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What is negative and positive environmental impact with examples

Newton’s Third Law tells us that every action has a reaction of equal magnitude, but in the opposite direction. This can be interpreted as that every action that takes place in the environment also has a consequence. All the activities that man carries out in the environment generate an impact on the environment. Environmental impacts can be positive, if the environment benefits, or negative, if the environment is harmed. At AgroCorrn we explain what negative and positive environmental impact is with examples to better understand it.

What is negative environmental impact

Negative environmental impacts are those alterations in the environment that harm both the natural environment and human health. Therefore, the main consequences are the pollution of the planet (land, water, and air), the loss of biodiversity and the increase in diseases and health problems.

The negative environmental impacts can be classified according to their effect on the time and ability to return to the situation prior to the impact:

  • Temporary : it is a short-term impact and therefore the medium can recover the state prior to the impact.
  • Persistent : this is a long-term impact with lasting effects over time and space.
  • Irreversible : the impact is of such magnitude that it generates a permanent impact on the environment.
  • Reversible : the natural environment may or may not fully recover in the short, medium or long term.

There are many activities with strong negative environmental impacts. Let’s see some of them.

Examples of negative environmental impacts

Pollution and spills

The term pollution refers to the introduction of one or more substances that harm the environment where they have been introduced. Human activities are the main sources of pollution and affect the environment in different ways:

  • Water pollution is produced mainly by industrial water discharges with toxic substances (metals, chemicals, radioactive waste, etc.), by discharges of wastewater from towns, by discharges at high temperatures and by using rivers, lakes and seas as landfills (especially plastics). The impact translates into a loss of biodiversity, an increase in eutrophication and a change in biogeochemical cycles.
  • The contamination of soil occurs mainly by burial and waste disposal (waste, nuclear waste) and leakage accidents or industries and factories. All this leads to the loss of biodiversity and the contamination of groundwater.
  • The air pollution is produced primarily by the emission of harmful gases from stationary sources (industries, houses, etc.) And mobile (vehicle). The effects of this impact are the loss of the ozone layer, the greenhouse effect and phenomena such as acid rain or smog (fog of toxic gases such as CO2, CO or sulfurous gases).

Natural resources exploitation

Another negative environmental impact is the depletion of natural resources such as raw materials and fossil fuels (oil and natural gas). In addition, its extraction and use entail even more environmental impacts such as pollution, deforestation and the loss of soil and biodiversity.


Throughout history and especially since the world wars with the use of chemical and biological weapons and nuclear bombs. Wars have not only killed millions of people, but have seriously damaged the environment and made life impossible in some areas.

Poaching and loss of biodiversity

The poaching is one of the greatest threats to the biodiversity of the planet. The ambition of human beings to obtain trophies such as animal skins, elephant tusks or rhinoceros horns have doomed thousands of species to extinction.

Other practices such as “finning”, which consists of fishing for sharks to cut off their fins and return them mutilated to the ocean, continue to reduce the number of these large predators in our oceans. The disappearance of sharks and other large predators and mammals, such as killer whales and whales, can alter food chains and the structure and functionality of oceanic communities.


Deforestation is the removal of vegetation that naturally grows on an area of ​​land. On the one hand, deforestation means the loss of biodiversity due to the elimination of plants. In addition, forests are the habitat of numerous animal species, so if we eliminate forests we eliminate the fauna they contain. On the other hand, it supposes the loss of productivity since the plants carry out photosynthesis and through this process they generate biomass and energy that can be used by other organisms. They also generate oxygen, a vital element for living beings. By removing vegetation, the soil is exposed to inclement weather and is eroded by wind or rain and therefore the subterranean biological communities, the nutrients that the soil contains, are lost and ultimately it becomes infertile ground.

Urban Development

Urban development involves the loss of soil and contributes to deforestation since to build it is necessary to raise the vegetation. The consequence is the loss of habitats and ecosystem functions. In addition to the fact that the creation of new cities implies new sources of pollution.

Noise and bad smells

There are other types of environmental impacts that have local effects such as noise, vibrations and bad smells that can alter the behavior of animals and cause discomfort and health problems. In the following article we explain what noise pollution is .

What is positive environmental impact

On the contrary, activities that have a positive environmental impact are those that benefit the environment or those whose objective is to correct the negative effects of human activities. As in the previous case, the positive impacts can be temporary or persistent and reversible or irreversible. There are several examples of positive impacts on the environment, we will explain them below.

Examples of positive environmental impact


Fires, drought or deforestation cause the loss of soil productivity and biodiversity as we have seen before. Therefore, the opposite process, that is, replanting vegetables is a positive thing; increases biodiversity, soil productivity, generates biomass and allows the assimilation of solar energy, captures CO2 and provides oxygen to the atmosphere, which contributes to reducing the greenhouse effect. In addition, this technique is more useful if native species or those that existed before their disappearance are used for reforestation in order to recover the previous ecosystem and its functionality.

Efficient irrigation

Water is a vital element for living beings but its availability is limited and it is not homogeneously distributed. It is especially important in areas frequently affected by droughts. Establishing adjustable irrigation systems such as drip can improve the productivity of crops and dry soils, and at the same time save water.

Treatment of waste water

As we have already said, water is an important asset. Humans make numerous uses of water through which it undergoes changes in its composition; addition of chemicals and organic matter, proliferation of pathogenic organisms, changes in physical-chemical parameters (temperature, pH, dissolved salts, dissolved oxygen, etc.). If returned to nature in that state it would cause numerous ecological disasters. Water purification has a positive impact on the environment, as the process consists of restoring the quality it had before use.


The amount of waste that humans generate is very high and diverse. Furthermore, all waste does not degrade in the same way and there are some that persist longer in the environment than others. A positive impact on the environment is to separate these wastes based on their composition, toxicity and duration in order to eliminate or reuse them and prevent them from reaching the environment and causing a negative impact.

Use of renewable energies

The renewable energy or clean could be included in this section because, although they have a certain impact on the environment (visual impact, impact installation, etc.) is far below that have the (nuclear, oil) non – renewable energy. They are called clean energies because they do not generate waste and their maintenance is minimal. Renewable energies are solar, wind, hydraulic and geothermal energy, among others.

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