What Are the Major Threats to Biodiversity

What Are the Major Threats to Biodiversity?

Steve Russell - February 21, 2022

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Biodiversity is essential for any ecosystem, and it means the diversity of life. It ensures the natural sustainability of life on earth for both the current population and future generations. An area with good biodiversity will involve different life forms and species, including plants, animals, insects, fungi and other organisms. They all link together to form ecosystems to support life and maintain a balance.

The increasing population of humans has put an immense amount of pressure on the planet. Having more people leads to the need for more resources, like water, land and food, which can ultimately upset the balance of an ecosystem and cause a loss of biodiversity. 

Wildlife populations around the globe have decreased by nearly 70% since the 1970s. If the rate of biodiversity loss continues to increase, it could destroy human life. Ecosystems need a variety of species to stay healthy, and humans need biodiversity for food security and water. Without nature, there would be nothing. 

Below are the major threats to biodiversity. Hopefully, this will help you understand why humans need to support biodiversity and change to sustain future generations.

1. Habitat Loss and Degradation

Biodiversity is threatened when there is significant habitat loss or degradation. This happens when an area that was once used as a habitat is no longer inhabited by nature. Things like deforestation, mining, agriculture and industrial activities often remove crucial habitat space for wildlife and plants. However, natural events could also cause habitat degradation. This would include events such as hurricanes, volcanic eruptions and forest fires.

2. Invasive Species

Another reason for the loss of biodiversity is the introduction of invasive species. Invasive species include any plants or animals that are unnatural or non-native to an ecosystem. These species threaten and often outcompete the plants and animals already present in a habitat. For example, the Emerald Ash Borer has wiped out a considerable portion of the ash trees in North America. It was likely introduced through cargo materials and has created a loss in biodiversity.

3. Pollution

Whether the pollution is in the water, air or land, any form of pollution is a threat to biodiversity. Toxic synthetic chemicals and products enter ecosystems, which has led to the extinction of animal and plant species. Even natural substances can become pollution if they’re overabundant in a particular area. Plastic pollutants have gone deep into the oceans and have even been found at microscopic levels on Mount Everest and in the human digestive system.

4. Climate Change

The increase in global temperatures has had significant effects on the environment. Seasons are coming earlier or later than expected, which can leave animals struggling to find resources to survive and adapt. Additionally, climate change has led to a rise in sea levels and a decreasing amount of sea ice, which has affected both animals in the sea and on land. As climate and temperatures continue to change, the threats to biodiversity will only increase.

5. Overexploitation of Natural Resources

Activities such as targeted hunting, fishing and gathering of animals, plants and other natural resources threaten biodiversity. The loss of large populations of animals or plants in a short amount of time can cause a rippling effect on the other wildlife in that region. For example, if a primary predator is over-fished, there will be nothing to keep prey populations in check. Furthermore, overexploitation of non-renewable resources will affect daily human life.

6. Human Activity and Population

The increase in the population of humans has had a significant impact on biodiversity. About 200 years ago, less than 1 billion people were living on earth. There are about 7 billion people on earth now, and by the year 2050, the population is expected to be at 10 billion people. 

As the human population increases, the need for resources like food, water and shelter will increase, and more human activity will occur. Biodiversity is likely to decrease because of those needs, as well as urbanization and development. People will need places to live, work and play, so regions once filled with forests and diversity will become concrete jungles, forcing animals to leave their habitats and depleting the area of plants. 

How You Can Help Preserve Biodiversity

Although you may not see these threats every day, they continually wreak havoc on biodiversity. There are ways you can help conserve and promote biodiversity, though. 

  • Support local farms to keep money circulating in the local economy and help farmers conserve biodiversity.
  • Plant native plants in your yard and garden. Native plants can often outcompete any invasive species to promote biodiversity.
  • Respect local habitats wherever you go, whether it’s in your own community or across the globe.
  • Purchase ethical and sustainable items, and try to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible.
  • Speak out about biodiversity and teach others how they can preserve it.
  • Take part in habitat restoration projects in your community.

By preserving biodiversity, ecosystems can work and flourish for many years to come.

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About the author

Steve Russell

Steve is the Managing Editor of Environment.co and regularly contributes articles related to wildlife, biodiversity, and recycling. His passions include wildlife photography and bird watching.