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1 Human Activities That Endanger an Ecosystem

1. Deforestation
The rapid destruction of woodlands or the removal of trees from forests
is known as deforestation.
Deforestation is made way for agriculture and development.

Important ecological roles of tropical rainforests:

a) It provides food, medicine and other biological products
b) Plants provide about one quarter
of pharmaceutical products.
c) Regulate climate by influencing
wind, rainfall, humidity and
temperature patterns.
d) Carbon sink of the Earth
because they absorb vast
amounts of carbon dioxide during
photosynthesis and release
oxygen into atmosphere at the
same time.
e) Serve as water catchment areas.

Deforestation results in:

i.Soil erosion, landslides and flash floods.
Soil erosion is the removal and thinning of the soil layer due to physical
and climatic processes.
It causes the land to be depleted of minerals and natural resources,
making the land infertile.
Absence of plant root systems makes the soil structure unstable.
When there are heavy rains for a long period of time, the top layer of
the soil crumbles and this leads to landslides on steep hillsides.
The eroded soil is carried by moving water and deposited at the bottom
of rivers.
Together with depletion of water catchment areas, cause flash floods.

ii. Loss of biodiversity

The removal of the base of numerous food webs.
The loss of habitats of many species of flora and fauna.
The extinction of countless species and varieties of plants and animals.

iii. Disruption to the carbon and nitrogen cycles

Removal of plants causes the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide rises
as less carbon dioxide is removed by plants during photosynthesis.
Level of atmospheric oxygen drops as less oxygen is released during
Recycling of nitrates and other ions slows down.
Tree roots bind soil particles together, and the tree canopy cushions the
force of rain beating down on the soil.
Deforestation causes the loss of nutrients through leaching and run-
iv. Climatic changes
Removal of trees reduces transpiration, rainfall and the rate at which
plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during
It leads to an increase in the carbon dioxide level .High level of carbon
dioxide prevent heat from escaping from the atmosphere.
This is known as greenhouse effect which can lead to global warming.
Forest clearing and burning of wood result in air pollution and release
more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

2.Intensive farming
Excessive use of land for intensive farming decreases the space
and resources available for other species.
Farmers use inorganic fertilisers which contain nitrates,
phosphates and potassium ions to improve crop yields.
Nitrate and ammonium ions are highly soluble, they do not
remain in the soil for long and quickly leached into the
surrounding rivers and lakes.
This leads to eutrophication.

3.Increase in domestic waste and industrial waste

Increase in human population generates an increase in both domestic
and industrial waste.
Dumpling of waste in landfills poses a great danger to living organisms
as toxic substances and other pollutants leak into ground and
eventually pollute the water sources.

Pollution can be defined as any undesirable change in the physical,
chemical or biological characteristics of the natural environment.
It is result of harmful substances or energy released through human

1) Air Pollution
Burning of fossil fuels is the main source of air pollution.


Carbon - Incomplete -Combines readily with
Monoxide combustion of haemoglobin and affects the
-Colourless, fossil fuels. transport of oxygen to body cells.
odourless gas -The exhausts of -Impairs alertness, causes fatigue
vehicles. and headaches.
- Factories. -In large amounts, it can be fatal.

Sulphur dioxide -Burning of fossil -Irritates the eyes. -Use low sulphur
-Pungent, fuels, particularly -Damages respiratory passages. content fuels.
colourless gas. in heat and -Causes bronchitis. -Clean up
-Formed when -Causes wheezing, a shortness of
power emissions from
sulphuric breath and coughing.
generation power stations
compunds reacts -Causes asthmatic attacks.
with oxygen during facilities. and factories with
-Combines with rainwater to form
combustion, -Volcanic gases scrubbers.
acid rain.
-Large industrial

Oxides of -Vehicle exhausts -Irritates lungs, nose, throat and -Clean up

nitrogen -Action of eyes. emissions from car
-Nitrogen bacteria on -Cause respiratory infections. exhausts by
monoxide fertilisers. -Cause bronchitis. installing catalytic
-Nitrogen dioxide -The burning of -Dissolved in rainwater to form
convertors to turn
fossil fuels. acid rain.
oxides of nitrogen
into harmless
nitrogen gas.

Fine particulate -Incomplete -Irritate the eyes, nose and lungs. -More efficient
matter, smoke combustion of -Damage the respiratory passages burning of fuels in
and haze. fossil fuels,e.g. and lungs. well-designed
-A complex mixture bonfires & oopen -Haze can cause conjunctives, furnaces.
of very fine liquid burning. sore throats, influenza, asthma -Stop open
droplets or solid -Motorised and bronchitis. burning.
particles in the air. vehicles. -Haze leads to reduced visibility
-Smoke contains and light intensity.
tiny carbon -Both lower the photosynthetic
sawmills and
asbestos rate of plants which subsequently
-Haze is formed
when smoke,dirt factories. reduces crop yields.
and particulate
matter combine
with water vapour
in the atmosphere.
-When there is no
wind, smoke may
be trapped by fog
to form smog.
Lead -When fuels are -Retards mental development and -Reduces the use
Lead added to burnt. damages the liver. of fossil fuels.
petrol to prevent -Vehicle exhausts -Results in coma or death.
the inefficient fumes.
burning of the
petrol-air mixture.
Carbon dioxide -Open burning -Leads to greenhouse effect and -Reduce the use of
An acidic, -Combustion of global warming. fossil fuels
colourless and fossil fuels. -Climatic changes.
odourless gas. -Temperature increases.

Acid rain

(I) Causes of acid rain:

1. The combustion of fossil fuels in
power station, factories, domestic
boilers and internal combustion
engines releases large quantities of
sulphur dioxide (SO2 ) and oxides of
nitrogen (NO and NO2).
2. Both sulphur dioxide and oxides of
nitrogen combine with water vapour in
the atmosphere to form sulphuric acid
and nitric acid respectively.
3. Then, they fall to earth as acid
4. Rain is naturally acidic, with pH of
about 5.6. This acidity is due to the carbon dioxide in the air, which
dissolves in rain to form carbonic acid.
5. However, the pH of acid rain is less than 5.0.

(II) Effects:
(a) Agricultural:
1. The soil becomes very acidic and unsuitable for the cultivation of

2. Acid rain causes the leaching of minerals such as potassium,

calcium, and magnesium. This affects the growth of crops.

(b) Aquatic ecosystem:

1. Acid rain causes insoluble aluminum ions to accumulate in lakes and
rivers. The concentration of aluminum ions eventually reaches a toxic
level which can kill aquatic organisms such as fish and invertebrates.
(c) Health:
1. Acidic soil releases the ions of certain heavy metals such as
cadmium, lead, mercury which may contaminate the supply of drinking

2. Increased acidity in the aquatic ecosystems also kills phytoplankton

which changes the food chain.

3. Photosynthesis tissues are destroyed. Plant leaves turn yellow and

fall off. The roots are damaged and cannot absorb minerals.

(d) Buildings:
1. Metal railings and bridges corrode.

2. Limestone, stonework and marble monuments are eroded due to

chemical weathering.

(III) Solutions:
Acid rain can be reduced by:
1. Cleaning up emissions from vehicle exhausts through the use of
catalytic converters. The pollutants react with one another in the
catalytic converters to produce less harmful products.

2. Cleaning emissions from power stations and industrial plants with

scrubbers. This process involves the spraying of water to trap

Air Pollution Index (API)

The Air Pollution Index (API) is used as a measure of air quality.

It normally includes the major air pollutants which could cause

potential harm to human health.

2) Water Pollution
Sources Components Effects Solutions

Agricultural Nitrates and -Lead to eutrophication Control the use of

run-off and phosphates fertilisers
waste a) Applying only when
crops are growing.
b) Not applying in
empty fields.
c) Not spraying when
there is a forecast of
d) Not disposing of
them into rivers and
e) Reducing the usage
of excess nitrates from
fertilisers and ammonia.
Herbicide and -Have toxic effects on -Use biodegradable
pesticide residues organisms in water and human pesticides
-Pesticides levels can be -Use alternative method
magnified as they pass through (biological pest control)
food chain -Planting genetically
-Accumulation of pesticides in modified crops that can
consumers may kill them or resist attacks by insects
affect their metabolism as this may reduce the
-Lead to lower sperm counts, need to use chemical
decreased ovulation, inability to pesticides
conceive and birth defects.
Untreated Suspended solids -Reduce light penetration -Treat sewage before it
sewage -High demand for oxygen enters rivers
human -Prevent slurry (liquid
faeces and manure) from farms from
Domestic entering rivers and
waste ponds
Nitrates and Leads to eutrophication
Detergents -Hard detergents create foam -Use biodegradable
which reduces the availability detergents with low
of oxygen to organisms living in phosphate contents
the water
-Soft detergents are
biodegradable but may contain
high levels of phosphates which
can lead to eutrophication

Microorganisms - Cause cholera -Drink properly treated

(viruses, bacteria, and boiled water
and protozoa)
Effluent Heavy metals -Highly toxic accumulate in the -Treat effluents before
from (copper, mercury, organisms via food chains discharging into water
industries zinc, and -Mercury causes acute nervous sources
-Electronics chromium), oil, disorder in humans. -Taking legal action
and grease, and against illegal dumping
electroplati suspended solids, of toxic wastes
ng plants waste water
-Food and contains
beverage numerous
processing contaminants,
industry (including
-Rubber hydroxide
products sulphide).
Undergroun Lead (highly toxic -Accumulate in the tissues of -Replace lead pipes used
d pipes heavy metal) living organisms in plumbing with copper-
-Impair the mental performance based pipes.
of children
Defination: Artificial nutrient enrichment of an aquatic system with organic
material or inorganic nutrients, causing an excessive growth of aquatic
plant life.

Causes by
a) Leaching of inorganic fertilisers, especially nitrates and phosphates,
from agricultural lands
b) Input of untreated sewage as well as discharge from sewage
treatment plants
c) Run-off of animal waste from pastures and farmlands into lakes, rivers
or ponds.

Process of eutrophication
1) Run-off of excess nutrients into water encourage rapid growth of
algae, results in a population explosion known as an algae bloom.
2) At night, high respiration rate of the algae results in a high demand
for oxygen.
3) Excessive growth of algae restricts the penetration of light into the
water. The rate of photosynthesis of aquatic plants reduced and further
reduced the supply of oxygen in water.
4) The algae grow faster than their consumers. Most of algal population
dies without being consumed.
5) Decomposing microorganisms especially aerobic bacteria used up
the oxygen in deeper water at a fast rate. (Depletion of oxygen)
6) Untreated sewage or animal wastes from farm that contain high
concentration of organic matter encourage the rapid growth of aerobic
7) The aerobic bacteria use up oxygen faster than it can be replenished.
An increase in biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) results in a severe
depletion of oxygen.
8) Low level of oxygen concentration kills larger aerobic aquatic
organisms and organisms that require higher oxygen levels (freshwater
shrimps and mayfly nymphs)
9) If the oxygen levels continues to drop and water become completely
deoxygenated, anaerobic bacteria will grow and release toxic gases (eg.
hydrogen sulphide), causing the death of aquatic organisms.
10) During the growth of algae, certain blue green bacteria also produce
11) At night BOD levels, organisms that are more tolerant of lower
concentration of dissolved oxygen (eg. leeches, Tubifex worms, and sludge
worms) may appears and multiply.


Thermal Pollution
In thermal pollution, the temperature of a body of water is unintentionally
raised as a
result of human activities

1. Causes:
Hot water is discharged into nearby lake and river from the effluent of
industrial processes and cooling tower of electrical power station,
which use water as a cooling agent.
The excess heat that is released into the environment leads to thermal

2. Effects:
Thermal pollution causes the temperature in a body of water to rise
above the normal value.
Water temperature can affect the level of dissolved oxygen.
As the temperature of the water increases, oxygen becomes less
insoluble in water.
If the temperature increase persists over a longer period, this may
result in permanent changes in the species composition of the aquatic

1. Ways to prevent:
Control the amount of hot water discharged into still or slow - moving
Control the amount of hot water discharged from industrial plants and
power station to the surrounding lakes and rivers.

4) Noise Pollution
1. Causes:
Noises from cars, motorcycles, aeroplanes, construction sites,
agriculture and industrial machinery.
Noise level of residential areas should not exceed 55 decibels (dB).

2. Effects:
Prolonged exposure to noise level at or above 80 decibels can lead to
High level of noise can contribute to the development and aggravation
of stress related problems such as high blood pressure, coronary
disease, ulcers, depression and headache.
Loud noise can cause an arousal response in which a series of reactions
occurs in the body.
Adrenaline is released into the bloodstream. A persons heartbeat,
blood pressure and respiration rate are likely to increase.
The blood vessels constrict and the muscles become tense.
Constant exposure to noise can contribute to a deterioration in health.

9.2 The
Greenhouse Effect and
the Thinning of Ozone

The Greenhouse Effect

1. Increases of the greenhouse gases especially carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere due to:
(a) combustion of fossil fuels
(b) deforestation
(c) industrial production
2. As the concentration of greenhouse gases rises, more heat is
trapping in the atmosphere and raising the average temperature on
earth. Hence, this phenomenon brings to global warming.

1. Occurrence of floods
As the average temperature rises, the polar ice caps and glaciers melt.
This increases the sea level causing low-lying areas to be flooded.
2. Climate changes
Global warming leads to changes in wind directions and distribution of
rainfall. As a result, agricultural activities are affected.
Global warming causes weather patterns to change. This affects the
distribution of species which may lead to the extinction of species in
certain region.
3. Occurrence of droughts
Global warming increases the frequency of droughts.
The land becomes dry and infertile. This leads to a drop yields.
4. Spread of diseases
With warmer climates, pests and vectors may spread to new areas.
The warmer conditions lead to an expansion of territories for disease-
carrying vectors, resulting an increase in the outbreak of diseases.

Solutions to global warming:

1. Reduce the burning of fossil fuels.
2. Develop alternative sources of energy such as wind, solar and
geothermal energy.
3. Reduce deforestation
4. Replant trees which have been cut down.


Thinning of the Ozone Layer

Causes of ozone depletion:

The increasing levels of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the
In the stratosphere, CFCs molecules are broken down by
ultraviolet rays, releasing chlorine radicals which destroy
ozone in a chain reaction.

Effects of ozone depletion:

Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation can lead to higher
risks of:
a) skin cancer
b) cataracts
c) sunburns
Ultraviolet radiation weakens the immune system and the
ability of the body to resist infectious diseases.
Ultraviolet radiation reduces nutrient contents and crop
yield of plants.
Ultraviolet rays destroy the leaf cells and chlorophyll. This
lowers the rate of photosynthesis and reduces crop yield.
Ultraviolet rays kill microorganisms and phytoplankton that
are at the bottom of the marine food chain.
Leads increases in the temperature on Earth.
High levels of ultraviolet radiation can damage the eggs of

Ways to reduce ozone depletion:

Reduce or stop the use of CFCs.
Replace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) with
hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons
9.3 Measure taken in the management of
Development activities
a) Implementation of laws
To control pollution
Enviromental Quality Act,1974 (water quality
Enviromental Quality Regulation,1989 (waste treatment &
disposal facilities)
Enviromental Quality Regulation,1977 (crude palm oil)
Enviromental Quality Regulation,1979 (sewage &
industrial effluents)
Protection of Wildlife Act,1972

b) Use of Technology
catalytic converters (clean up exhaust emissions & convert
harmful gasses)
use unleaded petrol
treat sewage treatment plants
treat toxic waste produced in factories
use microorganisms to clean up the environment
develop hydrogen-basedfuel-cell vehicles
use technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions
use methods to reduce & capture methane emissions,a by-
product of cattle & other livestock waste & uses better
controls on nitrous oxide emissions from nitrogen

c) Education on the management of resources

4Rs (recycle,reuse,reduce & renew)
RECYCLING means collecting &segregating waste
materials according to their types & turning them into new
REUSE means to reuse things instead of throwing them
REDUCE means reducing the use of materials.
RENEW means to renew the use of materials after they are

d) Preservation & conservation of soil , water , flora &

mangrove swamps
Preservation involves efforts to protect an ecosystem so
that natural resources are utilised in a sustainable manner
& the equilibrium of the ecosystem is maintain.
Conservation involves effort to return an affected
ecosystem to its natural equilibrium.
Sustainable agricultural development is the effective use &
preservation of soil to ensure continuous agricultural
Good farming techniques & agricultural practices
Water sources & catchment areas must be preserve
rivers must not be regarded as dumping sites
the use of nitrates & phosphate in agriculture must be
establishing a level of selective harvesting
restoration programmes
forest reserves
greater productivity must be reduce
Mangrove swamps (flood control, nutrient & toxicant
retention, sediment control, coastal erosion prevention,
barrier against rising sea level)

e) The practice of biological control

Biological control is the use of natural predators to control
the population of pest species.
will not pollute the environment

f) The use of renewable energy

RENEWABLE ENERGY is the energy flow that occurs
naturally in the environment &
can be harnessed for the benefit of human.
(inexhaustible & does not pollute the
solar , wind , wave , flowing water , geothermal , biomass &
palm oil fuel energy

g) The efficient use of energy

reduce the use of coal , petroleum & other fossil fuels
substitute natural gas for coal*improve fuel efficiency
use cleaner fuel
improve energy effiency
use more hybrid car which combine electric & gasoline