5 Types Of Environmental Monitoring

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Environmental monitoring uses tools that identify and analyze environmental conditions to assess the impact an activity has on the environment. There are five main types of environmental monitoring: air, soil, water, waste, and noise, all of which are vital in providing key information about the environment. 

Environmental monitoring is used to observe a particular environment’s overall quality, environmental parameters, and the impact an activity may have, for example, building infrastructure or waste removal.

What Is Environmental Monitoring?

The key objective in environmental monitoring is to manage and minimize the impact an activity has on an environment, following the laws and regulations in that area. 

Because the increasing human population has put pressure on industrial activities and energy consumption to keep up with the higher demand, advances in technology to accurately monitor environments are crucial. 

Monitoring involves analyzing the environment with tools to obtain accurate results, which are then published in risk and impact assessment reports. A good example of this, is how businesses monitor the impacts on the environment in terms of carbon emissions, waste production, and recycling methods.

Why Is Environmental Monitoring Important?

After the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report stated that many countries are not prepared for climate impacts, environmental monitoring is now more important than ever.

It is essential to understand the complexity of the environment, and highlight any risks or harmful effects an organization’s activity has on an environment and to human health; by monitoring environments, we can improve the quality of life and keep society safe. 

Environmental Monitoring Applications:

  • Water supplies
  • Managing hazardous/radioactive waste
  • Understanding pollution sources 
  • Protection of natural resources 
  • Weather forecasting 
  • Economic development
  • Protecting endangered species
  • Understanding global climate change

Types Of Environmental Monitoring 

If you are wanting to open a business operation, you will need to complete an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to assess the impact your business may have on the environment. 

Depending on which sector you work in, will determine which environmental monitoring you will need to implement. 

Air/Atmospheric Monitoring

Air pollutants harm the environment and human health. Some air pollutants are also known to degrade infrastructure, including cultural buildings, therefore, it is essential to monitor the air quality, following national (and international) air quality regulations. 

Air/atmospheric levels can be monitored using a variety of sensors:

On a larger scale, by monitoring atmospheric air, we can look at how transport, industrial processes, energy consumption, agricultural waste, and general waste management affect human health and the environment. 

By gathering continuous data, governments and other authorities can make amendments to environmental policies. For example, if there has been an increase in air pollutants in an area, emission standards and limit values can be revised to protect the environment.

Soil Monitoring

Soil monitoring has become increasingly important in the 21st century. Climate change, water availability shortages, and vulnerable ecosystems have forced the need to monitor soil environments and protect it.  

Monitoring soil not only helps manage soil moisture and plants’ health, but the soil is also related to many natural processes and helps us understand water resources, both locally and regionally. Most soil sampling requires composite soil samples, which involves physically mixing soil cores, however, environmental monitoring of soil also uses a variety of different methods:

  • Remote sensing to monitor salinity in soils. If salinity is unbalanced in soils, it can have harmful effects on water quality, plant yield, and infrastructure. 
  • Chemical methods such as spectrometry are used to measure contamination in soils. Toxic properties like microplastics, nuclear waste, and acid rain can cause toxic zones in the environment that can develop pollution-related diseases harmful to humans and other animals. 
  • Measuring the pH: As many factors such as pollution, climate, and the environment can affect the pH in soil, measuring the pH of soil also helps us understand soil environments. 

Water Monitoring

Water is essential to all life on earth, therefore, all bodies of water must be monitored to ensure it is clean, drinkable, safe, and sanitary. Water pollution is a major issue, which is why water monitoring is so important. By monitoring water quality, we can look at current, ongoing, and future issues in water systems. 

Water quality can be monitored using a variety of sensors:

Additionally, water quality is tested in laboratories for nitrates, bioindicators, and chemical contamination.

Measuring the conductivity in water is also significant, as water quality can be indirectly measured through conductivity using a conductivity probe. Conductivity determines how many contaminants exist in the water and have the ability to transmit electricity.

Waste Monitoring

Poor waste management contributes to climate change and air pollution, directly impacting the environment and exposing humans to harmful substances, putting pressure on human health systems. 

Waste monitoring looks at production and consumption. For example, if a country produces less waste, it may indicate they are producing fewer materials. However, many countries export waste (known as the global waste trade) to other countries, where they are sometimes unequipped to manage the waste. 

What type of waste management is dependent on which is best for the environment. There are five stages, ranked from the least harmful to the most harmful to the environment:

  1. Prevention 
  2. Reuse 
  3. Recycle
  4. Recovery
  5. Disposal

Noise Monitoring

A type of environmental monitoring that is often forgotten about is noise pollution. Noise pollution affects both animals on land and in the sea. Marine cetaceans, such as whales and dolphins, use noise as a sense of direction and communication. Therefore, if there is too much noise, they cannot communicate with others which puts them in danger. 

Noise monitoring not only protects sea life, but on land it plays a vital role in protecting communities residing near industrial sites like airports. 

Noise pollution can be monitored on land and out to sea using a sound level meter (SLM).  Integrated sound level meters (ISLM) and noise dosimeters are also frequently used.

These monitoring sensors are connected to software to monitor live noise levels. Before monitoring the noise, noise level thresholds are set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to determine how much noise can be made in a certain area. Monitoring allows these organizations to rectify noise level thresholds if needed. 

Summary

Conserving the environment and human health is critical in survival. Environmental monitoring involves five main categories: air, soil, water, waste, and noise. 

If you have any questions regarding environmental monitoring or the testing kits we have to offer, please feel free to reach out to our world-class team at Atlas Scientific, we are always happy to help!

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