Current Affairs UPSC

  Ecology and Environment   Ecosystem 
  • The term ‘ecosystem’ was proposed by a British ecologistG. Tansley (1935). It represents the basic fundamental, functional unit of ecology which comprises of the biotic community together with its abiotic (non-living) environment.
  • Ecosystem is the functional unit of nature where livingorganisms interact with each other and with their
  • Ecosystems can be recognized as self-regulating and self-sustaining units of landscapes that may be terrestrial or Forests, grasslands and deserts are examples of terrestrial ecosystems. The aquatic ecosystems can be either fresh water (ponds, lakes, streams) or salt water (marine estuaries) type.
  • Ecosystem may be natural (forest, sea), if developed under natural conditions or artificial (garden, aquarium, agriculture) if created by man.
  • Ecosystem is normally an open system because there is a continuous and variable entry and loss of energy and Ecosystem is known by different terms i.e., biogeocoenosis or geobiocoenosis or microcosm or ecosom or biosystem, etc. the whole earth can be called biosphere or ecosphere.
  • Ecosystem is composed of a variety of abiotic (non-living) and biotic (living organisms) components that function in an interrelated fashion.
  Kinds of Ecosystem Ecosystem can be classified as: Natural ecosystem: The ecosystem which are completelydependent on solar radiation e.g. forests, oceans, grasslands,lakes, rivers and deserts. This type of ecosystem is a source offood, fuel, fodder and medicines. Man-made ecosystem: The ecosystem which are dependent on solar energy, e.g. agricultural fields and aquaculture ponds. Such ecosystems are also dependent on fossil fuels, e.g. urban and industrial ecosystem.   Structure and Function
  • Ecosystem is self-sustained functional units.
  • The structure of an ecosystem can be expressed by the following terms -
Species compositor: Plant and animal species found in an ecosystem. Stratification: Vertical layers of plants. Standing crop: Amount of biomass. Standing state: Amount of inorganic substances.   Species composition
  • It differs from one ecosystem to another dependingupon geography, topography and climate.
  • Each ecosystem has a biotic community composed of particular grouping of species.
  • Maximum species composition occurs in tropical rainforests and coral reefs. Minimum occurs in deserts and arctic regions.
  • Stratification is the occurrence of vertical zonation in the ecosystem & indicates the presence of favorable environmental conditions, for e.g., trees occupy top vertical strata or layer of a forest, shrubs and herbs & grasses occupy the bottom layers.
  • Stratification helps in accommodation of large number & types of plants in the same area. It also provide a number of microhabitat & niches for various types of animals.
  • It is absent or poor where environmental conditions are unfavorable, e.g. desert ecosystems have very few trees & shrubs.
  Standing crop
  • Standing crop is the amount of living biomass in an ecosystem. It indicates the productivity & luxuriance of growth.
  • It is expressed in the form of number or biomass of organisms per unit area.
  • A more...

  Biodiversity   Introduction Biodiversity mean us diversity of heterogeneity at all levels of biological organisation, i.e from micro molecules of the cells to the biomass. The word biodiversity was postulated by the sociologist E.D. Wilson. Biodiversity is commonly used to replace the more clearly and long established terms, species diversity and species richness. Biologist define biodiversity in “totality of genes”, species and ecosystems of region.       This results in existence of a wide variety of plant and animal species in their natural environments, which is the conservationists. Who are mainly concerned about indiscriminate destruction of rainforests and other habitats?   Important Levels of Biodiversity
  • Genetic diversity
  • It is the diversity at genetic level, or at sub-species level below species level, in a single species. The genetic diversity helps the population to adapt. If a population has more diversity which means, it can adapt better to the changed environmental conditions. The low diversity leads to uniformity. The genetic variability is therefore, considered to be the raw material for speciation.
  • Species diversity
  • The measurement of species diversity is its richness, i.e. the number of species per unit area. Greater the species richness, more will be the species diversity. In nature, the number and kind of species, as well as the number of individual per species, vary, and this leads to greater diversity.
  • Ecological diversity
  • It is the diversity at community level. It can be of three types: (a) Alpha                                                          \[(\alpha )\]  diversity: It is the diversity of organisms within the same community or habitat. (b)  Beta                                                           \[(\beta )\] diversity: It is the diversity in between communities or different habitats.  Higher the heterogeneity in the altitude, humidity and temperature of a region, the greater will be the dissimilarity between communities and higher will be the diversity. (c) Gamma                                                         \[(\gamma )\] diversity: It is the diversity of organisms over the entire geographical area, covering several ecosystems or habitats and various trophic levels and food webs. Such diversity is most stable and productive in nature.   Number of species on earth It is difficult to believe that there are 20,000 species of orchids,20,000 species of ants, 28,000 species of fishes and about3,00,000 species of beetles on earth. According to IUCN(International Union for Conservation of Nature and Naturalresources) estimates, the total number of animal and plantspecies, described so far, is more than 1.5 million. Due toproject 'Species 2000' and ‘Global Biodiversity Information’,the new species are being discovered faster than ever before.However, the discovery and description of species is morecomplete in temperate than in tropical countries. A largenumber of species are waiting to be discovered from tropics.According to estimates of Robert May
    • The global species diversity is about 7 million (1.5 million, i.e. 22% reported till now and 78% are yet to be discovered).
    • More than 70% of all the species recorded are animals.Plants are not more...

      Environmental Issue   Introduction Environmental issues are harmful effects of human activity on the biophysical environment. Environmentalism, a social and environmental movement, addresses environmental issues through advocacy, education and activism. Our environment is constantly changing, which no one can deny. With these great environment changes, it becomes highly important for us to become increasingly aware of the environmental problems as well. With a monumental inundation of natural disasters, warming and cooling periods, different types of weather forms and much more, people should be aware of what types of environmental problems our earth is facing. Our planet is on the verge of a severe environmental crisis. Current environmental problems make us susceptible to disasters and tragedies, now as well as in the future. We are in a phase of planetary emergency, with environmental problems blooming around us. Unless we address the various issues proactively and sincerely we are surely going to be wrecked with this disasters. All the current environmental problems need an urgent attention.      Different Environmental Issues and Its Effect On Climate Environmental issues are increasing day by day and it has an adverse effect on climate. Some of the Environmental issues are discussed below:   Global Warming Atmostpheric gases like carbondioxide                                                                \[(C{{O}_{2}})\] , nitrogen oxide                                                                \[(N{{O}_{2}})\] methane                                                                \[(C{{H}_{4}})\] , chlorofluro carbons (CFCs) and water vapour have the ability of trapping the outgoing radiation (infrared) from the surface of earth. Such trapped radiation by the earth's surface cannot pass through these gases present in the atmosphere and exhibits the thermal energy or heat in the atmosphere. As a result the temperature of atmosphere is on rise globally. The phenomenon of increase of temperature i.e. heating in green houses are known as greenhouse effect. The increase in the temperature of earth's surface is known as global warming. Global warming leads to rising temperatures of the oceans and the earth's surface causing melting of polar ice caps, rise in sea levels and also unnatural patterns of precipitation such as flash floods, excessive snow desertification.   Elects of Global Warming The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in recognition of the problem of global warming. IPCC has estimated the following effects of global warming:
    • Earth's temperature will rise by
                                                                 \[1-30{}^\circ C\]
    • in next few decades, leading to extreme weather changes (heat waves, hurricanes and severe winters), changes in ocean currents and marine life. The largest glacier chain in the tropics is melting fast because of rising temperatures and peaks are turning brown. This trend is endangering future water Glaciers serve agriculture, hydel plants and feed rivers that supply water to the sprawling cities and shanty towns on Peru's bone-dry Pacific coast. Quelccaya, in southern Peru, the world's largest tropical ice-cap, is retreating at about 200 feet per year, up from 20 feet per year in the 1960s. more...

      Hazards and Disaster Management   Introduction to Disaster Management Objectives of this chapter The main objective of this chapter is to have a basic understanding of various concepts used in disaster management. The concepts explained here are: Disaster, Hazard, Vulnerability, Capacity, Risk and Disaster Management Cycle. Apart from the terminologies, the chapter also tries to explain various types of disasters. After reading this chapter students will have a basic understanding about the concepts and should be able to differentiate between them with suitable examples.                         Background The global context Disasters are as old as human history but the dramatic increase and the damage caused by them in the recent past have become because of national and international concern. Over the past decade, the number of natural and manmade disasters has climbed inexorably. From 1994 to 1998, reported disasters average was 428 per year but from 1999 to 2003, this figure went up to an average of 707 disaster events per year showing an increase of about 60% over the previous years. The biggest rise was in countries of low human development, which suffered an increase of 142%. The figure A shows the deadliest disasters of the decade (1992-2001). Drought and famine have proved to be the deadliest disasters globally, followed by flood, technological disaster, earthquake, windstorm, extreme temperature and others. Global economic loss related to disaster events average around US $880 billion per year.     A World Scenario: Reported Deaths from all Disasters (1992-2001)   Indian scenario The scenario in India is no different from the global context. The super cyclone of Orissa (1999), the Gujarat earthquake (2001) and the recent Tsunami (2004) affected millions across the country leaving behind a trail of heavy loss of life, property and livelihood. Table given below shows a list of some of the major disasters that have caused colossal impact on the community.  
    S. No. Disaster Impact
    1. more...
      Climate Change   Introduction The year 2015-16 was important for climate change both at domestic and global level. It was started with the groundwork of the third National Communication (NATCOM) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the release of the Biennial Update Reports (BURs). It has been clear that human influence is there in the climate system and the recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.   Change in the Climate System Warming of the climate system is clear and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are:
    • atmosphere and ocean have warmed
    • the amounts of snow and ice have diminished
    • sea level has rise
    • Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth's surface than any preceding decade since 1850.
    • The period almost 30 years from 1983 to 2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years in the Northern Hemisphere, where such assessment is possible.
    • The globally averaged combined land and ocean surface-temperature data as calculated by a linear trend show a warming of \[0.85[0.65\,to\,1.60]{}^\circ C\]over the period 1880 to 2012, when multiple independently produced data sets exist (See fig. 1 (a), 1 (b) and 1 (c))
      Figure 1 (a): Globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature anomaly   Note: Annually and globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature anomalies relative to the average over the period 1986 to 2005. Shades indicate different data sets. Source: IPCCC + Figure 1 (b): Globally averaged sea level change   Note: Annually and globally averaged sea level change relative to the average over the period 1986 to 2005 in the Longest - running dataset. Shades indicate different data sets. All datasets are aligned to have the same value in 1993, the first year of satellite altimetry data. Where assessed, uncertainties are indicated by shades. Source: IPCC   Figure 1 (c): Global anthropogenic \[C{{O}_{2}}\] emissions Quantitative information of \[C{{H}_{4}}\]and \[{{N}_{2}}O\]emission time series from 1850 to 1970 is limited   Causes of climate change
    • The anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have amplified since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever which led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide\[(C{{O}_{2}})\], methane \[(C{{H}_{4}})\] and nitrous oxide \[({{N}_{2}}O)\] that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years.
    • The effects of GHG together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been observed throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the detected warming since the mid-20th century.
    • Between the years 1750 and 2011, the cumulative anthropogenic \[C{{O}_{2}}\] emissions to more...

      Environment Management   Introduction Environmental management system (EMS) refers to the management of an organization's environmental, programs in a comprehensive, systematic, planned and documented manner. It includes the organizational structure, planning and resources for developing, implementing and maintaining policy for environmental protection. More formally, EMS is "a system and database which integrates procedures and processes for training of personnel, monitoring, summarizing, and reporting of specialized environmental performance information to internal and external stakeholders of a firm.   Environment Management System The most widely used standard on which an EMS is based International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001. Alternatives include the EMAS. An environmental management information system (EMIS) is an information technology solution for tracking environmental data for a company as part of their overall environmental management system. An EMS can also be classified as
    • a system which monitors, tracks and reports emissions information, particularly with respect to the oil and gas industry. EMSs are becoming web-based in response to the EPA's mandated greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting rule, which allows for reporting GHG emissions information via the internet.
    • a centrally controlled and often automated network of devices now frequently wireless used to control the internal environment of a building. Such a system namely acts as an interface between end user and energy (gas/electricity) consumption.
      Brief history of environmental management systems In 1992, BSI Group published the world's first environmental management systems standard, BS 7750. Prior to this, environmental management had been part of larger systems such as Responsible Care. BS 7750 supplied the template for the development of the ISO 14000 series in 1996, by the International Organization for Standardization, which has representation from committees all over the world (ISO) (Clements 1996, Brorson & Larsson, 1999). As of 2010, ISO 14001 is now used by at least 223149 organizations in 159 countries and economies.   BSI Group BSI Group, also known as the British Standards Institution (BSI), is the national standards body of the United Kingdom. BSI produces technical standards on a wide range of products and services, and also supplies certification and standards-related services to businesses. BSI Group headquarters building in Gunnersbury, West London, featuring the BSI Group logo. BSI Group was founded as the Engineering Standards Committee in London in 1901. It subsequently extended its standardization work and became the British Engineering Standards Association (BESI) in 1918, adopting the name British Standards Institution in 1931 after receiving a Royal Charter in 1929. In 1998 a revision of the Charter enabled the organization to diversify and acquire other businesses, and the trading name was changed to BSI Group. The Group now operates in 182 countries. The core business remains standards and standards related services, although the majority of the Group's revenue comes from management systems assessment and certification work.   ISO 14000 Standard ISO 14000 is a family of standards related to environmental management that exists to help organizations: (a) minimize how their operations (processes, etc) negatively affect more...

      Sustainable Development   Introduction Sustainable development aims at meeting the basic needs of all people in general and the poor majority in particular- their employment, food, energy, water, housing, etc., by ensuring the growth of agriculture, manufactures, power and services with due consideration for environmental concerns. Over the past two decades, economic growth has lifted more than 660 million people out of poverty and has raised the income levels of millions more, but too often it has come at the expense of the environment and poor communities. Through a variety of market, policy, and institutional failures. Earth's natural capital has been used in ways that are economically inefficient and wasteful, without sufficient reckoning of the true costs of resource depletion. The burning of fossil fuels supported rapid growth for decades but set up dangerous consequences, with climate change today threatening to roll back decades of development progress. At the same time, growth patterns have left hundreds of millions of people behind: 1.2 billion still lack access to electricity, 870 million are malnourished, and 780 million are still without access to clean, safe drinking water. Sustainable development recognizes that growth must be both inclusive and environmentally sound to reduce poverty and build shared prosperity for today's population and to continue 10 meet the needs of future generations. It is efficient with resources and carefully planned to deliver both immediate and long-term benefits for people, planet, and prosperity.   The three pillars of sustainable development - economic growth, environmental stewardship, and social inclusion - carry across all sectors of development, from cities facing rapid urbanization to agriculture, infrastructure, energy development and use, water availability, and transportation. Cities are embracing low-carbon growth and public transportation. Farmers are picking up the practices of climate-smart agriculture. Countries are recognizing the value of their natural resources, and industries are realizing how much they can save through energy and supply chain efficiency.   Concept of Sustainable Development   The term was used by the Brundtland Commission which coined what has become the most often-quoted definition of sustainable development as development that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable development implies economic growth together with the protection of environmental quality, each reinforcing the other. It is maintaining a delicate balance between the human need to improve lifestyles and preserving natural and cultural ecosystems. The field of sustainable development can be conceptually broken into three constituent parts: environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and socio-political sustainability. The essence of this form of development is a stable relationship between human activities and the natural world, which does not diminish the prospects for future generations to enjoy a quality of life at least as good as our own.   Participatory democracy is a prerequisite for achieving sustainable development.     The linkage between environment and development was globally recognized in 1980, when more...

      Terms, Conventions, Policies & Reports   Important Terms Adaptive radiation: Evolutionary diversification of a generalized ancestral form with production of a number of adaptively specialized forms. Closely related species look very different, as a result of having adapted to widely different ecological niches. Agro forestry: An ecologically based farming system that, through the integration of trees in farms, increases social, environmental and economic benefits to land users. Alien's Rule: Warm-blooded animals (endotherms) from colder climates usually have shorter limbs than do endotherms from warmer climates. Anthropogenic climate change: Climate change with, the presumption of human influence, usually warming. Alpha diversity: In ecology, alpha diversity (a-diversity) is the mean species diversity in sites or habitats at a local scale. The term was introduced by R. H. Whittaker together with the terms beta diversity (p-diversity) and gamma diversity (y-diversity). Allee effect: Concept in population ecology that describes the positive relation between the size of a given population and its growth. Bagasse: The fibrous residue of sugar cane milling used as a fuel to produce steam in sugar mills. Beta diversity: (p-diversity or true beta diversity) is the ratio between regional and local species diversity. Blue water: Collectible water from rainfall; the water that falls on roofs and hard surfaces usually flowing into rivers and the sea and recharging the ground water. In nature the global average proportion of total rainfall that is blue water is about 40% Biodiversity Hotspot: A biodiversity hotspot is an area with unusual concentration of species, many of which are endemic. It is marked by serious threat to its biodiversity by humans. The concept was given in 1988 by Norman Myers. Carbon diet: A carbon diet refers to reducing the impact on climate change by reducing greenhouse gas principally \[C{{O}_{2}}\] production. Carpooling: Giving people lifts to help reduce emissions and traffic. Carbon budget: A measure of carbon inputs and outputs for a particular activity. Carbon credit: A market-driven way of reducing the impact of greenhouse gas emissions; it allows an agent to benefit financially from an emission reduction. There are two forms of carbon credit, those that are part of national and international trade and those that are purchased by individuals. Internationally, to achieve Kyoto Protocol objectives, 'caps' (limits) on participating country's emissions are established. To meet these limits countries, in turn, set 'caps' (allowances or credits: 1 convertible and transferable credit = 1 metric tonne of \[C{{O}_{2}}\]emissions) for operators. Operators that meet the agreed 'caps' can then sell unused credits to operators who exceed 'caps'. Operators can then choose the most cost-effective way of reducing emissions. Individual carbon credits would operate in a similar way cf. carbon offset. Carbon footprint: A measure of the carbon emissions that are emitted over the full life cycle of a product or service and usually expressed as grams of \[C{{O}_{2}}-e\] Carbon taxes: A surcharge on fossil fuels that aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Clean Development Mechanism (CDM): The Clean Development Mechanism more...

      Current Ecological Developments   Introduction There have been several ecological developments in India and around the world. The ecological changes have profound impact on the flora and fauna of terrestrial and aquatic environments. Ecological balance is necessary for achieving sustainable environment. In this chapter, we will discuss the current ecological developments in India and around the world. Ecological balance is a theory which highlights that natural conditions, including numbers of various animal and plant species, remain stable on their own through variations over time. The theory, also known as balance of nature, also holds that natural equilibrium can be changed significantly by new species entering an ecosystem, the disappearance of some species, man-made changes to the environment or natural disasters. Ecological Imbalance in India is governed by the following factors: (a) Conservation of Land and Soil (b) Forest density (c) Utilization of water resources (d) Mining Practices (e) Level of Industrial and Atmospheric Pollution,   Fig: An overview of the goals of ecological balance.   Costal Ecology Blue Economy Blue Economy refers to the integration of ocean economy development with the idea of social inclusion, environmental sustainability and innovative, dynamic business models. It is an approach wherein renewable and organic inputs are fed into sustainably designed systems to promote "blue growth". Such "blue growth" has solved the problems of resource scarcity and waste disposal, while ensuring sustainable development that enhances human welfare in an holistic manner. Blue Economy has also led to creating a healthy ocean environment, supporting higher productivity. The concept of Blue Economy is introduced by entrepreneur Gunter Pauli. Bilateral and multilateral work, involving the environment, energy, defense and food production can be achieved with Blue Economy. The newly set up Blue Economy Strategic Thought Forum India, under the guidance of the National Maritime Foundation, has focuses on multiple ways in which the blue economy will influence human activities. The central principle of the blue economy is the idea of integrating nutrients and energy the way ecosystems do. Cascading energy and nutrients leads to sustainability by reducing or eliminating inputs, such as energy, and eliminating waste.   Coastal Area Conservation The coastal environment is facing a number of pressures, arising out of the needs of people, and the multiple uses that coastal and marine areas can be put to. Coastal area in India has seen major developmental changes in recent years as given below:
    • There have been major changes in land-use along the coast after the implementation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Rules, particularly in Karnataka, Goa and Kerala. The rule proposes to remove the ban on reclamation of land in coastal areas for commercial or tourism activities even in ecologically-sensitive areas.
    Under the Environmental Protection Act 1986, notification was released in 1991 for regulation of activities in the coastal area by Ministry of Environment and Forests. These notification known as Coastal Regulation Zone Notification defined the Coastal Regulation more...

      Constitutional Framework and Citizenship   Introduction The term constitution is derived from latin word “constituere” which means to “to establish”. Constitution means a document having a special legal sanctity, which sets out the framework, principles and functions of the government. The idea of constitutionalism suggests ways and means to work out a government form, which exercises power and ensures, at the same time, individuals freedom and liberty.                               HISTORICAL BACKGROUND  
    Constitutional Landmark Important Provisions
    Regulating Act, 1773 ·    British government to regulate affairs of East India Co. ·    Designated Governor of Bengal as Governor General of Bengal. Warren Hastings was the first Government General. ·    Establishing a Supreme Court at Calcutta.
    Pitts India Act, 1784 ·    Indian affairs under direct control of British government. ·    Board of Control was established.
    Charter Act of 1793 ·    Salary of company to drawn from the Indian exchequer. ·    The Governor General and governors to override the decision of Councils. ·    more...

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