Humans and the Biosphere

The biosphere includes all parts of the Earth that are occupied by living organisms including the plants, animals, bacteria along with the water and soil they live in.

Living organisms provide humans with many of the goods they need to survive including:

  • food
  • medicine
  • building materials
  • fuel

Most humans get their food from the biosphere indirectly, from farmed vegetables, livestock, fruit and cereals. Some people get food directly from the biosphere e.g. picking fruit, fishing and hunting and trapping animals. Fish can also be farmed in tanks or pens.

Many plants have medicinal qualities, that keep people healthy and cure illnesses. Over 7000 drugs have been created using plant species in the tropical rainforest.

Building Materials
Humans use natural resources such as timber from trees and clay from the ground in construction.

Many people around the world rely on plants and animals for fuel for heating and cooking. Wood and dried animal dung can be burnt as fuel. Fat from animals, such as seal blubber, is used for oil lamps. Fossil fuels are also extracted from parts of the biosphere.

Human Exploitation of the Biosphere

The biosphere is exploited by companies for economic gain. Improving technology and increasing demand is increasing the scale of biosphere exploitation.

Demand for energy resources is increasing with population growth and increased wealth. Large swathes of forest have been cut down to grow crops that can be used to make biofuels, flooded by large-scale hydroelectric power schemes and mined for coal.

Oil exploitation in tundra areas such as Northern Alaska is damaging the biosphere as pipelines affect the permafrost.

Fracking is increasingly being explored which can result in pollution and contamination of groundwater supplies.

Increasing population growth is leading to over-extraction of water from lakes, rivers and aquifers for washing, irrigation and drinking. The biosphere is affected because plants and animals do not have enough water to survive.

Minerals such as gold and iron are used in building and manufacturing electrical appliances such as mobile phones. These minerals are extracted by mining. Mining in tropical rainforests leads to deforestation and toxic chemicals are washed into streams and rivers killing wildlife.

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