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What is environmental vulnerability

Surely you have ever heard that there are people more vulnerable to a virus or another type of disease, that is, they are those who have the least capacity to resist the virus, or the pathogen in question, when infected, so who are weaker or more vulnerable to it.

Vulnerability can be applied in different fields: education, culture, economy, society, the environment, among others. In this AgroCorrn article we will talk about what environmental vulnerability is , giving its definition and some examples of it. In addition, the difference between risk and environmental vulnerability will be explained.

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What is environmental vulnerability – definition

Environmental vulnerability refers to the degree of resistance of a system, subsystem or component of a system to the two major environmental problems that are occurring throughout the planet: global warming and the loss of biodiversity . Both caused directly or indirectly by anthropic activities. Although also with environmental vulnerability , reference is made to the degree of resistance of the environment to natural phenomena, such as an earthquake.

Environmental vulnerability depends on two factors:

  • Exposure: it is the level at which nature is exposed to environmental problems. For example, a bird that lives in a natural environment where hunting is illegal is less vulnerable than one that lives in a place where hunting has no control.
  • Adaptive capacity: it is the ability that nature has to adjust its own functioning to adapt it to the changes that occur in order to reduce potential damage. For example, some species adapt physiologically to changes in temperature caused by global warming, through a process of acclimatization.

Nature is very wide and that is why not all areas present the same degree of vulnerability. Those most vulnerable have less capacity to respond to changes, in addition to being more exposed, thus increasing the amount of damage and a longer recovery time. However, those less vulnerable areas have a greater capacity to respond and are less exposed, thus receiving less damage and having a recovery in the shortest time.

Next, we will present several examples of very vulnerable and little vulnerable ecosystems or species.

Examples of environmental vulnerability

These are some examples of environmental vulnerability , focusing on ecosystems or species with high environmental vulnerability , that is, that are in danger of extinction or in the Endangered category :

  • Benthic organisms (such as starfish , sea cucumbers, starfish, clams, oysters …) that inhabit Antarctic marine ecosystems are especially vulnerable, because their growth rate is very slow. if we compare it with the organisms of other more temperate areas. In this area fishing is practiced that will have more damaging effects on these ecosystems, since having a slower growth rate they will need more time to recover.
  • The Amazon , of great ecological interest for its biodiversity, is in a high degree of vulnerability, as well as most of the species that inhabit it, since it is being exploited by different anthropic activities, such as livestock, agriculture, deforestation , mining, construction of hydroelectric plants and roads. Here we explain more about the Deforestation of the Amazon, its causes and consequences .
  • Coral reefs are ecosystems that, like any ecosystem, face global warming, and these have to adjust to resist these environmental changes. Although if we add to this environmental problem the threats suffered by the reefs from actions such as fishing and pollution from runoff. We find ourselves with a more vulnerable ecosystem, thus having less capacity to resist global warming.

Ecosystems or species with a low environmental vulnerability , in the Least Concern category , that is, so far they are not being affected by environmental problems or are adapting to environmental changes.

  • The Gratiola linifolia is one common annual plant a Mediterranean climate. Although it suffers threats from droughts, as well as from agricultural or livestock operations. Currently its population is stable and there is no need to worry about it.
  • The Patagonian opossum ( Lestodelphys halli ) is a species that was classified as vulnerable, although it was as of 2008 when it was determined as of least concern ( Least concern ) due to its population increasing. It does not suffer great threats, although it is true that the number of its population is decreasing again. This species inhabit places like prairies and deserts.
  • Allium feinbergii is a plant species that lives in rocky areas, and is threatened by the consequences of climate change, but it is a species that continues with a stable population and is currently considered of least concern.

Difference between risk and environmental vulnerability

The concept of risk, in the environmental context, refers to the probability that the environment suffers damage due to human action or some natural phenomenon. But to better understand the concept of risk, we also have to understand that of threat (or danger) and vulnerability, although we now know this.

An environmental threat or hazard is defined as the probability of a catastrophic event occurring during a specified time in the environment. Instead, environmental risk is the result of the existence of a threat (or danger) and the degree of vulnerability of nature. The threats would be environmental problems caused by anthropic activities and natural phenomena, and vulnerability depends on exposure and adaptation capacity. Risk = Threat + Vulnerability

Therefore, the difference between risk and vulnerability is that risk determines whether the threat will affect more or less a system or component of it depending on its vulnerability. And vulnerability measures the degree of loss and damage that nature has received from a threat.

Maria Anderson

Hello, I am a blogger specialized in environmental, health and scientific dissemination issues in general. The best way to define myself as a blogger is by reading my texts, so I encourage you to do so. Above all, if you are interested in staying up to date and reflecting on these issues, both on a practical and informative level.

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