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Environmental Issues Caused by Human Activities in the Biosphere

Kenneth is a computer whiz who also enjoys nature and traveling. He likes researching the natural world and sharing his findings.

Environmental Issues

Environmental Issues

Environmental Problems in the Biosphere

Ecological succession refers to abrupt changes in an environment’s conditions to which an organism needs to adapt to survive. Some of these changes are fast and vicious and can cause the vast extinction of diverse organisms in the biosphere. These “drastic changes” are why some plant and animal species suffer great losses that can eventually lead to extinction. Some of these drastic changes are natural phenomena, such as

  1. Earthquakes
  2. Volcanic eruptions
  3. Landslide and cave-ins
  4. Floods
  5. Pollution

These natural changes are somewhat out of human control and mainly brought about by disastrous natural calamities in the biosphere. A natural disaster, such as a volcanic eruption, can wipe out plant and animal populations in an area. This may lead to an ecological succession until the dilapidated area is brought back to life. It's true that some of these changes are partly out of human hands. Still, people do have some control over the changes in the biosphere that are brought about by human activity.

Humanized Biosphere

Water Pollution

This refers to the contamination of streams, lakes, underground water, bays, seas and oceans by substances harmful to living things. This commonly occurs in industrialized countries all over the world, just like air pollution. The famous Rhine River cuts through several countries from Austria to West Germany and has been referred to as “Europe’s largest open sewage system.”

Marine biologists will forever sadly remember the worst oil spill in United States history, which occurred in Valdez, Alaska, in 1989. The Exxon Valdez tanker spilled over 41 million liters of oil, killing thousands of marine organisms in the waters of Valdez.

In the Philippines, five major river systems in Metro Manila and practically all rivers in highly industrialized cities like Cebu, Iloilo, Baguio and Davao are already biologically dead.

In solving this problem, we must consider the major sources of pollutants in our communities. Some of the causes of water pollution are

  • Improper waste disposal by industries and households
  • Additional harmful substances in water

Water pollution greatly reduces marine vegetation and animal life along the coastline and contributes to the destruction of the aquatic ecosystem, including coral reefs and mangroves.

Air Pollution

This refers to the addition of vile substances to the atmosphere that may result in environmental damage, human health and quality of life. It is caused by human activities inside homes, schools, offices, industries and cities that can spread across continents and even go global.

Air pollution is a serious problem in many countries in this era of industrialization. Industrialization is indeed a means to achieve better socioeconomic conditions. But it is also a fact that industrialization is accompanied by problems that endanger people's health and the lives of plants and animals.

The term smog refers to masses of smoke or fumes containing poisonous gases and particles of various industrial wastes that blacken the horizons of highly polluted areas. Smog comes from vehicle exhaust and factory chimneys, among other sources.

Smog travels far and wide from its sources. Noxious gases and particulates (tiny solid particles in the air) released from steel and chemical plants in West Germany have been carried to as far as London, Copenhagen and Stockholm, a radius of about 150 kilometers. Look at a map of Europe and locate these cities—this is a remarkable distance!

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In the Philippines, pedestrians often walk through the black fumes of smoke-belching vehicles in crowded cities, whilst motorists in the suburbs see a layer of smog hanging low on the horizon of the Greater Manila Area. Recent high death rates of chickens in many Bulacan poultries and ducks in the towns of Pateros, Taguig and Pasig, have been traced to air pollution. Sturdy plants, used to beautify street islands and sidewalks, can hardly survive in the toxic content of the air in the metropolis.

People of the Coral Triangle

Forest Denudation

This refers to a phenomenon where forest soil is stripped by erosion or weathering. It is also known that tropical rainforests are the most diverse terrestrial ecosystems on earth. While they contain more than half of the species of organism documented worldwide, they cover less than 10% of the earth’s surface.

The Philippines’ economy and ecology are greatly dependent on this rich ecosystem. The forest provides renewable sources of food, fiber, medicine, lumber and other wood products, which keep the country’s economy alive. They also serve many ecological functions that help conserve soil and water, replenish the oxygen supply and reduce carbon dioxide in the air.

But deforestation and agricultural practices are destroying the Philippines forest at an estimated rate of 120,000 to 200,000 hectares yearly. As of 1991, only 800,000 hectares of virgin forest land remained in the Philippines. If this continues, we could have totally exhausted the country’s forest resources in years to come.

Destruction of Coral Reefs and Mangroves

In the coastal ecosystem, coral reefs and mangroves are valuable in stabilizing the shoreline and protecting the coast from erosion. It also serves as the shelter of crustaceans and a nursery ground for marine organisms. They are a rich source of the following important products:

  1. Fuelwood and charcoal from mangrove trees
  2. Food like fish, algae, shellfish and more
  3. Corals used as ornaments and construction materials
  4. Aquatic organisms for aquariums and the curio trade

These ecosystems, however, are being lost due to the following activities:

  1. Overcutting of mangrove trees and over-collection of corals and other marine organisms
  2. Destructive fishing methods using dynamite, cyanide, and muro-ami
  3. Siltation as eroded soils from denuded forests and abandoned kaingin are carried by runoff to the shore

In the Philippines, only 5% of the total 25,000 square kilometers of coral reefs remain in excellent condition, and in 1988 it was reported that only around 140,000 hectares of mangrove forest were left of the estimated 500,000 hectares in 1918.

Kaingin System of Farming

This refers to a process where Kaingineros first burn the forest to produce charcoals. Great tracts of forest land have been destroyed through the kaingin method of forest farming.

Kaingineros cut down the trees, then burn smaller plants to make clearings for planting their crops. Plant materials go up in smoke instead of decaying naturally, which enriches the soil. After about two years of planting and burning to destroy coarse grasses such as cogon and talahib, the soil becomes depleted of nutrients. After this, the farmers abandon the area to repeat their wasteful farming elsewhere.

Some abandoned farms have unproductive soil, which is left bare and loose, lacking in organic matter because of the regular burning of plants. Like sand, the soil in abandoned clearings does not store water. When the rain comes, most water runs off the surface instead of being absorbed by the soil. This is why bare, treeless areas flood when torrential rains come and experience drought during prolonged dry seasons. There are even more immediate results when people destroy the forest through the kaingin system of farming and illegal and wasteful logging practices.

Besides destroying life and property, how else do floods and drought harm us? For one thing, farmers cannot plant rice and other crops in flooded areas; it is common knowledge that rice is a staple food in the Philippines. On the other hand, droughts cause plants to dry up and die. Those that survive produce low harvests.

acid rain via morgueFile

acid rain via morgueFile

Acid Rain

The acid rain phenomenon is an offshoot of air pollution. Some industrial waste gases, especially sulfur dioxide, react with rainwater and become acids. In the early 1980s, for example, rain in some parts of Europe had a pH value of 4.1 to 4.9—pure water is pH 7.

Acid rain causes the leaves of the trees to fall; this is called defoliation, a term coming from the word foliage which refers to leaves. Acid rain also destroys crops. In bodies of water, acid rain kills fish and other aquatic life.


This phenomenon is an offshoot of water pollution which is even worse. It happens when some waste materials are thrown into a body of water that add harmful chemicals to the water. Detergents, for example, may consist of as much as 40% phosphates.

And runoff from the farmlands utilizing excessive fertilizers contains phosphates and nitrates. These two substances make the water so rich that algae and other water plants grow abundantly. After some time, these plants die and sink to the bottom. Their decomposition may use up the oxygen gas dissolved in the water, resulting in the death of aquatic life primarily due to lack of oxygen or “suffocation.”


Science and Technology by Lilia M. Rabago, Joaquin C. Crescensia, and Catherine B. Lagunzad.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


#nottellingmyname on February 03, 2020:

This article helped so much that I would want to make people stop all this harm in the Biosphere of the Earth. Many people should make solutions and stand up to protect the Earth.

hi on April 18, 2019:

this article helped

An martial artist and an Davion means student of DAV on December 03, 2018:

I liked this very much . I think that this is important that we care for our earth our life and our priority.

Miss Christie's student on September 02, 2018:

I'm a buff baby I can dance like a man

Miss Christie's student on August 22, 2018:

A very wonderful article. Thank you for sharing this.

Christie Victoria S. Arcega on August 22, 2018:

We used this page and video links with our senior high students in Earth Science course.

BSN on February 06, 2018:

this article really helped.

titina cristian lutego on January 29, 2018:


Rozieliligan on December 06, 2017:

Thanks to this article, it's really help to my case study about biosphere.

Charu Noni on August 27, 2017:

This article helped me a lot in understanding basic environmental issues induced by the human in biosphere. Simple words yet very effective! Thanks.

Evan Wilson on September 02, 2016:

Global warming is made up

GeoMou on July 05, 2015:

Your article is very helpful and compact.. Thank u.. I wish each and every people on the earth gets aware start protecting our plant frm today..

Kenneth C Agudo (author) from Tiwi, Philippines on June 11, 2013:

Thank you ladydeonne for reading =) Yes we need to be vigilant and good stewards of nature. We are experimenting the whole planet and this is where we live. We must care in our environment before it is too late.

Deonne Anderson from Florence, SC on June 11, 2013:

Your hub is very informational and well written. It is sad and disturbing that we are not taking care of the land,the forests, or the rivers, lakes and streams that are in our communities. Those that come after us will inherit the problems we leave behind. The plants, foliage, coral reefs, vegetation, all serve a purpose and are living and breathing things that inhabit th plant arth just as we do. Voted up and shared

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