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Environmental degradation: definition, causes and consequences

Currently, environmental degradation is one of the greatest threats to our planet. Environmental deterioration occurs due to various damages to the environment. The different factors that produce environmental deterioration are very varied and it is important to identify them correctly, to correct them and find solutions.

In this AgroCorrn article, we analyze environmental deterioration: definition, causes and consequences .

What is environmental deterioration or deterioration of the environment

The environment is an ecological unit that houses both the living and non-living components, that is, biotic and abiotic , that inhabit it. The living components include plants and animals and among the non-living, we find soils, lakes, rivers, streams or air.

Environmental degradation is the loss of the environment’s ability to meet the social, biodiversity and environmental needs of the earth. Environmental degradation occurs when the earth’s natural resources are depleted or damaged and the environment is compromised.

The consequences of this deterioration are varied and can be the extinction of species, loss of biodiversity, loss of air quality, water pollution , soil erosion or increased greenhouse effect . While many of these effects are not visible in the short term, they are noticeable in the long term. It is for this reason that current actions may have an impact on future environmental deterioration

Causes of environmental degradation

The causes that influence environmental deterioration are very varied. Among them are:

Pollution deteriorates the environment

We call pollution the alteration caused in the environment by the introduction of different substances into the environment and that exert a negative effect on it. There are different types of contamination, which are usually divided according to the affected environment. The best known and most studied types of pollution are soil , atmospheric, water and noise pollution, but there are also other less known ones such as light, visual, thermal, electromagnetic, radioactive or genetic pollution.

Another method of classifying contamination is according to the degree of dispersion of the contaminants. Thus we have:

  • Point contamination : contaminants are located in a single point, such as a drain.
  • Diffuse pollution: pollutants are diffused through the environment, such as acid rain by the action of the wind.

Environmental deterioration by the industrial sector

Much of the environmental deterioration is due to industrial activities , which produce goods for society at the cost of damaging the environment, generating pollutants or giving the population the necessary elements to continue deteriorating the environment.

Habitat deterioration

The deterioration of the habitat is produced largely by activities carried out by humans, such as the construction of dams or tourism on the coast, which worsen the conditions of the habitat, affecting the animal and plant species that inhabit it.

Another cause of environmental deterioration is the introduction of invasive species , since not being natural inhabitants of that habitat, they alter its conditions.

Consequences of environmental degradation for humans

Environmental degradation can have effects on humans or their health. Some of them are:

  • Poverty, especially in underdeveloped countries.
  • Lack of access to basic resources such as drinking water.
  • Spread of pathogenic insects or disease vectors.
  • Contamination of water with pathogenic microorganisms or polluting chemical substances, damaging the health of human beings.
  • Possible diseases or complications in humans due to pollutants such as respiratory conditions, increased incidence of some types of cancers, electromagnetic sensitivity or deafness problems.
  • Diffusion of substances harmful to human health in food, mainly due to the contamination of water with heavy metals.

Consequences of environmental degradation for biodiversity

Both plant and animal species suffer the consequences of environmental deterioration . Some are:

  • Increase in the stranding of marine mammals on the beaches, due to stress and disorientation due to noise pollution.
  • Death of fish by the accumulation of heavy metals in the waters and by other contaminants such as plastic
  • Species migration due to light pollution or climate change.
  • Extinction of animal and plant species due to climate change or pollutants derived from the use of pesticides or herbicides.
  • Migration of species to places that are not their natural habitats, becoming invasive species.
  • Damages to plant species due to factors such as acid rain , soil contamination by chemical substances or spills, or water contamination.
  • Salinization of coastal areas as a consequence of rising sea levels.

Consequences for the planet

In summary, the consequences of environmental deterioration for the planet are the following:

  • Global warming and desertification, due to increased levels of CO2 and other atmospheric pollutants.
  • Increase in the occurrence of extreme weather events such as hurricanes or droughts.
  • Eutrophication of fresh waters, due to the contamination of the waters.
  • Increased soil erosion due to massive logging of water.
  • Increase in landfills with toxic waste, which are then washed away by the rains or infiltrated into the subsoil.

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