Contemporary Environmental Issues

Acid Deposition
A complex chemical and atmospheric phenomenon that occurs when emissions of sulfur and nitrogen compounds and other substances are transformed by chemical processes in the atmosphere, often far from the original sources, and then deposited on earth in either wet or dry form. The wet forms, popularly called “acid rain,” can fall to earth as rain, snow, or fog. The dry forms are acidic gases or particulates. 
Acid Mine Drainage
Drainage of water from areas that have been mined for coal or other mineral ores.

The water has a low pH because of its contact with sulfur-bearing material and is harmful to aquatic organisms. 

Changes in an organism’s physiological structure or function or habits that allow it to survive in new surroundings.

Land used for crops, pasture, and livestock; the adjacent uncultivated land that supports other vegetation and wildlife; and the associated atmosphere, the underlying soils, groundwater, and drainage networks.
Air Pollutant
Any substance in air that could, in high enough concentration, harm human, other animals, vegetation, or material. Pollutants may include almost any natural or artificial composition of airborne matter capable of being airborne. They may be in the form of solid particles, liquid droplets, gases, or in combination thereof.


Algal Blooms
Sudden spurts of algal growth, which can affect water quality adversely and indicate potentially hazardous changes in local water chemistry.
The conditions of the surrounding environment, most often used to mean the encompassing atmosphere ( e.g.,  air temperature, pressure), water, or soil.
Ambient Air
Any unconfined portion of the atmosphere: open air, surrounding air, background air. 
An underground geological formation, or group of formations, containing water.

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Are sources of groundwater for wells and springs. 

Benthic Organisms
Organisms relating to, or occurring at, the bottom of a body of fresh or marine water.
The increase in concentration of contaminants in living organisms as they take in air, water, or food because the substances are very slowly metabolized or excreted 
Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD)
A measure of the amount of oxygen consumed in the biological processes that break down organic matter in water. The greater the BOD, the greater the degree of pollution.
The accumulation of a chemical in tissues of a fish or other organism to levels greater than in the surrounding medium
Capable of decomposing under natural conditions.
Refers to the variety and variability among living organisms and the ecological complexes in which they occur. Diversity can be defined as the number of different items and their relative frequencies.

For biological diversity, these items are organized at many levels, ranging from complete ecosystems to the biochemical structures that are the molecular basis of heredity. Thus, the term encompasses different ecosystems, species, and genes.

Biogeochemical cycling
Cycling of biological, geological, and chemical material in ecosystems.
Refers to the process whereby certain substances such as pesticides or heavy metals move up the food chain, work their way into rivers or lakes, and are eaten by aquatic organisms such as fish, which in turn are eaten by large birds, animals or humans.

The substances become concentrated and magnified in tissues or internal organs as they move up the chain

sequestration generally refers to capturing carbon — in a carbon sink, such as the oceans, or a terrestrial sink such as forests or soils — so as to keep the carbon out of the atmosphere.
Carrying Capacity
1. In recreation management, the amount of use a recreation area can sustain without loss of quality. 2. In wildlife management, the maximum number of animals an area can support during a given period.
Chlorinated Hydrocarbons
Chemicals containing only chlorine, carbon, and hydrogen.

These include a class of persistent, broad-spectrum insecticides that linger in the environment and accumulate in the food chain. Among them are DDT, aldrin, dieldrin, heptachlor, chlordane, lindane, endrin, Mirex, hexachloride, and toxaphene. Other examples include TCE, used as an industrial solvent.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
A family of inert, nontoxic, and easily liquefied chemicals used in refrigeration, air conditioning, packaging, insulation, or as solvents and aerosol propellants.  Because CFCs are not destroyed in the lower atmosphere they drift into theupper atmosphere where their chlorince components destory ozone
Harvesting all the trees in one area at one time, a practice that can encourage fast rainfall or snowmelt runoff, erosion, sedimentation of streams and lakes, and flooding, and destroys vital habitat.


Climate Change
used to refer to all forms of climatic inconsistency, but because the Earth’s climate is never static, the term is more properly used to imply a significant change from one climatic condition to another. In some cases, ‘climate change’ has been used synonymously with the term, ‘global warming’; scientists however, tend to use the term in the wider sense to also include natural changes in climate. 
Cubic Feet per Second (CFS)
A measure of the volume of a substance flowing through space within a fixed period of time. (in this case, one second)
Cultural Eutrophication
Increasing rate at which water bodies “die” by pollution from human (cultural) activities
The first chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticide chemical name: Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane).

It has a half-life of 15 years and can collect in fatty tissues of certain animals. EPA banned registration and interstate sale of DDT for virtually all but emergency uses in the United States in 1972 because of its persistence in the environment and accumulation in the food chain. 

Detection Limit
The lowest concentration of a chemical that can reliably be distinguished from a zero concentration. 
Disolved Oxygen (DO)
The oxygen freely available in water, vital to fish and other aquatic life and for the prevention of odors. DO levels are considered a most important indicator of a water body’s ability to support desirable aquatic life. Secondary and advanced waste treatment are generally designed to ensure adequate DO in waste-receiving waters. 
A measure of variety and density
The direction that groundwater flows; similar to “downstream” for surface water.


Drainage Basin
The area of land that drains water, sediment, and dissolved materials to a common outlet at some point along a stream channel
Ecological Indicator
A characteristic of an ecosystem that is related to, or derived from, a measure of biotic or abiotic variable, that can provide quantitative info on ecological structure and function.  An indicator can contribute to a measure of interity and sustainability
Ecological Integrity (Persistence)
A living system exhibits integrity if, when subjected to disturbance, it sustains and organizes self-correcting ability to recover toward a biomass end-state that is normal for that system. End-states other than the pristine or naturally whole may be accepted as normal and good.
The study of relationship of living things to one another and their environment
The “bio-bubble” that contains life on earth, in surface waters and in the air
Ecological Risk Assessment
The application of a formal framework, analytical process, or model to estimate the effects of human actions(s) on a natural resource and to interpret the significance of those effects in light of the uncertainties identified in each component of the assessment process. Such analysis includes initial hazard identification, exposure and dose-response assessments, and risk characterization.
The interacting system of biological community and its non-living environmental surroundings.

No fixed boundaries, terrestrial or aquatic

Ecosystem Structure
The organizational framework or arrangement of different components (living and non-living) in an ecosystem define its structure
Endangered Species
Animals, birds, fish, plants, or other living organisms threatened with extinction by anthropogenic (human-caused) or other natural changes in their environment. Requirements for declaring a species endangered in the U. S. are contained in the Endangered Species Act.
Endemic Species
Species unique to an area and thus dependent on local habitat
Study of the distribution of disease, or other health-related conditions and events in human populations, as related to age, sex, occupation, environment, ethnicity, and economic status in order to identify and alleviate health problems and promote better health.