You know what street you live on and what town you live in, but do you know where you live ecologically? Your ecological address can tell you much about your place in the world, whether your street address places you in the middle of a city, on a rural road in the country, or somewhere in between. There are nine components of your ecological address that are listed below. The characteristics of each component help determine the effects your actions have on your environment.
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A river basin is all of the land that water flows across or under on its way to a river. Everyone lives in a river basin, even if you are very far from any body of water. In terms of our address, our river basin can be thought of as a county, or zip code. It can be quite large, and other ecological address components can vary widely within it. The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs, in partnership with other DENR divisions including the Division of Water Resources and the Wildlife Resources Commission, has created informative river basin education materials. Learn more about river basins in North Carolina.
Soil is the loose top layer of the earth's surface. It is made up of weathered rock materials and decayed organic matter. What kind of soil do you have where you live? Is it red clay, sandy loam, or something else? Soil type can determine what kinds of plants can grow, how much water can be absorbed, and what happens when toxic materials are spilled on the ground. Learn more about soil.
A wetland is an area where the water table is at, near, or above the land surface long enough during the year to support water-dependent plants. Wetlands help slow down and regulate water flow, preventing floods. They also help to filter pollutants out of water before it reaches major waterways. Learn more about wetlands.
Air, made up mostly of nitrogen and oxygen, envelops the earth and makes life possible. The things we do every day effect the quality of our air and the air of people living downwind of us. Some of the pollutants found in air cannot be seen or smelled, but can have quite an impact on our health. Learn more about air.
Energy is the ability to do work. Everything we do requires energy, whether it be from the food we eat or fossil fuels that we need for the cars we drive or the electricity in our homes. How we use energy and where it comes from can have an effect on our environment. Learn more about energy.
Do you live in the coastal plain, Piedmont, or in the mountains? Are there a lot of hills where you live, or is it mostly flat? Topography describes the physical features of an area, or the terrain. It can influence water drainage, soil erosion, and plant growth. We pay special attention to the topography during times of heavy rains since it determines who will be flooded and who will stay dry. Learn more about topography.
Groundwater is the water found in cracks and pores in sand, gravel, and rocks below the surface of the earth. Over half of North Carolina's residents get their drinking water from groundwater. If water flows through contaminated soil, it can contaminate the groundwater supply. Learn more about groundwater.
Biodiversity is the total amount of genes, species, and ecosystems in a region. Humans depend on biodiversity for food and medicine. Often times the loss of even a single species can have a major impact on the ecosystem as a whole. Learn more about biodiversity.
How much rain or snow does your area get in an average year? What are the average temperatures? Climate is the average weather conditions for a specific region. It determines what kinds of plants you will see in your area as well as what leisure activities might be popular. Learn more about climate.
Your Ecological Footprint
Every one of us leaves behind an ecological footprint. We all need and use natural resources to survive. Driving habits, eating habits, and household activities can effect the size of that footprint. How large is your footprint? Find out using the Global Footprint Network Calculator or the WWF Footprint Calculator.