The central argument for monitoring can be stated in a single sentence: You cannot recognize, understand, improve or maintain what you do not or cannot measure. The ability to measure is a necessity—an activity that we need to maintain our well-being and the quality of our lives. Also, this need places monitoring squarely in the context of achieving sustainability; it provides valuable tools that offer indicative measures of:
Ecological and Environmental Resources;
Economic Development and Growth; and
Social Structure and Dynamics.
Purposeful, scientifically-defensible and credible measurements and observations in each of these areas can provide powerful bases for decisions and management actions that are focused upon a variety of goals including those related to sustainability. Broad categories of measurements arise from the practice of a spectrum of disciplines, not only those arising from environmental issues, opportunities and concerns.
The etymology of the term 'monitoring' derives from the Latin monēre: to warn (that is, “something or someone that warns, an overseer). Originally, in English, the definition of the term monitoring was limited to characterizing “someone who gives a warning so that a mistake can be avoided”. Now, it also connotes the act of observing something (and sometimes keeping a record of that observation; or to: keep watch; keep track of; keep under surveillance; or, check usually for a special purpose). With ever-increasing technological capability, the term can be used to describe a device (usually electronic) used to record, regulate, or control a process or system. Its meaning extends to keeping track of systematically (that is, on a regular or ongoing basis) with a view to collecting information. For example, to monitor the plant or animal populations of an ecological system or drinking water for impurities, to measure the condition of a nation's economy, or to monitor a peoples' social, political or cultural views or habits.
Humankind is now in its third generation since the chemical revolution—circa 1940. The myriad dimensions and implications of this worldwide phenomenon and its actual and...
Gut reaction: environmental effects on the human microbiotaLast Updated on 2014-10-13 22:34:38This article, written by Melissa Lee Phillips, appeared first in Environmental Health Perspectives—the peer-reviewed, open access journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The article is a verbatim version of the original and is not available for edits or additions by Encyclopedia of Earth editors or authors. Companion articles on the same topic that are editable may exist within the Encyclopedia of Earth.
Living with each of us—on our skin, in our mucosa, and in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract—are microorganisms whose numbers dwarf the number of our own cells and genes. Although some of these microbes are pathogens, most are harmless or even beneficial. The body’s assortment of microorganisms, collectively called the microbiota, is similar to an organ in that it performs functions essential for our survival. Some microbes produce... More »
FungiLast Updated on 2014-10-12 17:18:45The word fungus usually invokes images of mushrooms and toadstools. Although mushrooms are fungi, the forms which a fungus may take are varied. There are over 100,000 species of described fungi and probably over 200,000 undescribed.
Most fungi are terrestrial, but they can be found in every habitat worldwide, including marine (500 spp.) and freshwater environments. Fungi are nonmotile, filamentous eukaryotes that lack plastids and photosynthetic pigments. The majority of fungi are saprophytes; they obtain nutrients from dead organic matter. Other fungi survive as parasitic decomposers, absorbing their food, in solution, through their cell walls.
Most fungi live on the substrate upon which they feed. Numerous hyphae penetrate the wood, cheese, soil, or flesh in which they are growing. The hyphae secrete digestive enzymes that break down the substrate, enabling the fungus to absorb the... More »
CloudsLast Updated on 2014-09-30 10:52:27A could is a visible aggregate of minute water droplets or ice particles in the atmosphere above the Earth's surface. Clouds are classified according to their height above and appearance (texture) from the ground.
Clouds form when air is cooled to its dewpoint—or the temperature at which, if the air is cooled, it reaches saturation with water. Air can reach saturation in a number of ways. The most common way is through lifting.
As a bubble or parcel of air rises it moves into an area of lower pressure (pressure decreases with height). As this occurs the parcel expands. This requires energy, or work, which takes heat away from the parcel. So as air rises it cools. This is called an adiabatic process.
The rate at which the parcel cools with increasing elevation is called the "lapse rate". The lapse rate of unsaturated air (air with relative humidity <100%)... More »
Air quality in megacitiesLast Updated on 2014-09-18 16:40:27
Ambient air pollution in an increasingly urbanized world directly threatens the health of a large fraction of the world’s population. There is growing recognition that air-borne emissions from major urban and industrial areas influence both air quality and climate change on scales ranging from regional up to continental and global. Deteriorating urban air quality affects the viability of important natural and agricultural ecosystems in regions surrounding highly urbanized areas, and significantly influences regional atmospheric chemistry and global climate change. This challenge is particularly acute in the developing world where the rapid growth of megacities (cities having population equal to or more than 10 million) is producing atmospheric pollution of unprecedented severity and extent. For example, the deterioration of air quality is a problem that is directly experienced... More »
Alberta Mountain forestsLast Updated on 2014-08-10 23:19:28
WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions Collection
The Alberta Mountain forests ecoregion lies entirely within Canada and almost fully within the province of Alberta, but hugs the Alberta-British Columbia border from Banff northward to Jasper and Kakwa. The ecoregion is classified within the Temperate Coniferous Forests biome.
Mean annual temperature in the Eastern Continental Ranges is 2.5°C, mean summer temperature is 12°C and mean winter temperature is -7.5°C. Precipitation increases from east to west and also with elevation, from 600-800 millimetres (mm) per year. Valley regions are marked by warm, dry summers and mild, snowy winters, and subalpine areas have cool, showery summers and cold, snowy winters.
This region covers the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, incorporating the eastern flanks of the Continental Ranges. The major peaks cluster... More »
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