Habitat destruction (also termed habitat loss and habitat reduction) is the process by which a natural
Activities such as
Attempts to address habitat destruction are in international policy commitments embodied by Sustainable Development Goal 15 "Life on Land" and Sustainable Development Goal 14 "Life Below Water". However, the United Nations Environment Programme report on "Making Peace with Nature" released in 2021 found that most of these efforts had failed to meet their internationally agreed upon goals.
Impacts on organisms
When a habitat is destroyed, the
Habitat loss is perhaps the greatest threat to organisms and biodiversity.
As habitat destruction of an area occurs, the species diversity offsets from a combination of habitat generalists and specialists to a population primarily consisting of generalist species. Invasive species are frequently generalists that are able to survive in much more diverse habitats. Habitat destruction leading to climate change offsets the balance of species keeping up with the extinction threshold leading to a higher likelihood of extinction.
Habitat loss is one of the main environmental causes of the decline of biodiversity on local, regional, and global scales. Many believe that habitat fragmentation is also a threat to biodiversity however some believe that it is secondary to habitat loss. The reduction of the amount of habitat available results in specific landscapes that are made of isolated patches of suitable habitat throughout a hostile environment/matrix. This process is generally due to pure habitat loss as well as fragmentation effects. Pure habitat loss refers to changes occurring in the composition of the landscape that causes a decrease in individuals. Fragmentation effects refer to an addition of effects occurring due to the habitat changes. Habitat loss can result in negative effects on the dynamic of species richness. The order Hymenoptera is a diverse group of plant pollinators who are highly susceptible to the negative effects of habitat loss, this could result in a domino effect between the plant-pollinator interactions leading to major conservation implications within this group.
Destruction of populations
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Habitat fragmentation has a major impact on animal specie populations because it deprives species of what they are naturally accustomed to. This makes the species isolated, reduces the area where they can live, and creates new ecological boundaries. Some studies have shown that changes in the abiotic and biotic parameters have caused a greater impact on the ecology than the reduction in habitat size itself. They concluded that crowding a species into one space will eventually lead to the extinction of that species.
The destruction and fragmentation of natural habitats are currently the leading factors in species extinction. This is because the loss and fragmentation of habitats results in much smaller populations. Reduced population sizes ends up creating higher chances of extinction.
Studies have shown that there is no relationship between habitat patch and species number when it comes to habitat specialist plants species located in fragmented landscapes. This could potentially be due to drastic declines of plant species areas due to changes in the surrounding land.
Predators affecting the population of the prey
In recent times the destruction of habitat has been the cause of the loss of many species. Sometimes the area may be small of destruction but as time goes by slowly that will cause an increase in extinction. Loss of habitat is not always the direct cause of extinction; there are other reasons causes for extinction that connect back to the loss of habitat. For example, if the sole predator in an ecosystem were to go extinct, prey populations would increase, which could possibly result in overpopulation. A higher amount of any species that can cause them to use too much of their resources. Since many species depend on limited natural resources, with the overuse they will eventually run out degrade their habitat.
Habitat destruction and fragmentation are the two most important factors in species extinction. The negative effects of decreasing size and increasing isolation of habitat are misinterpreted by fragmentation, but in reality they are much more larger effects on the population. Fragmentation generally has either no effect or a negative effect on population survival. Since habitat loss of fragmentation typically occurs together it is still not clear which process has a larger effect on extinction. Increasing isolation and habitat loss with fragmentation are all connected in a way that has negatively affected the environment.
Regions of un
Areas of high agricultural output tend to have the highest extent of habitat destruction. In the U.S., less than 25% of native vegetation remains in many parts of the East and Midwest. Only 15% of land area remains unmodified by human activities in all of Europe.
Currently, changes occurring in different environments around the world are changing the specific geographical habitats that are suitable for plants to grow. Therefore, the ability for plants to migrate to suitable environment areas will have a strong impact on the distribution of plant diversity. However, at the moment, the rates of plant migration that are influenced by habitat loss and fragmentation are not as well understood as they could be.
Tropical rainforests have received most of the attention concerning the destruction of habitat. From the approximately 16 million square kilometers of tropical rainforest habitat that originally existed worldwide, less than 9 million square kilometers remain today. The current rate of deforestation is 160,000 square kilometers per year, which equates to a loss of approximately 1% of original forest habitat each year.
Habitat destruction through natural processes such as volcanism, fire, and climate change is well documented in the fossil record. One study shows that habitat fragmentation of tropical rainforests in Euramerica 300 million years ago led to a great loss of amphibian diversity, but simultaneously the drier climate spurred on a burst of diversity among reptiles.
Habitat destruction caused by humans includes
Geist and Lambin (2002) assessed 152 case studies of net losses of tropical forest cover to determine any patterns in the proximate and underlying causes of tropical deforestation. Their results, yielded as percentages of the case studies in which each parameter was a significant factor, provide a quantitative prioritization of which proximate and underlying causes were the most significant. The proximate causes were clustered into broad categories of
Rising global temperatures, caused by the greenhouse effect, contribute to habitat destruction, endangering various species, such as the polar bear. Melting ice caps promote rising sea levels and floods which threaten natural habitats and species globally.
While the above-mentioned activities are the proximal or direct causes of habitat destruction in that they actually destroy habitat, this still does not identify why humans destroy habitat. The forces that cause humans to destroy habitat are known as drivers of habitat destruction.
Demographic drivers include the
According to the Geist and Lambin (2002) study, the underlying driving forces were prioritized as follows (with the percent of the 152 cases the factor played a significant role in): economic factors (81%), institutional or policy factors (78%), technological factors (70%), cultural or socio-political factors (66%), and
There are also feedbacks and interactions among the proximate and underlying causes of deforestation that can amplify the process. Road construction has the largest feedback effect, because it interacts with—and leads to—the establishment of new settlements and more people, which causes a growth in wood (logging) and food markets. Growth in these markets, in turn, progresses the commercialization of agriculture and logging industries. When these industries become commercialized, they must become more efficient by utilizing larger or more modern machinery that often has a worse effect on the habitat than traditional farming and logging methods. Either way, more land is cleared more rapidly for commercial markets. This common feedback example manifests just how closely related the proximate and underlying causes are to each other.
Impact on human population
Habitat destruction can vastly increase an area's vulnerability to
Agricultural land can suffer from the destruction of the surrounding landscape. Over the past 50 years, the destruction of habitat surrounding agricultural land has degraded approximately 40% of agricultural land worldwide via erosion, salinization, compaction, nutrient depletion, pollution, and urbanization. Humans also lose direct uses of natural habitat when habitat is destroyed. Aesthetic uses such as birdwatching, recreational uses like hunting and fishing, and ecotourism usually[quantify] rely upon relatively undisturbed habitat. Many[quantify] people value the complexity of the natural world and express concern at the loss of natural habitats and of animal or plant species worldwide.
Probably the most profound impact that habitat destruction has on people is the loss of many valuable
The loss of trees from tropical rainforests alone represents a substantial diminishing of Earth's ability to produce oxygen and to use up carbon dioxide. These services are becoming even more important as increasing
The negative effects of habitat destruction usually impact rural populations more directly than urban populations. Across the globe, poor people suffer the most when natural habitat is destroyed, because less natural habitat means fewer natural resources per capita, yet wealthier people and countries can simply pay more to continue to receive more than their per capita share of natural resources.
Another way to view the negative effects of habitat destruction is to look at the opportunity cost of destroying a given habitat. In other words, what do people lose out on with the removal of a given habitat? A country may increase its food supply by converting forest land to row-crop agriculture, but the value of the same land may be much larger when it can supply natural resources or services such as clean water, timber, ecotourism, or flood regulation and drought control.[need quotation to verify]
The rapid expansion of the global human population is increasing the world's food requirement substantially. Simple logic dictates that more people will require more food. In fact, as the world's population increases dramatically, agricultural output will need to increase by at least 50%, over the next 30 years. In the past, continually moving to new land and soils provided a boost in food production to meet the global food demand. That easy fix will no longer be available, however, as more than 98% of all land suitable for agriculture is already in use or degraded beyond repair.
The impending global
Tropical deforestation: In most cases of
Shoreline erosion: Coastal erosion is a natural process as storms, waves, tides and other water level changes occur. Shoreline stabilization can be done by barriers between land and water such as seawalls and bulkheads. Living shorelines are gaining attention as a new stabilization method. These can reduce damage and erosion while simultaneously providing ecosystem services such as food production, nutrient and sediment removal, and water quality improvement to society
Preventing an area from losing its specialist species to generalist invasive species depends on the extent of the habitat destruction that has already taken place. In areas where the habitat is relatively undisturbed, halting further habitat destruction may be enough. In areas where habitat destruction is more extreme (fragmentation or patch loss), restoration ecology may be needed.
Education of the general public is possibly the best way to prevent further human habitat destruction. Changing the dull creep of environmental impacts from being viewed as acceptable to being seen a reason for change to more sustainable practices. Education about the necessity of family planning to slow population growth is important as greater population leads to greater human caused habitat destruction.
The biggest potential to solving the issue of habitat destruction comes from solving the political, economical and social problems that go along with it such as, individual and commercial material consumption, sustainable extraction of resources, conservation areas, restoration of degraded land and addressing climate change.
Governmental leaders need to take action by addressing the underlying driving forces, rather than merely regulating the proximate causes. In a broader sense, governmental bodies at a local, national, and international scale need to emphasize:
- Considering the irreplaceable ecosystem servicesprovided by natural habitats.
- Protecting remaining intact sections of natural habitat.
- Finding ecological ways to increase agricultural output without increasing the total land in production.
- Reducing contraception globally, furthering gender equalityalso has a great benefit. When women have the same education (decision-making power), this generally leads to smaller families.
It is argued that the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation can be counteracted by including spatial processes in potential restoration management plans. However, even though spatial dynamics are incredibly important in the conservation and recovery of species, a limited amount of management plans are taking the spatial effects of habitat restoration and conservation into consideration.
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