What is ecological impact? Definition and examples

Ecological impact is the effect that something has on living beings, i.e., organisms, and their non-living environment. The term may refer to either the impact of human activities or natural events. When we study the ecological impact of something, we call it an Ecological Impact Assessment or EcIA.

People assess the ecological impact of for example a volcanic eruption or a development proposal. In other words, we assess the impact of both natural events and human activities.

The OECD has the following definition of the term:

“Ecological impact is the effect of human activities and natural events on living organisms and their non—living environment.”

The OECD, or Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, is an intergovernmental economic organization with 37-member nations. It aims to stimulate world trade and economic progress.

Even businesses today are adopting a management philosophy in which they aim to be profitable but with a lower ecological impact. We call that philosophy ‘eco-efficiency.’

Do not confuse the term with ‘ecological load.’ Ecological load refers to the demands and stresses that living organisms place on ecosystems. Humans, for example, demand food and water. Pollution is an example of stress.

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Ecological indicators

Ecological indicators can give us an idea of the extent of our ecological impact.

An ecological indicator is an organism that gives us important data on our ecosystem. Some, for example, can warn about air pollution while others give us data on an ecosystem’s biodiversity.

Ecological Impact Assessment

Ecological Impact Assessment or EcIA is a process for identifying, evaluating, and quantifying the potential ecological impacts of defined actions. Specifically, their impact on ecosystems or their components.

EcIA is also a process for providing a scientifically defensible approach to the management of ecosystems.

Ecological experts implement EcIA each time they describe ecological features and assess their likely future condition.

The main purpose of an ecological impact assessment is to provide reliable information regarding the ecological implications of any policy or project. This includes any impact from a project’s inception, operation, and where appropriate, decommissioning.

However, there are many different interpretations of EcIA and what it involves. Therefore, ecological practitioners often spend too long discussing the merits of different methods. They do this at the cost of developing optimum ecological outcomes.

Regarding this problem, the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand Inc. wrote:

“There are concerns that inconsistency across the profession leads to inappropriate decision-making and, as a consequence, poor biodiversity protection, and management.”

Ecological impact of explosives

The ecological impact of explosives are the effects that explosive have on the environment. The assessments cover the impacts of both unexploded explosives and post-explosion by by-products.

Contaminants from explosives can harm the environment as well as our health.

Humans have been using explosives for hundreds of years. We have used them in construction, demolition, mining, and warfare.

A significant proportion of water pollution comes from the explosives we make. Water pollution includes the contamination of lakes, groundwater, rivers, oceans and aquifers.

Ecological impact – secondary explosives

Of greatest concerns are secondary explosives. They have the greatest ecological impact because we have used them in the largest quantities. RDX, TNT, and HMX, for example, are secondary explosives.

Secondary explosives are not as sensitive as primary explosives. Primary explosives are very sensitive to heat, friction, impact, electromagnetic radiation, or static electricity.

To initiate secondary explosives, we need considerably more energy than with primary explosives.

As they are less sensitive, we can use secondary explosives in a wider variety of applications. They are safer to handle and store than primary explosives.

In their production, handling, loading, and disposal process, we unintentionally release explosives into the environment.

Soil and groundwater contamination

Since the second half of the nineteenth century, humans have produced millions of tons of explosives that have led to the accidental contamination of the soil and groundwater.

In the United States, for example, more than 1.2 million tons of soils have been contaminated with explosives in training grounds alone.

Wikipedia says the following regarding the ecological impact of explosives:

“Generally, explosives are dispersed mainly when used in combat. Most explosives are used as warfare agents by militaries globally. However, modern uses for 2,4,6-trinotrotoluene (TNT) are associated with construction and demolition, rather than combat.”

Because it is a common explosive in the demolition and construction industry, TNT has become the most widespread explosive. Therefore, its toxicity is the one we report on the most.

TNT soil contamination can reach 50 g kg-1 of soil. The highest concentrations are on or near the soil’s surface.

The EPA has declared the removal of TNT, a pollutant, as a priority. The EPA stands for the (United States) Environmental Protection Agency.

TNT levels in soil should never exceed 0.01 milligrams per liter of water and 17.2 gram per kg of soil.