People and Planet - Who Me?

Who me?  Yes, YOU!!  (and me and many, many others as well!)

Human activities, including some things that you probably do, can contribute to the frequency and intensity of natural hazards.

Although mining provides people with many needed resources, the environmental costs can be high. Surface mining clears the landscape of trees and soil, and nearby streams and lakes are inundated with sediment. This can cause landslides and flooding.

Pollutants from the mined rock, such as heavy metals, enter the sediment and water system. Acids flow from some mine sites, changing the composition of nearby waterways.

  • Surface mining clears the land, completely destroying the ecosystems that were found there.
  • Mining releases pollutants, which affect the immediate area and may travel downstream or downwind to cause problems elsewhere.
  • Reclamation occurs when people attempt to return the mined land to its original

Logging removes trees that protect the ground from soil erosion. The tree roots hold the soil together and the tree canopy protects the soil from hard falling rain. Logging results in the loss of leaf litter, or dead leaves, bark, and branches on the forest floor. Leaf litter plays an important role in protecting forest soils from erosion and flooding.

Logging exposes large areas of land to erosion.

Much of the world’s original forests have been logged. Many of the tropical forests that remain are currently the site of logging because North America and Europe have already harvested many of their trees. Soils eroded from logged forests clog rivers and lakes, fill estuaries, and bury coral reefs. Deforested swatches in Brazil show up as gray amid the bright red tropical rainforest.

Constructing buildings and roads churns up the ground and exposes soil to erosion. In some locations, native landscapes, such as forest and grassland, are cleared, exposing the surface to erosion (in some locations the land that will be built on is farmland). Near construction sites, dirt, picked up by the wind, is often in the air. Completed construction can also contribute to erosion

Urban areas and parking lots result in less water entering the ground. Water runs off the parking lot onto nearby lands and speeds up erosion in those areas.

Recreational activities may accelerate soil erosion. Off-road vehicles disturb the landscape and the area eventually develops bare spots where no plants can grow. In some delicate habitats, even hikers' boots can disturb the ground, so it’s important to stay on the trail

(a) ATV'S churn up the soil, accelerating erosion. (b) Hiking trails may become eroded. Soil erosion is as natural as any other type of erosion, but human activities have greatly accelerated soil erosion. In some locations soil erosion may occur about 10 times faster than its natural rate. Since Europeans settled in North America, about one-third of the topsoil in the area that is now the United States has eroded away.

Source: Open Education Group Textbooks - Earth Science