In recent years , environmental monitoring or m onitoring has gained great importance in the scientific field. It has become a useful tool to assess the state of natural resources, evaluate specific situations and support management strategies in decision-making. In this way, environmental monitoring programs can have multiple purposes, as many different situations or issues exist.
Monitoring is present in our lives, since we daily monitor or track the weather, market values or consumption statistics, among other issues. Despite the criticism it receives in the scientific field, in this AgroCorrn article you will discover what environmental monitoring is and how important it is for research and policy formulation in a context of sustainability. After reading these lines, you will be able to answer questions such as: what is environmental monitoring for? Why is it important to be monitoring the environment? And how is environmental monitoring done?
What is environmental monitoring and its characteristics
According to Sors (1987), environmental monitoring can be defined as:
“A continuous system of observation of measurements and evaluations fordefined purposes; an important tool in the environmental impact evaluation process and in any monitoring and control program.”
In other words, it could be said that monitoring consists of the measurement of physical, chemical and / or biological variables , during a certain period of time, in order to expand knowledge about the changes or impacts that take place in the environment. environment . Therefore, environmental monitoring is a key instrument for environmental management , as it contributes to improving planning and decision-making. We recommend you read this other post about What is environmental management .
Below are some of the characteristics of environmental monitoring:
- The use of study indicators is essential to obtain data.
- Allows you to determine if an event is unusual or extreme.
- It allows the development of experiments that contribute to the investigation and the clarification of pressures, impacts and other environmental issues.
- It is mainly retrospective; that is, it collects and stores data once the event or phenomenon under study has already taken place.
- It can be used in a predictive, preventive or regulatory way.
- Large-scale monitoring involves the combined measurement of multiple spatial and temporal parameters
- Its approach must be transversal and multidisciplinary.
- An important component is the statistical surveys.
- Its cost is low in relation to the value of the resources.
- Remote sensing is an increasingly used monitoring support tool.
How environmental monitoring works
In the first place, the design of environmental monitoring presents the following stages:
- Obtaining information.
- Identification of main threats.
- Preparation of a draft or proposal for a monitoring design.
- Study of the social, economic and environmental viability of said proposal.
- Validation of the same through the integration of scientific knowledge, with technical and local knowledge.
Once designed, monitoring consists of detecting the presence and measuring the concentration of pollutants in the environment (or state of environmental pollution ) and other variables, in order to determine the state of conservation of natural resources.
It is important to note that it uses three diagnostic techniques , complementary to each other. These are:
- Monitoring of biological effects with laboratory studies: ecotoxicological tests.
- Biological field monitoring: biomarkers, indicator species, community indices, etc.
- Measurement of chemical parameters: soil contamination analysis (electrical conductivity, pH, arsenic …), water contamination (suspended solids, nitrates, phosphates …), air pollution (or estimation of air quality ) , pollutant content in organisms …
Despite those who criticize monitoring for not considering it something completely scientific and reliable, since under their argument it is very difficult to know how things can happen in a rather distant future, it is true that it is increasingly showing greater social and scientific acceptance. For environmental monitoring to be successful, clear questions must be addressed and robust, validated methods used to obtain quality data. It is significant to integrate monitoring into research programs to continuously obtain more complex and complete knowledge about the evolution of the object of study.
Objectives of environmental monitoring
Collecting what has been exposed so far, environmental monitoring systems allow studying the changes that slowly occur in ecosystems. Among the objectives of environmental monitoring are:
- Know more exactly how they work and how they react to certain disturbances.
- Use all this information as an orientation guide in the development of measures and the implementation of effective and sustainable actions.
Ultimately, due to the uncertainty associated with the evolution of natural and man-made systems, added to the climate emergency crisis we are facing, follow-up programs are established to ensure compliance with plans, programs, projects and regulations, as well as to reduce impact and reinforce environmental commitment.
Finally, an example of monitoring that is currently being crucial is microbiological environmental monitoring in COVID-19 studies.
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