An ecosystem is a specialized community, including all the component organisms, that forms an interacting system, for example, a marsh. An environment is the totality of conditions surrounding an organism.
There is the concern that pollution is having a serious negative impact and destabilizing the natural equilibrium thereby threatening species existence. In this unit you will learn how pollution affects the ecosystem.
Concept of Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a self-contained, dynamic system made of a population of species in its physical environment. This concept is used to study the complex interactions between the organisms – plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi – that make up the community. There are many different ways in which the community of organisms interacts.
There is the food chain where each organism is in a producer, consumer, predator, and prey relationship; there is the oxygen cycle and the water cycle that sustains the organisms. When an ecosystem gets polluted, the natural balance in the system is disturbed and this affects the organisms in different ways.
It is important to know how a simple act like introducing sewage water or toxic waste into a lake can threaten several life species and plants in the area.
Read Also: Natural Sources of Pollution
Man-made air pollutants such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide are generated in densely- populated metro areas, and then carried by the wind to mountain and forest ecosystems such as the Sierra Nevada, where the toxic gases threaten plant, bird and animal species.
Pollution and the Ecosystem
Pollutants like oil, detergents, nitrogen and phosphate from fertilizers and lead can have a tremendous impact on the ecosystem, especially if the water gets polluted.
In a lake, for example, it can wreak havoc on the ecological balance by stimulating plant growth and causing the death of fish due to suffocation resulting from lack of oxygen.
The oxygen cycle will stop, and the polluted water will also affect the animals that are depending on the lake water.
Pollution from human population expansion, improper hazardous waste disposal, soil erosion and runoff from sewage and agricultural areas, as well as from man-made debris that ends up in marine ecosystems, pose a danger to coral reefs, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It is no secret that humans are affecting the ocean ecosystem. What most people may not know is just how heavy the impact truly is. In fact 40 per cent of the planet‘s oceans have been severely affected by human activities. The majority of the damage comes from things like shipping; coastal development and fishing.
As a result, marine life such as fish and shellfish are rapidly disappearing. In turn this upsets the balance of the oceans, because they are not as easily able to provide food or clean water. Also a declining marine population affects the fishing industries making it difficult for fishermen to make a living.
Considering the heavy human population around lakes, it is no surprise that human impact has been substantial. Things like agriculture, industry and sewage treatment have caused a great deal of harm to the stability of lakes everywhere.
Read Also: Concept and Definition of Pollution
Pollution from fertilizers has been known to increase aquatic plant growth, starving the lakes of oxygen. With a lack of oxygen, death of marine life, such as fish, is inevitable.
Additionally dirty substances resulting from the pollution make lakes undesirable to fish or swim in.
Rivers are heavily affected by pollution. Wastes from fertilizers affect rivers by speeding up algae growth making the water green. When the algae die, bacteria break them down and consume a lot of oxygen.
The loss of oxygen causes death among various marine life forms. Industrial waste is also highly toxic. The chemicals emitted into rivers from industry can instantly kill fish.
Mountain ecosystems are a primary source of water for the world’s populations. Pollution and other factors such as deforestation and global climate change are threatening mountain ecosystems, according to the United Nations News Service.
Effects include catastrophic flooding in places such as Bhutan.
Forests are declining in the Carpathian Mountains of Eastern Europe due to air pollution, according to the United States Forest Service. Air pollutants can penetrate soil and contaminate water in all ecosystems.
Pollution affects the natural balance of the world’s ecosystems, which threatens the life cycles of a plethora of plant and animal species found within such ecosystems as coral reefs, wetlands, mountains and forests.
The effects of pollution on ecosystems also pose a threat to future generations of mankind.
In conclusion, according to the United States Climate Change Science Program, ecosystems affect the climate system and sustain human life. “Ecosystems shape our societies and nations by providing essential renewable resources and other benefits,” states USCCSP. It is therefore imperative to reduce all forms of pollution.
The concept of ecosystem is a self-contained, dynamic system made of a population of species in its physical environment. There are also hard evidences proving the impact of pollution on different ecosystems such as oceans, lakes, rivers, mountains etc.
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