, which in turn derives from wildeor meaning wild beast (wild + deor = beast, deer).[31] From this point of view, it is the wildness of a place that makes it a wilderness. The mere presence or activity of people does not disqualify an area from being "wilderness." Many ecosystems that are, or have been, inhabited or influenced by activities of people may still be considered "wild." This way of looking at wilderness includes areas within which natural processes operate without very noticeable human interference.

Wildlife includes all non-domesticated plants, animals and other organisms. Domesticating wild plant and animal species for human benefit has occurred many times all over the planet, and has a major impact on the environment, both positive and negative. Wildlife can be found in all ecosystems. Deserts, rain forests, plains, and other areas—including the most developed urban sites—all have distinct forms of wildlife. While the term in popular culture usually refers to animals that are untouched by civilized human factors, most scientists agree that wildlife around the world is (now) impacted by human activities.


See also: List of environmental issues

It is the common understanding of natural environment that underlies environmentalism — a broad political, social, and philosophical movement that advocates various actions and policies in the interest of protecting what nature remains in the natural environment, or restoring or expanding the role of nature in this environment. While true wilderness is increasingly rare, wild nature (e.g., unmanaged forests, uncultivated grasslands, wildlife, wildflowers) can be found in many locations previously inhabited by humans.

Goals for the benefit of people and natural systems, commonly expressed by environmental scientists and environmentalists include:

  • Elimination of pollution and toxicants in air, water, soil, buildings, manufactured goods, and food.
  • Preservation of biodiversity and protection of endangered species.
  • Conservation and sustainable use of resources such as water,[34] land, air, energy, raw materials, and natural resources.
  • Halting human-induced global warming, which represents pollution, a threat to biodiversity, and a threat to human populations.
  • Shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy in electricity, heating and cooling, and transportation, which addresses pollution, global warming, and sustainability. This may include public transportation and distributed generation, which have benefits for traffic congestion and electric reliability.
  • Establishment of nature reserves for recreational purposes and ecosystem preservation.
  • Sustainable and less polluting waste management including waste reduction (or even zero waste), reuse, recycling, composting, waste-to-energy, and anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge.


In some cultures the term environment is meaningless because there is no separation between people and what they view as the natural world, or their surroundings.[35] Specifically in the United States, many native cultures do not recognize the "environment", or see themselves as environmentalists.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^Johnson, D. L.; Ambrose, S. H.; Bassett, T. J.; Bowen, M. L.; Crummey, D. E.; Isaacson, J. S.; Johnson, D. N.; Lamb, P.; Saul, M.; Winter-Nelson, A. E. (1997). "Meanings of Environmental Terms". Journal of Environmental Quality. 26 (3): 581–589. doi:10.2134/jeq1997.00472425002600030002x. 
  2. ^Symons, Donald (1979). The Evolution of Human Sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 31. ISBN 0-19-502535-0. 
  3. ^Earth's SpheresArchived 2007-08-31 at the Wayback Machine.. ©1997-2000. Wheeling Jesuit University/NASA Classroom of the Future. Retrieved November 11, 2007.
  4. ^Wordnet Search: Earth science[dead link]
  5. ^""Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-14. Retrieved 2012-07-15. ". The Columbia Encyclopedia. 2002. New York: Columbia University Press
  6. ^"Distribution of land and water on the planetArchived May 31, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.". UN Atlas of the OceansArchived September 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^River {definition} from Merriam-Webster. Accessed February 2010.
  8. ^ August 13, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^Brittanica online. "Lake (physical feature)". Retrieved 2008-06-25.  
  10. ^" definition". Retrieved 2008-06-25.  
  11. ^NGDC - NOAA. "Volcanic Lightning". National Geophysical Data Center - NOAA. Retrieved September 21, 2007.
Earth's layered structure. (1) inner core; (2) outer core; (3) lower mantle; (4) upper mantle; (5) lithosphere; (6) crust
Rocky stream in the U.S. state of Hawaii
Worldwide climate classifications map
Map of Terrestrial biomes classified by vegetation.
Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. The tropical rainforests of South America contain the largest diversity of species on Earth, including some that have evolved within the past few hundred thousand years.[32][33]

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