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What is the difference between geological environment and environmental geology?

The natural environment is formed by biosphere (living organisms), atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water) and lithosphere (rocks). Among them, lithosphere is not only closely related to human activities, but also connected to the natural environment formed by the air, water and living organisms. This is the reason that it has become an independent environmental system, namely “geological environment”. Geological environment has a multifactorial system and the primary factors thereof are rocks, soil, organic ingredients, gas, groundwater, microbes and dynamic action. Geological environment is an objective entity with specific space concepts. The upper limit thereof is the surface of lithosphere, whereas its lower limit depends on the scope of human activities.

Environmental geology, on the other hand, is the science that studies the interaction and interdependence between human activity and geological environment. It considers geological environment not only as the study target, but also as the ground of setting its work direction, contents and approach. In other words, the idea of environmental geology is to, with the knowledge of geology, study all types of anthropogenic and natural actions that can affect the safety of human living environment. That is, by studying and evaluating all types of natural disasters, it aims to minimize the loss of life and the damage to property from destructive disasters.

In contrast with geological environment, environmental geology does not have space concepts because it is a science that studies geological environment. In a geological environment, the interactions between human economic activities and geological environment can be considered as a complex system. The characteristics of the interactions therebetween depends on the characteristics of geological environment and the type of engineering and technical activities. Geological environment is developed according to the law of nature, whereas human’s engineering and technical activities are developed according to the law of technical economy. Therefore, the characteristics of and interactions between geological environment and human’s engineering and technical activities must be fully taken into consideration. In other words, when evaluation the interactions therebetween, the scope of potential influence shall also be included in all environmental geological work processes. Therefore, environmental geological works shall be oriented to the long-term effect of all types of economic activities to change or affect the direction of geological environment changes; and to discuss the potential changes, capabilities and effects of geological environment as its primary tasks.

For more information, please go to the “Taiwan Geoscience Portal” website.