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Environment

From: http://www.environmentreports.com/

Livestock grazing is the largest land use on the planet. Because most grazing lands are not suitable for crop production, they are often referred to as “marginal.” These marginal areas, however, are critical to the health of both ecosystems and people.


Livestock systems are integral to economic activity in developed and developing economies alike. Roughly 800 million people worldwide depend on livestock that graze on natural vegetation for their food and economic security.


Our changing climate is bringing warmer temperatures and increasingly variable rainfall patterns to many of the world’s pasturelands. In dry grazing areas, such changes in precipitation are estimated to threaten the health and livelihoods of millions of people. Many places are seeing more frequent or prolonged droughts, unusually intense rainfalls, or changes in the timing of significant rainfall over the course of the year.



As a result, the ability of the world’s pastures to support grazing livestock is at risk. It’s crucial to understand how changing rainfall patterns will affect the extent and quality of the world’s grazing lands.re.

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Water

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Ground Water Extent


The extent of ground water refers to the amount available, typically measured in terms of volume or saturated thickness of an aquifer (body of ground water). Concerns related to extent include aquifer depletion and excessive ground water in aquifers.

  • Aquifer depletion. Stressors that can deplete aquifers include changes in precipitation and snowmelt patterns; withdrawal of ground water for drinking, irrigation, and other human uses; and impervious paved surfaces that prevent precipitation from recharging ground water. Some deep aquifers may take thousands of years to replenish. Some consequences of aquifer depletion include:
    • Lower lake levels or—in extreme cases—intermittent or totally dry perennial streams. These effects can harm aquatic and riparian plants and animals that depend on regular surface flows.
    • Land subsidence and sinkhole formation in areas of heavy withdrawal. These changes can damage buildings, roads, and other structures and can permanently reduce aquifer recharge capacity by compacting the aquifer medium (soil or rock).
    • Salt water intrusion. Changes in ground water flow can lead to saline ground water migrating into aquifers previously occupied by fresh ground water.
  • Too much ground water. Some human activities, such as pumping water into the ground for oil and gas extraction, can cause an aquifer to hold too much ground water. Too much ground water discharge to streams can lead to erosion and alter the balance of aquatic plant and animal species.1

Ground Water Condition

 


The condition of ground water reflects a combination of physical, biological, and chemical attributes, which are influenced by both natural sources and human activities. Physical properties reflect patterns of flow—the volume, speed, and direction of ground water flow in a given location. Biological contaminants can include bacteria, viruses, protozoans, and other pathogens. Ground water can contain chemicals that occur naturally or that result from human activities.

  • Stressors that affect ground water condition include application of pesticides and fertilizers to the land, waste from livestock and other animals, landfills, mining operations, and unintentional releases such as chemical spills or leaks from storage tanks. Some ground water has high levels of naturally occurring dissolved solids (salinity), or metals such as arsenic found in natural rock formations. These stressors can ultimately affect:
    • The quality of water available for drinking, irrigation, or other human needs. Treatment may be needed to ensure that finished drinking water does not pose risks to human health.
    • Ecological systems. Many fish species depend on spring-fed waters for habitat or spawning grounds.2,3 Aquifers themselves can constitute an ecosystem, such as caves and sinkholes that support invertebrates and fish adapted to life underground.4
  • The extent and condition of ground water are often intertwined. Stressors that affect the extent of ground water—such as withdrawal or injection—can change ground water velocity and flow. These physical changes can affect patterns of discharge to surface waters and the movement of water and contaminants within the ground.

The land within the boundaries of the United States

 

The land within the boundaries of the United States—covering nearly 2.3 billion acres—provides food, fiber, and shelter for all Americans, as well as terrestrial habitat for many other species.

 

  • Land is the source of most extractable resources, such as minerals and petroleum.
  • Land produces renewable resources and commodities including livestock, vegetables, fruit, grain, and timber.
  • Land supports residential, industrial, commercial, transportation, and other uses.
  • Land, and the ecosystems it is part of, provide services such as trapping chemicals as they move through soil, storing and breaking down chemicals and wastes, and filtering and storing water.


The use of land, what is applied to or released on it, and its condition change constantly: there are changes in the types and amounts of resources that are extracted, the distribution and nature of land cover types, the amounts and types of chemicals used and wastes managed, and perceptions of the land's value.

While human activities on land (including food and fiber production, land development, manufacturing, and resource extraction) provide multiple economic, social, and environmental benefits to communities, they can also involve the creation, use, or release of chemicals and pollutants that can affect the environment and human health.

EPA works with other federal agencies, states, and partners to protect land resources, ecosystems, environmental processes, and uses of land through regulation of chemicals, waste, and pollutants, and through cleanup and restoration of contaminated lands.

The complex responsibilities of land management underscore the challenges of collecting data and assessing trends on the state of land. Numerous agencies and individuals have responsibilities for managing and protecting land in the United States. Responsibilities may include protecting resources associated with land (e.g., timber, minerals) and/or land uses (e.g., wilderness designations, regulatory controls).

  • Approximately 40 percent of the nation is owned or managed by public agencies.1 The other 60 percent is managed by private owners under a variety of federal, state, and local laws.
  • The largest owners of public land at the federal level are the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Defense.
  • Local governments have primary responsibilities for regulating land use, while state and federal agencies regulate chemicals and waste that are frequently used on, stored on, or released to land.

What are the trends in air quality and their effects on human health?

Importance of Outdoor Air Quality:


Outdoor air—the air outside buildings, from ground level to several miles above the Earth's surface—is a valuable resource for current and future generations because it provides essential gases to sustain life and it shields the Earth from harmful radiation. Air pollution can compromise human health and the environment in many ways. For example, outdoor air pollution:


Is associated with a number of human health effects including heart attacks, asthma attacks, bronchitis, hospital and emergency room visits, work and school days lost, restricted activity days, respiratory symptoms, and premature mortality.

Can contribute to "acid rain."

Can impair visibility and damage crops and surfaces of treasured buildings and monuments.

Can diminish the protective ozone layer in the upper atmosphere.

Maintaining clean air is a challenging but achievable task.



Importance of Greenhouse Gases:


Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and certain synthetic chemicals, trap some of the Earth's outgoing energy, thus retaining heat in the atmosphere. This heat trapping causes changes in the radiative balance of the Earth—the balance between energy received from the sun and emitted from Earth—that alter climate and weather patterns at global and regional scales.


Multiple lines of evidence confirm that human activities are the primary cause of the global warming of the past 50 years.1 Natural factors, such as variations in the sun's output, volcanic activity, the Earth's orbit, the carbon cycle, and others, also affect Earth's radiative balance. However, beginning in the late 1700s, the net global effect of human activities has been a continual increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.


This change in concentrations causes warming and is affecting various aspects of climate, including surface air and ocean temperatures, precipitation, and sea levels. Human health, agriculture, water resources, forests, wildlife, and coastal areas are all vulnerable to climate change.


Many greenhouse gases are extremely long-lived in the atmosphere, with some remaining airborne for tens to hundreds of years after being released. These long-lived greenhouse gases become globally mixed in the atmosphere and their concentrations reflect past and recent contributions from emissions sources worldwide. Others, like tropospheric ozone, have a relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere.


Importance of Indoor Air Quality:


“Indoor air quality” refers to the quality of the air in a home, school, office, or other building environment. The potential impact of indoor air quality on human health nationally can be noteworthy for several reasons:


Americans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors,1 where the concentrations of some pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.2

People who are often most susceptible to the adverse effects of pollution (e.g., the very young, older adults, people with cardiovascular or respiratory disease) tend to spend even more time indoors.3

Indoor concentrations of some pollutants have increased in recent decades due to such factors as energy-efficient building construction (when it lacks sufficient mechanical ventilation to ensure adequate air exchange) and increased use of synthetic building materials, furnishings, personal care products, pesticides, and household cleaners.