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GEOG 1972 Week 3 notes

by: jared.stein Notetaker

GEOG 1972 Week 3 notes geog 1972

jared.stein Notetaker


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About this Document

These are my notes for Week 3 (lectures 4&5) for GEOG 1972 Sections 100 & 200 with Prof. William Travis
Environment-Society Geography
Professor Travis
Class Notes
Environment, Society, Environment-Society, geography
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This 9 page Class Notes was uploaded by jared.stein Notetaker on Sunday September 11, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to geog 1972 at University of Colorado at Boulder taught by Professor Travis in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 8 views. For similar materials see Environment-Society Geography in Geography at University of Colorado at Boulder.


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Date Created: 09/11/16
9/06/16 Lecture 4: I. Planetary Boundaries A. A Safe Operating Space for Humanity 1. Holocene: a. Planet’s environment has been unusually stable for the past 10,000 years. b. Environmental change occurred naturally and Earth’s regulation maintained conditions c. This allowed for the development and thriving of humanity 2. Anthropocene: a. Human actions have become the main driver of environmental change b. A result of industrialization; dependence on fossil fuels and industrial agriculture 3. Human actions may push the Earth past the “desirable Holocene state” a. “The result could be irreversible and, in some cases, abrupt environmental change might lead to a state less conducive to human development” B. Planetary Boundaries 1. Define the safe operating space for humanity with respect to Earth Systems a. We may shift Earth’s subsystems • Ex: Monsoon system may shift into a new state, disastrous for humans 2. Most of the thresholds can be defined by a critical value for one or more variables a. Climate Change (+2 Degrees C is about as much as we’re comfortable with...discussed in Paris) b. Ocean Acidification c. Stratospheric Ozone Depletion d. Disruption of Nitrogen and Phosphorus Cycle e. Global Freshwater Use f. Land use g. Biodiversity loss h. Atmospheric Aerosol Loading i. Chemical Pollution (not yet quantified) 3. Determining a safe distance involves normative judgements of how societies choose to deal with risk and uncertainty. 4. Climate Change a. 2 Degrees Celsius is the “guardrail” that most nations agree on b. As of now there are 2 “critical thresholds” • CO2 Concentrations should not exceed 350 ppm (currently avg. 401.77 and climbing every year) • Radiative forcing should not exceed 1 watt/m above pre-industrial levels 5. Reasons for Planetary Boundaries a. Current climate models do not or may significantly underestimate the severity of long term climate change. • Most account for an increase in CO2, if the amount doubles there may be an increase in anywhere from 2-4 degrees before they “level out.” • Do not account for the positive feedback loops that will continue warming the planet: such as decreased reflective ice coverage. b. Concern over stability of large polar ice sheets • Palaeoclimatic data from past 100 million years suggest that CO2 has a huge effect when it comes to long term cooling • Planet was largely ice free until CO2 fell below 450ppm (+/- 100 ppm) c. Evidence of changing Holocene subsystems • Rapid retreat of summer sea ice in the Arctic • Retreating of mountain glaciers • Shrinking Greenland and Antarctic Ice sheets • Rapid sea level rise in past 15 years 6. Rate of biodiversity loss a. Species extinction is a natural process, usually around .1-1 extinctions per million species per year b. Species extinction rate now is equal to that of a mass extinction event c. A lot attributed to land development and habitat destruction d. ~30% of all mammal, bird, and amphibian species will be threatened with extinction this century e. Setting a quantitative limit to biodiversity loss is difficult because we don’t know how much biodiversity can be lost before natural resilience is eroded. 7. Nitrogen and Phosphorus cycles a. Human processes...conver 120 million tons of Nitrogen per year from the atmosphere to reactive forms. • Manufacturing of fertilizer for food production • Cultivation of leguminous crops b. NOx are greenhouse some of the gases responsible for radiative forcing c. Marine and Lake ecosystems have been subject to shifts from excess nitrogen in the water d. Think Nitrogen should be down to about 25% of its current amount (~35 million tons) e. Phosphorus buildups are a result of mining, about 8.5-9.5 million tons end up in the ocean every year • Historically, large Phosphorus buildups have led to mass sea life extinctions • Current Phosphorus levels exceed 20% of natural weathering input II. What is Natural A. Biological Invasions 1. Huge concern for conservation a. Perception that invasive species are responsible for many of the disruptions and communities and ecosystems b. 1992 Rio Earth Summit, agreements were made to attempt to wipe out and prevent the introduction of alien species 2. Complexity of the invasion a. Not all alien/introduced species become “invaders” b. Some areas are more prone to invasion and certain species are just better invaders than others c. Sometimes it’s even unclear if a species in alien or native 3. Species are often deemed “Native” if they are currently found in areas believed be their evolutionary origin. 4. Species are often deemed “Invaders” if their introduction is the result of human action. 5. Preston et al proposed labeling long established yet non-native species as “archaeophytes” (after identifying 157 plant species in Britain that were introduced 500-4,000 years ago) 6. Human action can also create new or bigger environments, turning native plants into “invaders.” a. Reeds in the coastal wetlands of North America weren’t present in the local flora until the past several decades, a Paleoecological record showed. b. Closer examination showed the reeds were a native variety. c. They flourished as humans changed the environments and waterways. 7. Islands are highly susceptible to invasions B. Wildfires 1. Wildfires have been a natural and welcome occurrence in fire-prone ecosystems for thousands of years. a. Conservationists now worry about the changing frequency, severity, and extent of fires (as opposed to the “norm”) b. Shifts in fuel quantity and quality (results of human intervention and climate change) change the characteristics of fires. 2. Assumes the fires occurred more often and with greater severity in drier areas a.Ergo; prevailing assumption that more arid environments experienced more fires, or that the more arid the environment was, the more fires occurred b. Palaeoclimatic data of Alaskan Boreal showed more fires under wetter conditions c. Same with North American grasslands d. More fuel e. Often believed that fires degrade the environment….but high frequency low intensity fires do not burn as long or as hot and preserve forest cover C. Climate Variability 1. Conservation organizations are concerned about how the changing climate will affect biodiversity. a. Where will biota move to in response to future climate change? b. Which species and regions are most at risk from future climate change? c. Associated planning and management issues • Must ensure that reserve boundaries are allow for potential species-range shifts • Identify at-risk species and regions and protect them D. Determination of Thresholds within Natural Variability 1. Variability through time is inevitable in nature, thus conservations policies should adjust to allow variability. • What were the baseline or “reference” positions like before recent times? • What is the range of natural variability? • Under what conditions do negative impacts become apparent? • How can thresholds be determined beyond specific management plans should be implemented? 2. Case Study: Natural variability in Kruger National Park (S. Africa) determined that woody vegetation should not drop below 80% of its “highest ever level” in past 5000 years. (Less than 20% lost so no need for intervention yet) 3. Case Study: Murray R. Australia no longer supports macrophyte beds. Did before Europeans arrived. 4. Case Study: Colorado Delta System, USA paleoecological studies show up to 94% drop of shelly benthic macroinvertebrates in past 75 years. III. Avoid Arbitrary Baselines A. Spend more on Soil Clean-up in China 1. ~500 students in Changzhou China from toxic chemicals in a nearby contaminated site 2. Hundreds of thousands of chinese factories have been demolished to make way for homes and more than 30% of the land is polluted 3. In 2015 China’s remediation budget was equivalent to US 300Mil, or only .003% of their GDP B. Use Open Data to Curb Zika 1. The World Health Organization (WHO) is making an effort to promote rapid sharing of the latest research data. 2. Need raw data to be published quickly because it is essential to research C. Restoration: Avoid Arbitrary Baselines 1. Janne Kotiaho and colleagues proposed using a pre-degradation “natural state” as a baseline for assessing the impact of humans on biodiversity and ecosystem function. a. Couple problems: • It’s impossible for scientists to define a single such baseline objectively,” • Even in pre-human times nature changed dramatically. Need to set parameters for acceptable variation. D. Restoration: ‘Garden of Eden’ Unrealistic 1. Conservation tends to gravitate towards the “pre-degradation” era, or this ‘Garden of Eden’’s unrealistic • World won’t be like it was before industrialization, so ecosystems can’t. • Newly restored areas should be responsive to changing world • Need to take into account the driver's (us) and our effects as time goes. 2. Restoration efforts should focus on a trajectory towards functional, self sustaining ecosystems. IV. Constructed Nature A. What is Forest Health? 1. What is a forest? a. Utilitarian • Forest is for wood b. Silviculture: Forest Farming • Increase yield of forest. Nature is inefficient • Forest is regulated, protected, and improved (like a garden) • Human action should improve the forest • “Weed” the forest; get rid of undesirable plants and trees • Use fertilizers • Faith in technology • “How do we make trees grow more” focus on trees and not as forest as a whole • Raw nature is a poor producer of goods and services c. Commodity • Narrative: Forests are part of natural capital or “wealth of nations”, like minerals, oil, or fish, to be marshaled for development 2. Anthropocene a. Humans see forests • We like green lush forests, like our lawns • Think burned or “imperfect” forests are “wrong” B. Wildfires 1. Smokey the Bear • Prevent wildfires • Fires destroy natural resources, “shameful waste” C. “Good” vs. “Bad” 1. Game vs. Pest Species • Game: hunted for sport but can be pests to some farmers/ranchers • Pests: Compete directly with us; Cause damage to us or resources (water food, infrastructure etc.) can be plants and animals 2. Ecological element vs killer D. Weeds 1. Common pest: Choke out other plants and use up water 2. We tend to put up with flowering weeds (ex: Dandelions) because they fit in with our idea of beauty 3. Often invasive E. Wilderness 1. Wilderness 2. National Parks 3. Nature Preserves 9/08/16 Lecture 5: I. Nature’s Fragility A. Nature’s “basic operating code” 1. Is Nature inherently forgiving and stable? 2. Is Nature unbalanced and inherently unstable? 3. Can we perturb it a lot and sustain life, or only a little? B. Models of Env. and Soc. 1. There are limits pas we shouldn’t push natural systems a. We can see the limits and should strive for a sustainable development/transformation of nature. 2. Planetary Boundaries 3. Sustainable development: the forms of development and transformations that serve human needs and wants but also sustain natural systems. C. I=P*A*T 1. Impact is measured, broadly, as: a. Deterioration of the resource base b. Decline of ecosystems c. production of waste 2. Population is the number of people in a specific group (usually a country) 3. Affluence (not considered by Malthus) is measured as either: a. The level of consumption of a population b. The per capita GDP. • Goods per capita consumed divided by population • Total goods per capita produced divided by total population 4. All this translates into an Ecological footprint, Impact. a. Ecological footprint: The theoretical spatial extent of the Earth’s surface required to sustain an individual, group, system, or organization. An index of environmental impact D. Limits of Acceptable Transformation However, 1. Instead of a simple, totalizing “Carrying Capacity”, we’re seeing the emergence of multiple measurers: a. Thresholds/Boundaries we should not cross • Rates and totals of species extinction • Global warming above 2 degrees C • Ocean Acidification b. Phrases the problem as emergence of the Anthropocene • New era of instability in Earth systems • All the fault of human development. (how much have I changed just to get the laptop on which I’m typing this? Not to mention to software I’m typing on, the electricity I’m charging it with, the means by which I got to this school and the long standing school itself). 2. During the Holocene, environmental change occurred naturally, Earth’s regulatory capacity maintained conditions. a. Earth systems exhibit thresholds, beyond which systems may flip to new, undesirable, unstable states. b. We should be able to set boundaries, track changes, and change directions before reaching them c. Except we’re already there in: • Climate Change • Species loss • Nitrogen levels 3. Is this just Neo-Malthusianism? 4. Who sets the boundaries, who is affected? II. Human Transformations of the Earth A. Earth Systems/ Processes Affected 1. Landforms (Solid Earth) a. Geomorphology: Shape of terrain b. Erosion: Soil formation and movement 2. Land Cover: The main, visible material stuff on the surface, usually simply crops, forests, shrubs, bare soils, water, etc. a. Refers to dominant cover 3. Biosphere a. Biodiversity b. Ecological communities • Composition • Species population c. Atmosphere, weather, climate d. Biogeochemical Cycles a. Carbon, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Hydrological Cycles b. Radiation Balance (Nuclear bombs, reactors, and mining) B. Transformation 1. State: The state of a system at this moment 2. Composition: Detailed description of the system elements: a. Species mix b. Land cover c. Use types d. Atmospheric composition 3. Fluxes: Transfers of energy and mass a. Sinks v. Source 4. Storage: Amount of energy or mass at site (ex. Amount of water in a reservoir) 5. Purposeful v. Inadvertent a. Purposeful: Changes made with the goal of that change to accomplish a social goal b. Inadvertent: Any outcomes other than the explicitly stated or known ones. C. Baselines 1. Natural 2. Background 3. Reference Site 4. Target


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