Humans in the Biosphere

When people ask me which chapter in this book is most important, I point to this one. Why? Because our understanding of interactions between humans and the biosphere is growing by leaps and bounds. And because human activity is now generally recognized as the single most powerful force for change on Earth. As a result, many researchers argue that we are living in a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene. That approach fits right in with the movement to re-categorize many parts of our planet as anthromes – environments that reflect some degree of human influence from agriculture, urbanization, forestry, and other uses.

In addition, both researchers and educators are now looking at the combined effects of multiple anthropogenic (human-caused) changes in the biosphere, rather than focusing on a single factor, such as climate change. Different authors list different numbers of drivers of global change, and the relative importance of different factors varies from ecosystem to ecosystem. You can find a comprehensive list HERE, and a more manageable list for selected terrestrial ecosystems and an introduction to climate change HERE, followed by discussion of land use change, nitrogen deposition, and introduced/invasive species, and increased CO2 (effects other than global warming). Be certain to check out our user-friendly lesson plans about these subjects.

And, whenever thinking or talking about climate change, be certain to revisit and emphasize the differences between weather and climate!