The stability of the earth’s ecosystem depends on the balance between consumption and production of every single element in the ecosystem. Ecological imbalance or instability is a state in which an ecosystem fails to adjust with the changes in the environment. This type of situation arises when the changes are enormous and they exceed the capacity or resilience of the ecosystem.
Causative agents for ecological imbalance:
The major factor responsible for imbalance in the existing ecosystem of the earth is the dominance of human beings in the global ecosystem. Man’s selfish and thoughtless ways to exploit the resources of the planet for satisfying his greed is the root cause of this diversion. Here are the main causes for imbalance in the ecosystem:
- Changing Hydrology
When rain water is utilized for irrigation, water flows as a slow place in the river and water quality down- stream also declines. Construction of large reservoirs for power generation and irrigation also alters the ecosystem of the place. Irrigation also increases the contents of water vapor in the locality.
- Use of Pesticides
When we apply pesticides on plants to protect them from plants, the pesticides do not just contaminate the plant but also pollute surface and ground waters. So, use of pesticides has adverse effects on the environment, creating ecological imbalance.
- Green House Effect
Increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is a big concern for the environmentalists. The direct negative effect of this is increased temperature of the earth’s surface, commonly known as ‘global warming’. If we do not take stern measures to reduce emission of carbon dioxide, the consequences will be disastrous. There will be drastic change in the climate in several places resulting in melting of polar ice caps and submerging low-lying coastal cities (such as Chennai, London and New York) under the oceans.
- Acid Rain
Acid rain, that is rain water laden with acids, is the main reason behind air pollution. When we burn fossil fuels, large amounts of nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide are released into the air. These oxides, after coming in contact with water vapour, produce nitric acid and sulphuric acid which come back to the surface of the earth when it rains. Acid rain is a great threat to the world’s ecological balance, harming plants and animals.
Ecosystem instability and environmental degradation that arise from overgrazing are mostly seen in semi-arid and arid regions of Central Asia, the Mediterranean basin and near-Eastern countries. The aftermath of this is desertification.
Clearance of forest cover is again a primary contributory factor in the disturbance of ecology of our planet. Man has cut down forests to establish croplands, residential areas and grasslands. In addition to this, forests are also targeted for fuel-wood and timber.
- Forest fires
Repeated, natural forest fires that burn thousands of trees overnight cause severe harm to the ecosystem and is responsible for degradation of the environment.
Industrialization is important to cater to the basic comforts and necessities of life to our increasing population. But, improperly planned and executed industrialization has resulted in acute ecological imbalance and environmental pollution worldwide.
- Mining Activities
The process of extracting minerals and processing them has a long-lasting ecological impact on atmosphere, land, water and also socio-economic environment of the people living there. One direct outcome of mining on the topography is surface disturbances. Reclamation of uneven, disturbed land due to mining wastes can rectify the environmental damage to a certain extent. Excessive surface mining has resulted in fragile ecosystems in several places.
Rapid urbanization gives birth to several environmental, health, and socio-economic problems. For instance, slum settlement in towns and cities is clearly an outcome of unplanned urbanization that fails to provide housing facilities to all citizens. People, when unable to find a proper dwelling place, end up occupying any vacant land in the outskirts of a city and start living in a haphazard manner without civic facilities such as drainage, roads, water supply, electricity and transport. Slum expansion destroys the natural ecosystems that surround the cities.
So, the basic causes of disharmony in the ecosystem and environmental pollution are urbanization, motorization and industrialization. Human beings are accountable for degradation of the quality of the environment and we require steady measures to bring back harmony into the ecosystem.