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Environmental Quality & Sustainability

Atmosphere & Change

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Greenhouse Effect


  1. Using page 52, define the greenhouse effect
  2. Get a copy of figure 1.2
  3. Why is the greenhouse effect an important natural process?
  4. Define the enhanced greenhouse effect.
  5. Describe ways in which humans are contributing to this.
  6. Why is the enhanced greenhouse effect causing so much alarm around the world?
  7. Describe natural factors affect global climate change:
  8. solar variations
  9. MIilankovitch cycles
  10. Volcanic eruptions
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Figure The Greenhouse Effect

Soil Degradation

Objective:Understand the processes that are leading to soil degradation and be able to describe the impacts that this is having on the environment and human populations.

Definition: A severe reduction in the quality of soils. The term includes soil erosion, salinization and soil exhaustion (loss of fertility)

"It takes such a long time for soil to form – some 10-12,000 years to build up to depths we might describe as productive land. First, the rocks that have made it from the Earth's interior to the surface must be "weathered" by wind and rain, a disintegration that is assisted by microorganisms, insects and lichen. This organic matter decays, feeding more organisms, including, in time, plants. It is the accumulation of hundreds of years of this organic matter, living organisms and minerals that we call soil. It takes a few hundred years to produce each centimetre of soil (although it is a little faster in the tropics), but it can be lost in a matter of hours."


Causes & Implications of soil degradation

Read this Guardian article

  1. How much arable land has been lost in the last 40 years?
  2. What are the main causes of the loss of soil?
  3. Explain why continuous ploughing leads to soil loss?
  4. Explain why heavy use of fertilisers is leading declining soil quality?
  5. Why is soil degradation such an important issue for the world?

Read this BBC article.

  1. Explain why deforestation leads to soil erosion.
  2. Why is urbanisation leading to a decline in the soils available for farming?
  3. Soil degradation is likely to effect the poorest people in the world most. Explain this statement.

Solutions to Soil Degradation

Describe how the following methods can help reduce soil degradation

  • Afforestation
  • Contour ploughing
  • No-till farming
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Figure: Soil Erosion, Iringa, Tanzania
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Figure: Soil erosion by wind & water
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Figure: Soil Management Techniques
Video A1:5 Carbon in Soils
Video A1:5 No-till Farming


  1. Using Figure 1.7:
    • Describe the pattern of physical water scarcity
    • Suggest why these areas suffer physical water scarcity
    • Describe the pattern of economic water scarcity
    • Suggest why these areas suffer economic water scarcity
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Figure 1.7: Water Scarcity Map. source:

Example: Mexico City

Great article about physical and economic water scarcity and its impacts in Mexico City. Guardian 2014


On the printed version(or get a digital copy) highlight in different colours:

  1. evidence of physical water scarcity
  2. evidence of economic water scarcity
  3. examples of how they are trying to get more water for Mexico city
  4. the consequences of poor water quality for the residents.

Exam style question

Should developing countries focus on improving the quantity or quality of the supply of potable water. Discuss (10 marks)

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Figure Rainforest Biodiversity

Case Study: Paua New Guinea

Rainforest destruction & sustainability


  1. Use the following links to put together a case study;
    • 1 page maximum: include;
    • Map locating Papua New Guinea
    • Brief summary of the problems the country faces & some of the effects they are having.
    • Schemes or efforts to make the country/operations more sustainable.
    • Conclusion - are these schemes having much sucess.


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Figure Rainforest Biodiversity
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