Biodiversity & Habitat Destruction:
The term biodiversity is a reference to the amazing variety of life that is found on this planet. The reference includes everything from individual species of plants, animals, insects, and microbes, to entire, collective ecosystems. Habitat destruction, on the other hand, is the term that refers to the unfortunate process that renders a natural habitat incapable of supporting its natural species. In this way, habitat destruction is forever tied to a loss of biodiversity.
Habitat destruction can occur in a variety of ways. Sometimes it involves natural processes such as forest fires that get started by lightening. But even naturally occurring events, such as forest fires, can be unnaturally exacerbated by human activities relating to global warming. Therefore when we use the term habitat destruction, we are primarily referring to human activities and industries, such as mining, logging, urban development, and agriculture, just to name a few,- that result in deforestation, or result in air pollution, or water pollution. Habitat destruction is currently the primary cause of species extinction worldwide. An important aspect of biodiversity, is that while it exists everywhere on the planet, it tends to cluster in certain habitats known as “hotspots.” Two of the most important hotspots are the tropical rainforests and the coral reefs.
“Biodiversity is usually greater in the warm climate near the equator, and tropical rainforests and coral reefs are notable hotspots for biodiversity.“
Deforestation occurs when large strands of forest are cut down to be used as construction materials, or to make room for industries, crops, or animals to graze. And our first notable hotspot, tropical rainforests, are falling victim to deforestation at an alarming rate. Because terrestrial biodiversity is usually greater in the warm climate near the equator, and tropical rainforests are a such notable hotspot for their rich biodiversity, losing them is particularly troubling because an untold number of species call them home.
While tropical forest ecosystems cover less than 10 percent of earth’s surface, estimates vary widely on how many species they provide habitat for. Scientists estimate that rainforests contain anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of the world’s species, with estimates ranging widely. The truth is that no one really knows for sure how many species of they contain because there are so many species of plants, animals, and insects that haven’t been discovered yet! With an area the size of a football field disappearing every day, the rainforests are in urgent need of our protection.
The second notable hotspot for biodiversity, the coral reefs, are also being slowly destroyed. While our planet is covered with approximately 70 percent water, most of the biodiversity in our oceans occurs in the portion with the most sunlight, near the surface. This area, called the euphotic zone, is the area where the suns rays penetrate deeply enough to assist life, and enable photosynthesis. It is within the ocean’s euphotic zone that the coral reefs are the primary hotspot for biodiversity. Scientists estimate that 25 percent of all marine species live on coral reefs, making them one of the most diverse habitats in the world.
But the coral reefs are under threat from a variety of impacts, including overfishing, as well as coral harvesting for the aquarium trade. They are harmed by water pollution including chemicals, trash, and micro-plastics, and even air pollution, which causes the acidification of the oceans when it rains. Global warming, causing the melting of the icecaps and rising sea levels, is also a threat to the biodiversity of the coral reefs. As icecaps melt, and the oceans get deeper, the sunlight can no longer penetrate to the level of the reefs. Many scientists believe the very existence of coral reefs is presently in jeopardy.
Now, truth be told, there is literally so much biodiversity on our planet, you can just take a square foot of dirt,- throw the soil in a bucket and give it to the right scientist, and with all of the tiny insects and microbes in it, there can literally be so much ‘stuff’ in there it can keep them busy for a year. That’s how amazing the biodiversity on our planet is! That’s just one square foot of dirt! In taking a step back, as we have just done up above, tropical rainforests and coral reefs are two of the notable eco-systems discussed. Infinitely more complex! They are eco-systems representing true treasure-troves of biodiversity.
But in taking another step back, our planet is the ultimate habitat. Infinitely more complex again. And a vast, completely inter-related, and inter-connected system.
And it is under siege at all levels,- and time is running out. The single biggest threat to the human race presently is the destruction of the global habitat, at present defined by global warming. This is habitat destruction at it’s highest level. The whole system is in jeopardy, beginning with the microbes in the soil, to eco-systems like forests and reefs, to the vast oceans of the world. All of it. We have to take steps now to protect and cherish it, beginning with every square foot. And that is what the rest of this website is about.
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“Habitat destruction is currently the primary cause of species extinction worldwide, and ultimately the greatest threat to our entire planet.“
References and Resources:
Rainforest information from Mongabay,- a website that publishes news on environmental science, energy, and green design, and features extensive information on tropical rainforests, including pictures and deforestation statistics for countries of the world.
From the Coral Reef Alliance. Coral reefs are believed by many to have the highest biodiversity of any ecosystem on the planet,- even more than a tropical rainforest. Occupying less than one percent of the ocean floor, coral reefs are home to more than twenty-five percent of marine life.
Habitat loss—due to destruction, fragmentation, or degradation of habitat—is the primary threat to the survival of wildlife in the United States. When an ecosystem has been dramatically changed by human activities—such as agriculture, oil and gas exploration, commercial development, or water diversion—it may no longer be able to provide the food, water, cover, and places to raise young that wildlife need to survive. An article from the National Wildlife Federation.
The three main types of habitat loss are habitat destruction, habitat degradation and habitat fragmentation. As the late Steve Irwin put it, “I believe our biggest issue is the same biggest issue that the whole world is facing, and that’s habitat destruction.” This article discusses these three key components of habitat destruction.
Habitat destruction is one of the biggest threats facing plants and animal species throughout the world. The loss of habitat has far-reaching impacts on the planet’s ability to sustain life, but even with the challenges, there is hope for the future. An article from National Geographic.
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