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The sum of all external factors, both biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving), to which an organism is exposed. Biotic factors include influences by members of the same and other species on the development and survival of the individual. Primary abiotic factors are light, temperature, water, atmospheric gases, and ionizing radiation, influencing the form and function of the individual.
For each environmental factor, an organism has a tolerance range, in which it is able to survive. The intercept of these ranges constitutes the ecological niche of the organism. Different individuals or species have different tolerance ranges for particular environmental factors—this variation represents the adaptation of the organism to its environment. The ability of an organism to modify its tolerance of certain environmental factors in response to a change in them represents the plasticity of that organism. Alterations in environmental tolerance are termed acclimation. Exposure to environmental conditions at the limit of an individual's tolerance range represents environmental stress. See Adaptation (biology), Ecology, Physiological ecology (animal), Physiological ecology (plant)
environmentthe surroundings, or context, within which humans, animals or objects exist or act. The term's meaning is therefore wide, and is understood more precisely only within the context in which it is itself used.
Specifically, ‘environment’ is taken to mean, in association with ‘learning’ and ‘experience’, the sum of outside influences on the organism, and is to be distinguished from the inherited potential which is also influential in development and behaviour (see NATURE–NURTURE DEBATE).
A quite distinct usage is in relation to the natural world system, which is currently seen as fragile and threatened by the human technology developed since the Industrial Revolution, and the escalation of population which has resulted from it. This is a prime concern of the GREEN MOVEMENT and ECOLOGY generally.
These two usages by no means cover the many and various ways in which the term environment’ can be used, but serve to illustrate the diversity of possible uses. see also SYSTEMS THEORY.
the medium in which man lives and works. As a rule, the term “environment” refers to the natural surroundings, and this is the sense in which it is used in international agreements, including those between members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. The concept of environment frequently includes man-made elements, such as dwellings and industrial enterprises. Man’s natural area of distribution as a biological species is determined by natural conditions, but the development of social production and technology has expanded man’s sphere of activity so greatly that it now engulfs virtually the entire geographic shell. Human society has radically changed the environment in the process of economic development.
Man’s influence on the environment is becoming increasingly perceptible, and it has intensified particularly during the modern scientific and technological revolution. All natural components of the environment have undergone some change. Man has domesticated many animal species and has developed cultivated plants; at the same time, he has exterminated many wild animals, including dozens of species of mammals and birds, and has destroyed whole biocenoses. Today, there are 50 percent fewer forests than in Neolithic times. Natural vegetation has been replaced by cultivated land, and secondary forests and savannas, brush thickets, heaths, and meadows have arisen. The face of the earth has also been greatly changed by man-made structures, such as structures regulating river systems, canals, and reservoirs. Enormous masses of rock are moved each year in the course of construction work and mining.
Man has increased the natural productivity of many landscapes; there is cultivation on land improved through drainage, irrigation and shelterbelts and on land reclaimed from the sea (for example, the polders in the Netherlands). However, human interference in the regulation of natural processes does not always produce the desired beneficial results owing to the difficulty of predicting the long-term consequences. Disruption of just one of the natural components leads to a restructuring of natural territorial complexes. Thus, cutting down forests, plowing up soils, and overgrazing pastures damage the soil cover, alter the water balance, and lead to erosion, the formation of dust storms, encroachment of sand, and formation of marshes.
Progress—the intensive development of certain major branches of the power and manufacturing industries (oil refining, nuclear power, chemical industry, nonferrous metallurgy), the use of chemicals in agriculture, and the growth of motor-vehicle, water, and air transportation—poses a serious threat to the environment unless protective measures are taken. Pollution of soil, water, and air is a direct consequence of heedless change. The rate at which the world ocean is being polluted, especially by petroleum products, has increased; it is estimated that 10 million tons of these products enter the oceans each year. Petroleum products form a film on the water surface that impedes gas and water exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere, thus creating extremely unfavorable conditions for the development of marine organisms. Each year industrial enterprises and various forms of transport release into the atmosphere about 1 billion tons of aerosols and gases, including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides, and approximately the same amount of soot; more than 500 billion tons of industrial and domestic waste pours into bodies of water. In large industrial centers in capitalist countries the amount of toxic impurities in the air exceeds maximum permissible concentrations, which frequently leads to dangerous illnesses among the population. Toxic impurities from the air and bodies of water are drawn into the planetary hydrologic cycle, carried great distances by air currents, enter the soil, and become concentrated in plants, from which they enter the bodies of animals and humans.
The energy effect is an important consequence of technology’s influence on the environment. With 7 billion tons of standard fuel being burned each year, more than 12.5 × 1016 kilojoules (3 × 1016 kilocalories) of heat is evolved. Moreover, when the fuel is burned, more than 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide enter the atmosphere annually, and the growing concentration of this gas increases the possibility of the air and the surface of the earth overheating owing to the greenhouse effect.
By adversely affecting ecological conditions, pollution promotes the development of an ecological crisis, which is particularly critical in some cities and industrial regions in the United States, Japan, the Federal Republic of Germany, and other capitalist countries. Many capitalist countries have been forced to take steps to protect the environment, but the effectiveness of these measures is limited by private ownership of land and the means of production and resistance by the monopolies. The USSR and other socialist countries have introduced planned measures for the protection of nature and the efficient use of natural resources.
Optimization of interaction between the environment and man not only provides for environmental protection and the efficient use of natural resources but also provides for fundamental changes in the environment based on new, waste-free, technology and new forms of energy. Making this a reality requires comprehensive study of the environmental changes wrought by technology, investigation of the degree of stability of natural landscapes in relation to human influence, evaluation of the capability of landscapes for self-regulation and restoration, and the capability of predicting possible changes in landscape.
Urbanization also affects human health. Along with a significant improvement in hygienic conditions and a reduction in infectious diseases, new disease-causing factors have arisen. At present, measures to protect the air, natural waters, and other elements of the environment carried out within an individual country alone are no longer adequate. The appeal To the World’s Peoples, which was adopted at the joint ceremonial meeting of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR on Dec. 22, 1972, on the 50th anniversary of the formation of the USSR, emphasizes the necessity of uniting and activating the efforts of all peoples of the world to preserve and restore man’s environment.
A. G. ISACHENKO
in biology, the sum total of abiotic (inorganic) and biotic (organic) conditions that make up the habitat of one or more species of animal, plant, or microorganism.
Abiotic factors of the environment include both chemical and physical (or climatic) factors. Chemical factors include the chemical composition of the air, for example, its content of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and injurious contaminants, and the composition of seawater, fresh water, bottomset beds, and soil. Physical factors include temperature, barometric pressure, prevailing winds, air and water currents, and background radiation. The abundance and distribution of organisms within their home range often depend entirely on abiotic environmental factors that are necessary for existence but are present in minimal quantities, such as water in a desert.
Biotic environmental factors are the sum total of the influences exerted by certain organisms on other organisms. Organisms may serve as a habitat or a source of food, for example, a host’s body is the habitat for a parasite. Some organisms may promote reproduction in others, as exemplified by the pollination of flowers by insects. The scattering of seeds by animals may serve as a means of colonization for other organisms. The effects of biotic environmental factors are manifested by the type of reciprocal influences that exist between organisms making up the interdependent links of a single biocenosis.
O. M. BENIUMOV
the social, material, and nonmaterial conditions of man’s existence, development, and activity. In the broad sense (the macroenvironment), the environment encompasses the socioeconomic system as a whole—the productive forces, aggregate of social relationships and institutions, social consciousness, and culture of a given society. In the narrow sense (the microenvironment), as an element of the total environment, it includes an individual’s immediate surroundings—his family and work, school, and other associations.
The environment has a decisive influence on the formation and development of personality. At the same time, man’s creative activities alter and transform the environment, and in the process of these transformations man himself changes.
environment[in′vī·ərn·mənt or in′vī·rən·ment]
environmentA particular configuration of hardware or software. "The environment" refers to a hardware platform and the operating system that is used in it. A programming environment would include the compiler and associated development tools.
Environment is used in other ways to express a type of configuration, such as a networking environment, database environment, transaction processing environment, batch environment, interactive environment and so on. See platform.