What Are Environmental Pressures?

Environmental pressures are the activities and factors that cause environmental change. They include land use, extraction of resources, greenhouse gas emission, water use and energy use. Environmental pressures are influenced by economic production sectors and consumption patterns.

Invasive non-native species, habitat change, pollution, climate change and over-exploitation of resources are environmental pressures that affect species and habitats in marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments. Human factors such as population growth influence trends in environmental pressures. This is because population growth increases demand for energy, food and housing. Industrialization and urbanization increase demand for non-agricultural water use, causing pressure on freshwater. Climate change alters evaporation, transpiration, precipitation and storage of water, causing pressure on water sources. Degradation of land puts pressure on land resources because it affects grassland production and crop yields.

Over-exploitation of land causes loss of its productivity, which contributes to deforestation. Livestock production affects the environment because land scarcity leads to manure disposal problems, leading to water pollution. Livestock also release methane, which contributes to global warming. In addition, agricultural production strains the environment through the release of pollutants in fertilizer. Urban environments also pollute water resources through discharge of untreated sewage.

An understanding of environmental pressures is important to the evaluation of material efficiency and environmental performance of production and consumption processes.