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Environmental Biology-Scope & Major Areas of Environmental Biology

Environmental Biology-Scope & Major Areas of Environmental Biology

Meaning of Environmental Biology

Since environment includes all systems, environmental science is concerned with the study of all systems of air, land, water, energy and life surrounding the man. Man occupies the central position in this giant system of integrated systems due to that

  • environmental problems are studied in relation to man in particular, and
  • man himself is responsible for the environmental problems he faces. Or we can say that man’s interaction with natural systems from two viewpoints, corresponding to the two faces of the same coin.

One side displays the impact of natural environmental forces upon Man (e.g. floods, earthquakes, fires, landslides, epidemics). The other face displays the impact of Man himself upon the environment (e.g. water and air pollution, species extinction, accelerated degradation of environment). Primarily our concern is with the environment of Man. But Man cannot exist or be understood in isolation from other forms of life, animals, plants, and microorganisms. Therefore, we must deal with the environment of all forms of life within the life-bearing layer or biosphere of planet earth. This shallow life layers lies at or close to vital interfaces between the basic earth realms: the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and the lithosphere.

Environmental biology can, therefore, be defined as “the study of air, land, water and energy systems in relation to life systems” i.e. the study of atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere in relation to biosphere. In a concise way we may say that environmental biology is “the study of biology with an environmental view point.” Thus, ecology grew and matured during post- industrialization era with much more responsibilities and concerns into a new multidisciplinary field of environmental science, environmental biology.

Scope of Environmental Biology

Scope of environmental biology has enlarged as a result of widening of the dimensions of the environment. As a discipline of environmental science, environmental biology embraces upon several other disciplines. It is a multidisciplinary field borrowing freely from other, often overlapping, fields of environmental science. Basic principles of ecology are applied to understand as how organisms manage to survive under an array of combinations of ecological factors of the environment under natural conditions. Toxicology and ecotoxicology contribute to our understanding of the sources, fate and adverse effects of potentially toxic chemicals on biosphere. Environmental toxicology deals with the toxic physical, chemical and biological factors that make up (virtually toxify) our environment. The information on nature of an array of chemicals, regarding classification, speciation, mechanisms of action, released in the environment is provided by environmental chemistry. The physical, chemical and biological features of land in relation with biosphere are studied in biogeochemistry. There are several other related areas that contribute to environmental biology. For instance, there are environmental engineers and environmental geologists who could study the behaviour of the interior of earth and advise in matters of construction work.

There can also be included the role of anthropologists, social scientists and economists who contribute to environmental biology in the changed scenario of development.

Major Areas of Environmental Biology

There may be recognised several major areas of study in environmental biology. These may also be considered as basic sub-divisions of this discipline. Though environmental biologists may differ in their views on boundary limits of each of the subdivisions, following may be recognized as major areas or basic subdivisions of environmental biology:

Environmental Analysis

It is concerned with the analysis of the environment into its basic four components that are atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere. Each component is dynamic, changing with time and space. While affecting life (biosphere), this is the integrated whole of three systems (atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere) that operates upon an organism.

Ecosystem Analysis

This deals with the structure and performance or function of ecosystems making the biosphere. It is mainly concerned with the productivity and energy relations at various trophic levels  during an organic phenomenon such as food chain, and also with the circulation of organic matter and mineral elements between non-living and living components.

Population Biology

This deals with intra-as well as interspecific interactions of populations. There are studied interactions between individual organisms in a mono-specific population, as well as between populations of different species (interspecific) in a community.

Community Analysis

Community analysis is concerned with the composition, structure, distribution and dynamics of communities of ecosystems. The factors liable for stabilization of communities also are studied.

Environmental Degradation

This is the study of varied factors liable for environmental degradation. Studies include pollution, toxic agents, desertification, deforestation etc.

Climate Change and Global Warming

This is the study of impact of industrialization and other developmental processes on climate and increase in temperature of earth.

Conservation of Biodiversity

This is the study of natural resources and wildlife, and the scientific way of their conservation and management.

Environmental Monitoring

Studies are designed for repeated and regular observations on status of chemical, physical and biological factors of the environment. There is followed chemical monitoring for various chemicals in the environment as well as bio-monitoring for changes in the life forms in different ecosystems with a view to assess risk due to pollution. There are also studies undertaken on risk assessment, safety evaluation and sustainable development.

Environmental Legislation and Education

This is concerned with creating awareness in general public for environmental problems around them through formal and informal education. There may also be made recommendations to the State for any legislation in order to protect the deterioration of quality of life and the environment.

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