Investigation into the Interconnected Nature of Environmental Problems and Identifying Keystone Environmental Problems


  • S. Sivaramanan Environmental Impact Assessment Unit, Environmental Management and Assessment Division, Central Environmental Authority, “Parisara piyasa”, 104, Denzil Kobbekaduwa Mawatha, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka
  • S.W. Kotagama Department of Zoology and Environmental Science, Faculty of Science, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.



The study depicts the links between man-made environmental issues based on cause-and-effect relationships from real-world examples. For instance, man-made climate change is caused primarily by deforestation, draining of wetlands, intensive farming, and air pollution (greenhouse gas emission). Besides, every anthropogenic environmental problem may cause various other environmental problems, such as air pollution causes ocean acidification, ozone depletion, acid rain, disease, and visual pollution (smog). Similarly, deforestation causes biodiversity loss, land degradation, and human-animal conflict. About 255 links were examined among 40 identified environmental issues. In this web, certain causative environmental problems establish keystone links. Keystone environmental problems were identified from the concept map based on the criteria given by the following approach. When mitigating a man-made environmental problem, if it results in the permanent disappearance of one or more man-made environmental problems, then that mitigated problem can be considered a keystone environmental problem. To be specific, a complete dependency of the resulting environmental problem/s on the parent environmental problem has enabled the parent environmental problem to be considered a keystone environmental problem. This is because if the causative parent issue gets solved, then the resulting
offspring/s cannot exist. Eight man-made environmental problems were found as keystones, such as air pollution, deforestation, population explosion, overexploitation of natural resources, global energy crisis, intensive farming, water pollution-water scarcity, and urbanization (industrialization)-urban sprawlsettlements.


Keywords: environment, environmental problems, manmade environmental problems, keystone environmental problems, interconnected environmental problems