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This volume provides a fresh look at critical environmental issues at they pertain to the world's forests, from an international viewpoint. The goal of this book is to explore how human population growth and behavior have changed the world's forests, especially in negative ways, and how modern society has responded to the challenges these changes present -- often through increased educational efforts, better conservation, and management of the environment. The first part of this work provides background information -- how the forests' ecosystems formed, the relative size and locations of the world's forests, key animal and plant species that live in the forests, and how the health of the forests affects our planet's environment as a whole. The second part contains in-depth chapters examining seven different geographically diverse locations. An overview of each area details its unique features, including geology, weather conditions, and endemic species. The text also examines the health of the natural environment and discusses the local human population. Short and long term environmental impacts are assessed, and regional and international efforts to address interrelated social, economic, and environmental issues are presented in detail. The third part of this book studies how the cumulative levels of pollution and aggressive resource consumption affect the forests on a global scale. It provides readers with examples of local and regional ecological impacts, as responses to these problems. Sometimes, these unique efforts have resulted in a balance between resource conservation and consumption.
Forests are considered the lungs of the planet, as they consume and store carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. These biomes, defined as ecological communities dominated by long-lived woody vegetation, historically have provided an economic foundation for growing nations, supplying wood for buildings, firewood for fuel, and land for expanding cities and farms. For centuries, industrial nations in Europe and the United States have relied on large tracts of forestland for economic prosperity. The research presented in this book reveals that population pressures are causing considerable environmental distress in even the most remote forest areas. Three detailed case studies are presented. The first provides an assessment of illegal logging deep in South America’s Amazon rain forest, a region closely tied to food and product demands thousands of miles away. The second examines the effect of increased hunting in Central Africa’s Congo forest, which threatens wildlife, especially mammal species with slower reproductive cycles. Finally the third describes encroachment on old-growth tropical forests on the Southern Pacific island of Borneo, which today is better managed thanks to the collective planning and conservation efforts of the governments of Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
Wetlands encompass a diversity of habitats that rely on the presence of water to survive. Over the last two centuries, these hard-to-reach areas have been viewed with disdain or eliminated by a public that saw them only as dangerous and worthless lowlands. Wetlands provides case studies that illuminate our changing perceptions of one of the world's richest and biologically productive biomes, including the Florida Everglades, the Aral Sea in Central Asia, and Lake Poyong in China. It also highlights efforts that have been undertaken to protect many of these areas.
In our drive to improve human standards of living, we have paradoxically paid scant attention to the need for clean air and water; the impact of acid rain on agriculture, lakes and rivers; the effect of pollutants on the ozone layer; the safe disposal of hazardous wastes, and the relationship between population growth and the environment. It seems that every time governments are faced with an apparent choice between economic development and the protection of the environment, priority is always given to the former. Short-term plans -- dictated by canons of political survival and expediency -- always seem to take precedence over long-term strategies, with politicians and decision-makers deftly relegating environmental concerns to the realm of rhetoric. This book is an effort to better understand the problems faced by our global ecosystems. It is also the result of the authors deep commitment to urge both citizens and their leaders the world over to work together for a better protection of the environment so that our planet may be saved for the present and for future generations.
Freshwater is our planet’s most precious resource, and also the least conserved. Freshwater makes up only 3 percent of the total water on the planet, and yet the majority (1.9 percent) is held in a frozen state in glaciers, icebergs, and polar ice fields. This leaves approximately one-half of 1 percent of the total volume of water on the planet as freshwater available in liquid form. This book traces the complex history of the steady growth of humankind’s water consumption, which today reaches some 9.7 quadrillion gallons per year. Along with a larger population has come the need for more drinking water, larger farms requiring extensive irrigation, and more freshwater to support business and industry. At the same time, such developments have led to increased water pollution. Three detailed case studies are included. The first looks at massive water systems in locations such as New York City and the efforts required to protect and transport such resources. The second shows how growth has affected freshwater quality in the ecologically unique and geographically isolated Lake Baikal region of eastern Russia. The third examines the success story of the privatized freshwater system in Chile and consider how that country’s water sources are threatened by climate change.
Covering 71 percent of the planet, oceans provided the unique environmental conditions necessary for the building blocks of life to form billions of years ago and continue to support life in important ways today--they are home to nearly 50% of all species on earth; they influence climate and weather patterns; they provide food and water for humankind. Yet they are being threatened by human activity and natural disasters. The case studies in Oceans include a discussion of the most remote locations along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where new ocean floor is being formed underwater; the Maldive Islands, where rising sea levels may force residents to abandon their communities; and the North Sea, where fishing stocks have been dangerously depleted as a result of multiple nations' unrelenting removal of certain species.
Always awe-inspiring, mountainous areas contain hundreds of millions of years of history, stretching back to the earliest continental landforms. This book shows how mountains are characterized by their distinctive geological, ecological, and biological conditions. Often, they are so large that they create their own weather patterns. They also store nearly one-third of the world’s freshwater—in the form of ice and snow—on their slopes. Despite their daunting size and often formidable climates, mountains are affected by growing local populations, as well as distant influences, such as air pollution and global climate change. Three detailed case studies are presented. The first shows how global warming in East Africa is harming Mount Kenya’s regional population, which relies on mountain runoff to irrigate farms for subsistence crops. The second examines the fragile ecology of the South Island Mountain in New Zealand’s Southern Alps and how development threatens the region’s endemic plant and animal species. The third discusses the impact of mountain use over time in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, where management efforts have been used to limit the growing footprint of millions of annual visitors and alpine trekkers.

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