Human's ecological footprint in 2015 and Amazonia revealed

Feb 06, 2007

A recent study shows human population size and affluence are the main drivers of human-caused environmental stressors, while urbanization, economic structure and age of population have little effect.

Modeling global average productivity to compare environmental tradeoffs and human-induced stressors in the environment Thomas Dietz (Michigan State University), Eugene Rosa (Washington State University) and Richard York (University of Oregon) studied the impact of humans on the environment in a recent study, "Driving the human ecological footprint," published in the February issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

The researchers focused on the ecological footprint, a measure of how consumption may affect the environment by taking account of food and fiber production, energy use, and human use of land for living space and other purposes.

Population size and affluence have long been hypothesized to be primary drivers of environmental impact, however doubts over their relative impact remained due to a lack of extensive testing and contradictory arguments in regards to the impact of affluence. In the study Dietz and colleagues estimate the relative importance of the hypothesized drivers of environmental impact at the nation-state level. They then utilize their results to project future levels of stressors.

Restricting their data to countries of at least one million people, Dietz and colleagues calculated basic forms of consumption, including crops, meat, energy, and living space, using data from the World Wide Fund for Nature. United Nations reports were used to measure human well-being, population, and urbanization, while data from the World Bank were used to determine economic influences. The relative importance of each hypothesized driver on environmental impact was then estimated and used to project future levels of stressors. They found that increased affluence exacerbates environmental impacts and, when combined with population growth, will substantially increase the human footprint on the planet.

Researchers projected 20 nations that will have the largest ecological footprints in 2015, with the United States, China and India, topping the list. According to the study, the greatest absolute increase will occur with China and India, where both population and economic growth, represent 37 percent of the increase in the global human footprint.

"Increasing energy efficiency to counteract these impacts is feasible, but would need a focused international effort to succeed," say the researchers.

According to the study, one advantage to the rapid growth of these two nations is with the development of their infrastructures in the early 21st Century: China and India are positioned to invest in more efficient technologies.

"China would need to improve its technical efficiency at a rate of about 2.9 percent per year, and India by about 2.2 percent per year to offset the projected growth of their ecological footprints," say the scientists.

Amazonia revealed: forest degradation and the loss of ecosystem goods and services in the Amazon Basin

Also appearing in the February issue of Frontiers, researchers review newly revealed changes in the Amazon rainforests and the ecosystem services they provide.

The Amazon Basin is one of the world's most important bioregions, harboring rich array of plant and animal species and offering a wealth of goods and services to society. For years, ecological science has shown how large scale forest clearings cause declines in biodiversity and the availability of forest products. Yet some important changes in the rainforests, and in the ecosystem services they provide, have been underappreciated until recently.

Emerging research indicates land use in the Amazon goes far beyond clearing large areas of forest; selective logging and other canopy damage is much more pervasive than once believed. Deforestation causes collateral damage to the surrounding forests – through enhanced drying of the forest floor, increased frequency of fires, and lowered productivity. The loss of healthy forests can degrade key ecosystem services, such as carbon storage in biomass and soils, the regulation of water balance and river flow, the modulation of regional climate patterns, and the amelioration of infectious diseases.

Source: Ecological Society of America

Explore further: First large-scale carbon capture goes online in Canada

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Five ways to stop the world's wildlife vanishing

17 hours ago

Full marks to colleagues at the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London for the Living Planet Report 2014 and its headline message which one hopes ought to shock the world out of its com ...

Blame coffee farm rust fungus for rising coffee prices

Sep 30, 2014

Wonder why that cup o' joe is so expensive? The culprit, says ecologist Ivette Perfecto of the University of Michigan, is a fungus sweeping through coffee plantations in Mexico and Central America, limiting ...

Rating the planet's oceans

Sep 30, 2014

The most comprehensive assessment conducted by the Ocean Health Index rates the Earth's oceans at 67 out of 100 in overall health. In addition, for the first time, the report assessed the Antarctic and the ...

The Rise and Fall of Sugar in Hawai'i

Sep 25, 2014

There's one sugar plantation left in Hawai'i, just a few square miles left of an industry that once dominated the island chain. Sugar's profits and high-paying jobs are long gone, as are the native forests ...

How genes trace life on Earth

Sep 25, 2014

A complete tree of life – showing how and when organisms are related to each other – has long been desired by biologists, but obscured by the vagaries of the fossil record. ...

Recommended for you

Report IDs 'major weaknesses' at nuclear-arms lab

10 hours ago

One of the nation's premier nuclear weapons laboratories is being called out by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Energy for "major weaknesses" in the way it packaged contaminated waste before shipping it to ...

Can fair trade plastic save people and the planet?

17 hours ago

(Phys.org) —It's old news that open-source 3D printing is cheaper than conventional manufacturing, not to mention greener and incredibly useful for making everything from lab equipment to chess pieces. ...

User comments : 0