If you see 2018, 2019 and 2020 UPSC Prelims Examination question paper, you will find that UPSC is now asking around 20-30 Questions from Environment section. Whatever notes and content is available in the market is static and the nature of questions is very dynamic. One cannot find the source anywhere, hence it is highly important that we work on the basics and crystal-clear conceptual clarity in order to clear UPSC Civil Services Prelims Examination 2021.
The students who are writing UPSC Mains Examination are also the aspirants who want to study for Indian Forest Services (IFoS) and given the current state of Environment, it is important that we are sensitive towards our mother nature.
All such questions require conceptual clarity to answer and application of whatever you have read in the past 1 year.
You cannot learn everything. Hence, here AspireIAS will help you through its innovative mode of learning.
You will also get the structure for every topic so that you know what to study and where do the questions come from. For example
For Good Morning Times of Environment : click the following link
For Sanjeevani Notes of Environment : click here
Following are the questions of Environment section of UPSC Prelims Examination.
Q. Consider the following statements: (2019 Prelims)
Which one of the statement given above is/are correct?
Q. In the context of which of the following do some scientists suggest the use of cirrus cloud thinning technique and the injection of sulphate aerosol into stratosphere?
Q. Which of the following are the reasons/factors for exposure to benzene pollution? (2020)
Select the correct answer using the code given below :
The term "environment" refers to the surroundings or conditions in which an organism, person, or community exists. It encompasses both the physical and biological factors that make up the external surroundings of a living entity. The environment includes everything around us, from the air we breathe and the water we drink to the soil beneath our feet and the living organisms that share the same space.
In a broader sense, the environment is not just a physical space but also the sum of all external factors, influences, and conditions that can affect the growth, development, and well-being of living organisms. This includes natural elements like climate, topography, and ecosystems, as well as human-made elements such as buildings, roads, and other aspects of the built environment.
Understanding and managing the environment is crucial for maintaining ecological balance, supporting biodiversity, and ensuring the sustainability of ecosystems. The study of the environment involves various disciplines, including ecology, environmental science, geography, and other related fields. It plays a central role in addressing issues such as climate change, pollution, habitat loss, and other challenges that impact the health of our planet and all the life it supports.
Physical Environment: This includes non-living elements such as climate, weather, topography, soil, and water bodies. Physical factors like temperature, humidity, wind, and sunlight play a crucial role in shaping the environment.
Chemical Environment: The composition and characteristics of air, water, and soil, including elements and compounds present, contribute to the chemical aspect of the environment. Pollution, for example, is a result of changes in the chemical composition of these elements.
Living Organisms: This includes all living things, such as plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms. The interactions among these organisms, including predation, competition, and symbiosis, significantly impact the environment.
Human Influence: Human activities, including industrialization, urbanization, agriculture, and resource extraction, have a profound impact on the environment. Human actions can lead to habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change.
The study of the environment is multidisciplinary, involving fields such as ecology, geography, geology, atmospheric science, biology, and sociology. Understanding the components of the environment and their interactions is crucial for addressing environmental issues and promoting sustainable practices.
The importance of environmental science lies in its role in understanding, analyzing, and addressing the complex interactions between the environment and human activities. Here are key points highlighting its significance:
Environmental science contributes to the development and promotion of sustainable practices, ensuring that present and future generations can meet their needs without depleting natural resources.
It provides a framework for identifying and solving environmental problems, including issues such as pollution, habitat loss, deforestation, and climate change.
Environmental science helps in the sustainable management of natural resources, ensuring their responsible use and preventing overexploitation.
The discipline plays a crucial role in understanding and conserving biodiversity, preserving the variety of life on Earth and maintaining healthy ecosystems.
By studying the impact of environmental factors on human health, environmental science contributes to the development of policies and practices that promote public health and well-being.
Environmental science is instrumental in studying climate change and developing strategies to mitigate its impact. This includes efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to changing environmental conditions.
It provides the scientific foundation for the development of environmental policies and regulations at local, national, and international levels.
Environmental science integrates knowledge from various disciplines such as biology, chemistry, physics, geology, and sociology, fostering a holistic understanding of environmental issues.
The discipline contributes to environmental education, raising awareness about the importance of conservation and sustainable practices among the general public.
Environmental science emphasizes the interconnectedness of global ecosystems, fostering a global perspective in addressing environmental challenges that often transcend national boundaries.
The biosphere encompasses the sum of all ecosystems on Earth, where living organisms interact with the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere. It includes the entire global ecosystem, from the depths of the oceans to the highest mountains, supporting a vast array of life.
The biosphere's organizational structure consists of ecosystems, communities, populations, and individual organisms. Ecosystems are comprised of various communities, each housing diverse populations of species adapted to specific environmental conditions.
The biosphere is vital for maintaining life as we know it. It regulates climate, cycles nutrients, purifies air and water, and provides habitats for countless species. Human well-being is intricately linked to the health and balance of the biosphere.
A biome is a large geographic biotic unit, characterized by distinct climate, vegetation, and wildlife. It represents a collection of ecosystems sharing similar environmental conditions.
Biomes include tropical rainforests, deserts, tundras, grasslands, and more. Each biome has unique flora and fauna adapted to its specific climate, forming essential components of the global biosphere and contributing to its ecological diversity. Understanding and preserving these biomes are critical for sustaining life on Earth.
Natural ecosystems exist without significant human intervention or influence. They develop and evolve based on natural processes and interactions. Examples include forests, deserts, grasslands, oceans, and wetlands. Natural ecosystems have a complex web of relationships between biotic and abiotic components, contributing to biodiversity and ecological balance.
Also known as man-made or anthropogenic ecosystems, artificial ecosystems are intentionally created or significantly influenced by human activities. Examples include urban areas, agricultural fields, and managed forests. While they often incorporate both native and non-native species, artificial ecosystems may lack the complexity and ecological balance of natural counterparts. Human interventions, such as landscaping and cultivation, play a central role in shaping the structure and function of artificial ecosystems.
Ecology is the scientific study of the relationships between living organisms and their environment. It examines the interactions and interdependencies among organisms, as well as their relationships with the physical and chemical factors in their surroundings. Ecology encompasses various levels of organization, from individual organisms to entire ecosystems, and plays a crucial role in understanding the dynamics of life on Earth.
The smallest unit of ecological study, focusing on the physiology, behavior, and adaptations of a single organism to its environment.
A group of individuals of the same species occupying a specific area and capable of interbreeding. Population ecology explores factors influencing population size, density, and dynamics.
All the populations of different species living and interacting in a particular area. Community ecology examines the relationships, such as predation and competition, among these populations.
A community of organisms and the physical environment they inhabit. Ecosystem ecology studies the flow of energy and cycling of nutrients within these systems.
A large-scale geographic area characterized by specific climate, vegetation, and wildlife. Biomes consist of multiple ecosystems and play a role in shaping regional biodiversity.
The entire portion of Earth inhabited by life, including all ecosystems and their interactions. The biosphere integrates the study of living organisms with their physical environment on a global scale.
Living organisms are interconnected and depend on each other for resources, energy, and survival. Changes in one population or species can have cascading effects throughout an ecosystem.
Energy flows through ecosystems in a unidirectional manner, typically from the sun to producers (plants) and then through a series of consumers and decomposers. The flow of energy is essential for sustaining life within an ecosystem.
Nutrients, such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus, cycle through ecosystems. Decomposers play a crucial role in breaking down organic matter, returning essential nutrients to the soil for reuse by plants.
Organisms evolve and adapt to their environment over time. Natural selection and evolutionary processes shape the characteristics and behaviors of populations, allowing them to thrive in specific ecological niches.
Ecological succession involves the gradual and predictable changes in the composition of species and ecosystems over time. Primary succession occurs in newly formed habitats, while secondary succession follows disturbances.
Understanding these principles and levels of organization is fundamental to comprehending the complexities of ecological systems and informing conservation and management strategies for sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem health.
An ecotone is a transitional area where two or more distinct ecosystems or ecological communities meet and interact. Ecotones are characterized by a mix of species from adjacent ecosystems and often exhibit unique ecological dynamics. The environmental conditions in ecotones may vary, creating a diverse and dynamic space that supports species adapted to both ecosystems. The boundaries between forests and grasslands or between aquatic and terrestrial environments are examples of ecotones. These transition zones are ecologically significant as they can harbor a greater diversity of species and play a role in the movement and adaptation of organisms between different habitats.
An ecological niche refers to the role and position of a species or population within an ecosystem, including how it obtains and utilizes resources and how it interacts with other organisms. It encompasses the species' habitat, its feeding habits, reproductive behavior, and its response to environmental factors. Each species has a unique ecological niche that defines its functional role in the ecosystem. The concept of the ecological niche helps explain how different species coexist by minimizing competition for resources. Species may occupy different niches within the same habitat, reducing direct competition and promoting biodiversity. Understanding the ecological niche of a species is crucial for comprehending its ecological function and its contribution to the overall balance of an ecosystem.
The functions of an ecosystem are diverse and essential for maintaining ecological balance and sustaining life on Earth. These functions are interconnected and contribute to the overall health and stability of the environment. Here are some key functions of ecosystems:
Ecosystems facilitate various interactions among living organisms, including predation, competition, and mutualism. These interactions influence population dynamics, species diversity, and the overall structure of the ecosystem.
Ecosystems play a crucial role in cycling essential nutrients, such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus, between living organisms and the environment. Decomposers break down organic matter, releasing nutrients back into the soil for reuse by plants.
Ecosystems enable the flow of energy through food chains and food webs. Producers (plants) capture sunlight and convert it into chemical energy, which is then transferred through consumers and decomposers, sustaining life within the system.
Vegetation in ecosystems, especially forests, helps regulate climate by influencing temperature, precipitation, and atmospheric composition. Forests, for example, absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, impacting global climate patterns.
Ecosystems provide habitats for a wide variety of species. Biodiversity within ecosystems contributes to the resilience and adaptability of life, enhancing the ecosystem's ability to withstand environmental changes.
Wetland ecosystems and forests act as natural filters, purifying water by trapping sediments and removing pollutants. This function is crucial for maintaining water quality and supporting aquatic life.
Ecosystems contribute to soil formation through the accumulation of organic matter and the breakdown of rocks. Vegetation helps prevent soil erosion by stabilizing the soil with roots and reducing the impact of rainfall.
Ecosystems, particularly those with flowering plants, support pollination by providing habitats for pollinators like bees and butterflies. This process is vital for the reproduction of many plant species.
Ecosystems offer cultural and recreational benefits to human societies. They provide aesthetic value, recreational spaces, and opportunities for education and inspiration.
Natural predators within ecosystems help control the populations of pests and diseases. This ecological balance minimizes the need for extensive pesticide use in agriculture.
Unique ecosystems refer to distinct and specialized habitats characterized by specific environmental conditions, often hosting rare, endemic, or specially adapted species. These ecosystems may occur in diverse forms, including but not limited to
Human Activities: Urbanization, agriculture, and industrialization can lead to habitat destruction, pollution, and fragmentation, impacting unique ecosystems.
Climate Change: Altered temperature and precipitation patterns can disrupt the delicate balance of unique ecosystems.
Biodiversity Loss: Destruction of unique ecosystems results in the extinction or decline of specialized species.
Ecosystem Disruption: Degradation can disrupt intricate ecological interactions, leading to imbalances in nutrient cycling and energy flow.
Protected Areas: Establishing and maintaining protected areas can safeguard unique ecosystems from direct human interference.
Restoration Projects: Implementing restoration initiatives helps rehabilitate degraded ecosystems, reintroducing native species and rebuilding ecological processes.
Sustainable Practices: Promoting sustainable land use, fishing, and logging practices minimizes the impact on unique ecosystems.
Community Involvement: Engaging local communities in conservation efforts fosters a sense of responsibility and ensures sustainable management practices.
Lack of Awareness: Insufficient understanding of the value of unique ecosystems can hinder conservation efforts.
Resource Pressures: Competing interests for resources may pose challenges to sustainable management practices.
Biodiversity Conservation: Well-managed unique ecosystems contribute to the preservation of diverse plant and animal species.
Ecological Resilience: Proper management enhances the resilience of unique ecosystems, allowing them to adapt to changing environmental conditions.
Adaptation Strategies: Implementing adaptive management strategies helps unique ecosystems cope with ongoing environmental changes.
Education and Advocacy: Raising awareness and advocating for the protection of unique ecosystems are essential for long-term sustainability.
Biodiversity encompasses three main levels: genetic diversity (variability within species), species diversity (variety of species in an ecosystem), and ecosystem diversity (variety of ecosystems on Earth). It provides numerous ecosystem services, including pollination, water purification, and climate regulation. Threats to biodiversity include habitat loss, pollution, overexploitation, and climate change. Conservation efforts involve protected areas, sustainable resource management, and international cooperation to preserve the intricate web of life on Earth.
Biodiversity is crucial for the health and functioning of ecosystems and provides a wide range of benefits to human societies. It contributes to ecosystem services such as pollination, water purification, and climate regulation. Biodiversity also supports agriculture, medicine, and various industries. Additionally, diverse ecosystems are more resilient to environmental changes, enhancing their ability to adapt and recover.
Biodiversity can be measured using various indices, including species richness, species evenness, and the Shannon-Wiener index. These methods provide quantitative measures of the diversity within a given area.
The loss of biodiversity, often referred to as the sixth mass extinction, is a global concern. Human activities, habitat destruction, pollution, climate change, overexploitation of resources, and invasive species are major contributors to this loss. The decline of biodiversity poses risks to ecosystems and human well-being.
The Western Ghats and Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot in India is recognized for its high levels of endemism and species richness. It faces threats from habitat loss, logging, and agricultural expansion.
Objectives include preserving genetic diversity, maintaining ecological balance, and ensuring sustainable resource use. Advantages encompass the provision of ecosystem services, potential scientific discoveries, and cultural and aesthetic value.
Ex situ conservation involves preserving species outside their natural habitat, often in zoos, botanical gardens, or seed banks. This is a safeguard against extinction and aids in research and education.
In situ conservation involves the protection and management of species within their natural habitats. This approach emphasizes maintaining the integrity of ecosystems and supporting natural ecological processes.
Agrobiodiversity conservation focuses on preserving the diversity of crops and livestock within agricultural systems. It ensures the availability of diverse and resilient food sources.
Biosphere Reserves are protected areas that conserve biological diversity while promoting sustainable development. They typically include core zones, buffer zones, and transition zones, emphasizing the integration of conservation and human activities.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is an international treaty aimed at conserving biodiversity, promoting sustainable use, and ensuring fair and equitable benefit-sharing. It provides a framework for biodiversity conservation at the global level.
Numerous conservation projects worldwide focus on saving threatened species. These projects involve habitat restoration, captive breeding programs, and community engagement to address the root causes of endangerment and promote conservation awareness.
Environmental pollution involves the introduction of harmful substances into the environment, affecting air, water, and soil. Air pollution results from emissions of pollutants like particulate matter and greenhouse gases. Water pollution includes contamination by industrial discharges, agricultural runoff, and plastic waste. Soil pollution stems from chemical pollutants and improper waste disposal. Pollution control employs measures such as emissions standards, waste treatment, and the promotion of cleaner technologies to mitigate environmental impacts.
Gaseous Pollutants: Such as carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
Particulate Matter: Tiny particles suspended in the air, including PM2.5 and PM10.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): Organic chemicals that can vaporize into the air.
Industrial emissions, vehicular exhaust, agricultural activities, burning of fossil fuels, and deforestation contribute to air pollution.
Chemical Pollution: Contamination by industrial chemicals, heavy metals, and pesticides.
Nutrient Pollution: Excessive levels of nutrients, often from agricultural runoff, leading to issues like algal blooms.
Microbial Pollution: Presence of harmful microorganisms, causing waterborne diseases.
Discharge of industrial effluents, untreated sewage, agricultural runoff, and oil spills contribute to water pollution
Solid Waste: Non-liquid, non-soluble materials, including household waste and industrial debris.
Liquid Waste: Wastewater from households, industries, and agriculture.
Hazardous Waste: Potentially harmful materials requiring special disposal methods.
Improper disposal of household waste, industrial discharges, and inadequate waste treatment contribute to waste-related pollution.
Air pollution occurs when the air contains pollutants in concentrations that can harm living organisms and the environment. Major contributors include:
Factories and manufacturing processes release pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter.
Vehicle emissions, including those from cars, trucks, and airplanes, release pollutants such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.
Combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas for energy production releases pollutants, including greenhouse gases and particulate matter.
The use of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture can release ammonia and chemical pollutants into the air.
Water pollution occurs when contaminants enter water bodies, leading to adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems and human health. Common sources include:
Factories and industries release pollutants such as heavy metals, chemicals, and toxins into rivers and lakes.
The use of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture can result in runoff, carrying nutrients and chemicals into water bodies.
Improperly treated or untreated sewage and wastewater discharge can introduce harmful microorganisms and pollutants into water systems.
Accidental or deliberate release of oil into oceans and water bodies can have severe ecological consequences.
Effective waste management is crucial to prevent pollution from improper disposal. Key aspects include:
Encouraging practices that reduce the generation of waste, promote reuse of materials, and facilitate recycling.
Establishing proper waste disposal methods, including landfill management, incineration, and recycling facilities.
Ensuring safe disposal and management of hazardous waste to prevent contamination of soil and water.
Addressing environment pollution requires a combination of regulatory measures, technological advancements, and public awareness to promote sustainable practices and minimize the impact on the environment.
Climate change is primarily driven by human activities, including the combustion of fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial processes, leading to an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. Associated issues include rising global temperatures, more frequent and intense extreme weather events, sea-level rise, and disruptions to ecosystems. Mitigation strategies involve transitioning to renewable energy sources, reforestation, and international agreements like the Paris Agreement. Adaptation efforts focus on building resilience to climate impacts.
Environmental degradation results from human activities that degrade the quality and functioning of ecosystems. Deforestation, soil erosion, habitat destruction, and pollution contribute to degradation. Sustainable land management practices, conservation initiatives, and restoration projects are crucial for mitigating degradation and promoting ecosystem health.
Mining activities can have severe environmental consequences, including deforestation, habitat destruction, soil erosion, and water pollution. Open-pit mining and extraction of minerals can lead to the release of toxic substances into the environment. Sustainable mining practices involve minimizing environmental impacts through responsible extraction, reclamation of mined areas, and the implementation of environmental regulations.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a systematic process that evaluates the potential environmental effects of proposed projects before they are approved. It includes the identification, prediction, and assessment of potential impacts, as well as the development of mitigation measures. EIAs involve public participation to ensure transparency and address concerns. The process helps decision-makers consider environmental factors in project planning, promoting sustainable development.
National legislation establishes the legal framework for environmental governance, regulating activities that impact the environment. It includes laws related to air and water quality, biodiversity conservation, waste management, and land use. Effective environmental governance requires enforcement mechanisms, monitoring, public participation, and collaboration between government agencies and non-governmental organizations to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.
International conventions are agreements between countries to address global environmental challenges. The Paris Agreement aims to limit global temperature rise, while the Convention on Biological Diversity focuses on preserving biodiversity. These conventions provide a platform for nations to coordinate efforts, set targets, and share information to tackle transboundary environmental issues. International cooperation is crucial for addressing challenges that extend beyond national borders, such as climate change and the loss of biodiversity.
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