This and the companion volume, Man's Impact on the Climate, reproduce, supplement, and complement material found in the SCEP report and will serve as useful reference works for researchers and students in the many disciplines involved in solving the serious problems of environmental pollution.
Theories and speculations about the effects of environmental pollution warn of both imminent and potential global catastrophes from—among other things—the build up of CO2 from fossil-fuel combustion, the accumulation of DDT in both animals and humans, and the systematic release of such toxic materials as heavy metals, oil, and radioactive substances. The thirty-three chapters in this book are devoted to the subject of the impact of man's activities on terrestrial and oceanic ecosystems.
Part I provides a broad semitechnical overview of the general nature of ecological and biological problems that result from growing populations and from the utilization of technology. Chapters in Parts II and III make it clear that pollution may have a disruptive effect on large terrestrial ecosystems either by direct action on living organisms or indirectly through subtle changes in the planet's climate.
The introduction of pollutants into the marine environment and the effects of specific pollutants on oceanic ecosystems are in chapters on the following subjects: runoff from agriculture and forest lands, waste-solid disposal in North American coastal waters, surveys of seven large groups of pollutants affecting the chemical composition of the ocean, chlorinated and petroleum hydrocarbons in the marine environment, and phosphorus and eutrophication. Recommendations on expanding and supplementing measurement and monitoring systems and a review of present activities in this area are presented in Part V. Mathematical modeling, introduced in Part VI, is another important tool for understanding and managing the effects of environmental pollution.
Environmental issues cannot simply be resolved by "more research." A final section of the book illustrates some of the complex social, political, and technical issues that the scientists and his fellow citizens must confront together if decisions that could avert potential disasters are ever to be made and implemented.