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Environment and Its Components

1. Definition:

Word environment is derived from French word ‘Environner’ which means to encircle or
surround. All the biological and non-biological things surrounding an organism are thus included
in environment.

Environment is the totality of circumstances surrounding an organism or a group of organisms,

especially the combination of external physical conditions (climate, rainfall, temperature,
moisture) that affect and influence the growth, development and survival of organisms.

Environment is the complex of physical (climate), chemical (Soil, air) and biotic (living things)
factors that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately determine its form
and survival.,

According to EIA:

Environment is the sum of total water, air and land, interrelationship among themselves and also
with the human beings, other living organism and property. Thus we can say environment
means our surroundings.

Chemicals on earth are distributed among four major compartments:

 Atmosphere
 Hydrosphere
 Lithosphere
 Biosphere

The circle represents the sphere and curved arrows the flow pathways of matter. Matter may
flow from one compartment to another in both directions the matter may flow within a given
compartment from physical location to another without leaving the sphere.
2. Components of Environment

2.1 Atmosphere

The earth’s atmosphere contains several different layers that can be defined according to air
temperature. It contains 4 layers according to temperature:

2.1.1 Troposphere

 This is the first layer of atmosphere.

 Width of this layer varies from 8 to 16 kms. Greatest depth occurs at tropics where high
temperatures cause vertical expansion of the lower atmosphere. From tropics to polar
region troposphere becomes thinner. Depth at polar region is approx. half compared to
tropics. Average depth is 11 kms.
 About 80% of total mass of atmosphere is contained in troposphere.
 The variety of weather also occurs in this layer.
 It contains various gases such as N2, O2, CO2, Argon (trace) and water vapours.
 Maximum temperature occurs at earth surface and drops with increasing altitude.
Approx. 6.5 deg. C drop in temperature occurs at every kilometer altitude. This
phenomenon is called environmental lapse rate.
 The top layer of troposphere contains an average temperature of -56.5 deg. C.
 At the upper edge of the troposphere is a narrow transition zone of 9 kms known as

2.1.2 Stratosphere

Above the tropopause is the stratosphere.

 Extends from an average altitude of 11 kms to 50 kms above the earth surface.
 This layer contains about the 19.9% of the total mass found in atmosphere.
 Very little weather occurs in this stratosphere.
 In the first 9 kms of this layer temperature remains constant with height. This zone is
called isothermal layer.
 From 20-50 kms the temperature increases with altitude. Inverse to that of troposphere.
 Higher temperature in this layer occurs because of presence of O 3 gas molecules in
 O3 gas absorbs the ultraviolet sunlight creating heat energy that warms the atmosphere.
 O3 is not equally distributed in stratosphere and ranges between altitude of 10 to 50
kms. This layer of ozone is called ozone layer.
 O3 layer is important to organisms at earth surface because it absorbs ultra-voilet rays
and thus protects us from various harmful effects such as skin diseases, cancer,
excessive heating etc.
 Above the stratosphere is a narrow transition zone called stratopause.

2.1.3 Mesosphere

Above the stratopause is Mesosphere layer.

 This layer ranges between an altitude of 50 to 80 kilometers.
 In mesosphere atmosphere reaches its coldest temperature i.e., -90 deg. C at a height
of approx. 80 kms from earth surface.
 At the top of mesosphere is another transition zone called Mesopause.

2.1.4 Thermosphere or Ionosphere

 This layer of atmosphere ranges from 80 kms to 500 kms above the earth surface.
 Temperature increases with height in thermosphere and reaches upto 1200 deg. C.
 Most of the gaseous components such as O2+,O+, NO+ are ionized under the influence of
radiant energy so ionosphere contains electrically charged particles called ions.
 These particles reflect radio waves back to the earth surface thus enables us to have
wireless communication.

2.1.5 Exosphere

 This is the uppermost layer. This region is also called the outer space.
 This layer is extended to an altitude of 1600 kms.
 It contains H+ and He++ and has very high temperatures due to solar radiations.


70 Mesosphere



30 Stratosphere





-100 -80 -60 -40 -20 0 20


1) Lithosphere contains cold hard solid land of earth’s crust(surface), The semisolid land
underneath the crust, and liquid land near the centre of the earth.
2) It is composed of soil particles, and underlying rocks down to depth of 50 kms. The soil
layer is also termed as pedosphere.
3) Pedosphere contains mixture of inorganic and organic solid matter, air, water and
4) Outermost layer of lithosphere consists of loose soil rich in nutrients, oxygen and silicon.
5) Beneath this layer lies a very thin solid crust of oxygen and silicon.
6) Next layer is mantle, semisolid in nature and consists of oxygen, silicon, iron and
7) Beneath this layer is outer core (liquid layer) of nickel and iron.
8) Beneath this is inner core solid layer of nickel and iron.


Hydrosphere is composed of all the water on or near the earth. It includes, oceans, lakes, rivers,
and water vapors. It ranges from 10-20 km in thickness.

1) Hydrosphere extends from earth’s surface downward several kilometers into lithosphere
and upward upward around 12 kms into the atmosphere.
2) The hydrosphere can be divided into 2 compartments. First A conveyer, a river which
collects the substance within the watershed and delivers them to second hydrologic
compartment, Oceans.
3) Hydrosphere covers approx. 75% area of earth. 97% of earth water is salty and is placed
4) 96.5% as salty water
5) 2.5% as fresh water
6) 0.93% as saline ground water
7) 0.07% as saline lakes.

Out of this 2.5% fresh water:

1) 68.6% exists as snow in glaciers and ice caps.

2) 30.1% as ground water. (0.75% of total earth water)
3) 1.3% exists as surface water and other fresh water.

Now this 1.3% surface water can further be categorized as:

1) 73.1% as ice and snow
2) 20.1% as Lakes.
3) 3.52 % as soil moisture.
4) 2.53% as Swamp and marshes.
5) 0.46% as Rivers
6) 0.22% Biological water
7) 0.22% as atmospheric water.

8) Water is an excellent solvent. It is called universal solvent. More number of solutes can
be dissolved in water compared to other liquids.
9) Water has high specific heat, so it takes longer time to warm and cool this helps in
aquatic animals to survive in water.

10) Water has highest latent heat (Heat of evaporation and heat of fusion). This helps in

moderating the climate of earth.

11) Water has high surface tension so it rises to heights due to capillary action.
12) Water has high viscosity which allows organisms to swim.
13) Water is also a buoyant medium. Organisms can exist in it without specialized
supportive structures.
14) At sea surface all organisms experience 1 atmosphere pressure (15 psi or 760 mm of
Hg). This pressure increases by 1 atmosphere at every 10 meters depth in oceans.

Salinity in water:

Salinity is the total amount of salts present in gms in one kilogram of water.

Natural water contains Na+, K+, Mg+, Cl -, SO42-, PO43-, NO3-, CO3-, HCO3- which are essential
elements of living organisms.

Solubility of gases in water:

Most gases are soluble in water. Especially those which are essential for life such as O2,
CO2, N2 etc.

O2 dissolved in water is utilized by aquatic flora and fauna for respiration. The saturation
concentration of O2 in water depends on temperature and salinity of water. Lower the
temperature, greater oxygen retaining capacity of water whether it is fresh water or sea
Respiration, decomposition of organic materials and stream pollution all tend to reduce the
amount of available oxygen. The deepest layer of water has low oxygen because of

 Continuous decomposition of organic matter

 Respiration of organisms
 Absence of Photosynthetic activities
However some amount of oxygen is transferred to the deeper layers by diffusion or through
recirculation of water.

Nitrogen is significantly less soluble than Oxygen in water. It is chemically inert and does
not react with water.

CO2 is produced by decomposition of organic matter and respiratory activities of animals

and plants. CO2 is utilized by green plants in photosynthesis activity for producing

CO2 also combines with water to form weak carbonic acid (H2CO3) which influences the pH
or H+ in water.

CO2 + H2O H2CO3 H+ + HCO3- 2H+ + CO32-

The amount of free CO2 in water in of great importance because it governs the precipitation
of Ca in the form of CaCO3. Precipitation of CaCO3 takes place when salinity is well and
free CO2 conc. Is low in water.