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...
Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Volume 1: Current State and Trends: Air Quality and ClimateLast Updated on 2014-11-17 12:15:25
This is Chapter 13 of the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment report Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Volume 1: Current State and Trends
Coordinating Lead Authors: Jo House, Victor Brovkin
Lead Authors: Richard Betts, Bob Constanza, Maria Assunçao Silva Dias, Beth Holland, Corinne Le Quéré, Nophea Kim Phat, Ulf Riebesell, Mary Scholes
Contributing Authors: Almut Arneth, Damian Barratt, Ken Cassman, Torben Christensen, Sarah Cornell, Jon Foley, Laurens Ganzeveld, Thomas Hickler, Sander Houweling, Marko Scholze, Fortunat Joos, Karen Kohfeld, Manfredi Manizza, Denis Ojima, I. Colin Prentice, Crystal Schaaf, Ben Smith, Ina Tegen, Kirsten Thonicke, Nicola Warwick
Review Editors: Pavel Kabat, Shuzo Nishioka
Ecosystems, both natural and managed, exert a strong influence on climate and air quality. Ecosystems are both sources and sinks of greenhouse gases,... More »
Animal Agriculture and the EnvironmentLast Updated on 2014-11-15 14:53:25
Animal production industries have seen substantial changes over the past several decades, the result of domestic/export market forces and technological changes. The number of large operations has increased, and animal and feed production are increasingly separated in terms of both management and geography. Concern that these changes are harming the environment has prompted local, State, and Federal policies and programs to control pollution from animal production facilities.
Changes in the structure of livestock and poultry production are behind many of the current concerns about animals and the environment. Structural changes have been driven by both innovation and economies of scale. Organizational innovations, such as production contract arrangements, enable growers to access the capital necessary to adopt innovative technologies and garner economies of size in their efforts... More »
HerbicideLast Updated on 2014-10-26 16:45:24A herbicide is any of a number of chemical substances intended to kill vegetation. Since the vast majority of herbicides are non-selective in their lethal action, there may be widespread adverse ecological consequences from their use. These outcomes include not only organism death, but may involve mutagenic, developmental and carcinogenic effects to animals and plants.
Herbicides are in broad use for agriculture, golf courses, utility corridors, residential and other land uses. The earliest herbicides were inorganic chemical substances, although modern herbicides are dominated by organic compounds. Presently, there is massive application of chemical herbicides; in the USA alone 480 million kilograms are applied annually.
Widespread herbicide use beginning in the 1940s is responsible for numerous species extinctions, including birds, amphibians, fish and arthropods. In many cases,... More »
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 »
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