Environmental Science

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The Amazon rainforest is rich in natural resources, such as water and medicinal plants, and its lush habitats house approximately one-third of Earth's species, according to the Nature Conservancy. About 25 percent of the world's fresh water cycles through rivers connected to the Amazon Basin. Logging and agricultural enterprises have lead to widespread deforestation, threatening the survival of indigenous cultures, animals and plant life.

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  • What caused the hole in the ozone layer?

    Q: What caused the hole in the ozone layer?

    A: The gaping hole in the ozone layer of the atmosphere over the Antarctic was caused primarily by high concentrations of ozone-depleting chemicals called CFCs. The vast hole in the ozone was discovered by scientists in the 1980s, who upon discovering the dramatic loss in ozone cover, set to work determining a primary cause. They found excessive concentrations of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the area of concern; CFCs were frequently used as additives in spray cans and refrigerants, but are now banned in most areas of the world.
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  • What is the belt of calm air near the equator?

    Q: What is the belt of calm air near the equator?

    A: The intertropical convergence zone is a belt of low pressure that circles the Earth with calm air, especially over the oceans. Scientists call the ITCZ various names, including the doldrums or the equatorial calms. When sail-powered ships reached these dreaded zones, they faced the potential of stalling for days or weeks without enough wind to proceed, according to Reference.com.
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  • What are the effects of ozone depletion?

    Q: What are the effects of ozone depletion?

    A: The main consequence of a depleted ozone layer is a reduction in the protection it affords against harmful ultraviolet radiation (UVB) emanating from the sun. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), increased UVB radiation damages human health, plant life, marine ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles.
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  • What is the definition of environmental ethics?

    Q: What is the definition of environmental ethics?

    A: Environmental ethics is a form of philosophy that considers the ways humans interact with their natural environment and with nonhuman animals. This includes a moral consideration of the human approach to natural resources.
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  • What are the effects of desertification?

    Q: What are the effects of desertification?

    A: Desertification causes a high-risk of crop failure, low economic returns on crops, a build-up of salt in the soil and the accidental burning of semiarid vegetation. This process turns usable desert land into unusable land due to poor land management.
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  • Why is oceanography important?

    Q: Why is oceanography important?

    A: Oceanography is a very important discipline for understanding the oceans, which are essential for all life on Earth and cover the majority of the Earth's surface. Oceanography is extremely multidisciplinary, covering the physics, chemistry, geology and biology of the world's oceans. No understanding of Earth's climate or the chemical cycles essential to life is complete without the insights of oceanography.
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  • What is the difference between an environment and an ecosystem?

    Q: What is the difference between an environment and an ecosystem?

    A: An environment generally refers to the surroundings of various living residents, while an ecosystem is a community consisting of both living and non-living things that work together. In general, an ecosystem is defined by its environment, and all organisms within the ecosystem must work in tandem to create a successful living space.
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  • How do homologous structures support evolution?

    Q: How do homologous structures support evolution?

    A: Homologous structures, such as the fins of whales and the hands of monkeys, demonstrate that while a species may use structures for different purposes, the species shared a common ancestor. By definition, homologous structures refer to those that were derived from ancestrally similar structures. The natural world is full of examples of homologous structures, which the theory of natural selection predicts should be the case.
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  • What is the definition of "greenhouse effect"?

    Q: What is the definition of "greenhouse effect"?

    A: The greenhouse effect is the trapping of heat by a layer of gases surrounding the Earth. The heat is trapped by atmospheric gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor and nitrous oxide.
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  • What is maximum sustainable yield?

    Q: What is maximum sustainable yield?

    A: Maximum sustainable yield is the maximum level at which a resource can be exploited without depleting it. According to the National Estuarine Research Reserve, such a stock must remain at above half of its full carrying capacity in order to maintain maximum exploitation.
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  • How long does it take for leather to decompose?

    Q: How long does it take for leather to decompose?

    A: It takes leather between 25 and 50 years to completely decompose. Leather that has been tanned can take significantly longer to decompose because of the chemicals used to tan it.
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  • What factors affect soil fertility?

    Q: What factors affect soil fertility?

    A: The presence of nutrients, minerals, organic matter, microorganisms, and the texture and structure of the soil affect soil fertility. Fertility refers to the ability of soil to provide plants with the nutrients they require to grow and fight disease.
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  • What is the desert ecosystem like?

    Q: What is the desert ecosystem like?

    A: There are two types of deserts: temperate, or cold, and subtropical, or hot, which gives deserts more than one type of ecosystem. There are similarities as both get less than 10 inches of rain a year, and the air is generally dry in both types of biomes. The lack of water in either type of desert makes them harsh for people or creatures living there.
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  • What is the structure of the tropical rainforest?

    Q: What is the structure of the tropical rainforest?

    A: The layered structure of a tropical rainforest includes the forest floor, understory, canopy and emergent layer. Each layer contains different flora and fauna unique to its environment. The fundamental difference between these layers is the amount of sunlight they receive. According to the BBC, the upper layers are bathed in sunlight, but the forest floor is almost completely dark.
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  • Are humans destroying the planet?

    Q: Are humans destroying the planet?

    A: Although human beings may not be capable of fully destroying the earth, their daily activities are causing enough harm to the planet that it may become uninhabitable for humans for a long while. Human beings have also developed destructive technology such as nuclear weapons that, if used in their full capacity, may also make the earth uninhabitable for a long time for many creatures, including humans.
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  • What does the "Green Revolution" mean?

    Q: What does the "Green Revolution" mean?

    A: The Green Revolution refers to a movement started in Mexico in the 1940s whereby agricultural practices and technology created higher crop yields, according to About.com. Dr. Norman Borlaug is credited with starting the Green Revolution when his work with higher-yield wheat combined with new farming technology led to better overall agricultural processes throughout the world.
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  • What causes the greenhouse effect?

    Q: What causes the greenhouse effect?

    A: Heat energy comes to the Earth as sunlight and leaves in the form of infrared radiation, but greenhouses gases trap some of the radiation before it can escape the atmosphere again, leading to the "greenhouse effect." This gives the atmosphere a great deal of its ambient warmth. However, as greenhouse gases have increased their presence in the environment, the temperature of the Earth has risen as a result.
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  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of wind energy?

    Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of wind energy?

    A: Wind energy is praised for being a renewable, nonpolluting source of electricity, but it can also produce intermittent streams of energy, and wind-generating equipment may be costly and troublesome to repair and maintain. One of the primary benefits of wind energy is that, unlike coal, oil and other fossil fuels, it does not emit toxic byproducts into the air and water.
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  • What are the main parts of an ecosystem?

    Q: What are the main parts of an ecosystem?

    A: The main parts of an ecosystem are soil, water, heat from the sun, sunlight, the atmosphere and living organisms. An ecosystem is a community of non-living and living things that work together.
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  • What does an ecologist study?

    Q: What does an ecologist study?

    A: Ecologists study environmental systems. These systems are biotic factors, which are the living parts of an ecosystem, and abiotic factors, which are the nonliving parts. The items that consumers eat depends upon whether they are herbivores, carnivores or omnivores.
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  • How do forest fires affect the environment?

    Q: How do forest fires affect the environment?

    A: According to the U.S. Forest Service, forest fires have a damaging effect on the environment, but they also cause a resurgence of nutrients in the areas they burn. Although fire can tear down acres and acres of trees, it can also enrich the soil to let new vegetation grow.
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