The loss of biodiversity is one of the most significant problems on the planet. It seems that the human being his selfish vision of the natural environment makes him forget that there is life beyond cities and built-up areas, beyond the resources that nature provides us for our day to day life. Although currently the awareness of society is increasing, much remains to be done and from AgroCorrn we want to contribute to it. So that you can help us achieve this, we will tell you the main keys about the loss of biodiversity, its causes and consequences . Take note!
What is biodiversity and what is its importance
The term biodiversity refers to the entire variety of living beings on the planet , from individual organisms to the complex ecosystems that they make up, such as grasslands, forests, jungles, fresh and salt water ecosystems , etc.
Biodiversity is of utmost importance since, in addition to having an intrinsic value in itself, it provides a large number of services and goods to human beings that are vital for our survival (food, water, raw materials, natural resources …), depending on so of her many rural communities.
Learn more about this topic in this other AgroCorrn article on The importance of biodiversity and its care and also with this video.
Causes of biodiversity loss
Today there is a serious problem in the natural environment, and it is that the disappearance of terrestrial ecosystems and all the biodiversity they harbor is taking place by leaps and bounds. It is estimated that, of the more than 47,000 species evaluated, around 36% are in danger of extinction. Although it must be taken into account that this disappearance is also occurring at an accelerated rate in the aquatic environment. This loss of biodiversity is due to various factors, among which are mainly:
- The overexploitation of the natural environment.
- The loss of the habitats of the species.
- Pollution of the environment.
- The introduction of invasive alien species.
- The effects of climate change.
Overexploitation of the natural environment
The overexploitation of the natural environment refers to the uncontrolled use of natural resources that a certain ecosystem can offer. This occurs when the extraction rate of these resources is higher than the natural regeneration rate.
When we talk about these resources that are extracted from the environment, we can also refer to individuals that inhabit these ecosystems, so that the rate at which they are extracted from them is greater than the rate at which they reproduce, causing decreases in their population numbers. This has occurred in many species that have been exploited such as whales, deer or fish. The main activities that are responsible for this overexploitation are hunting , illegal trade in species, fishing, felling of trees or agriculture.
The consequences of overexploitation can be obvious. If not controlled, overexploitation will result in many species being threatened, potentially leading to the extinction of many species .
Loss of habitats
Another cause responsible for the loss of biodiversity is the loss of habitats in which the various species live. Habitats are destroyed when ecosystems are modified to meet human needs through activities such as deforestation or drainage of wetlands, the transformation of rainforests and forests into agricultural fields.
The transformation of these natural spaces does not have to occur in its entirety, since there may be a partial change that also has consequences on the structure, composition or function of ecosystems, thus affecting their species and the services we obtain from them.
The transformation of natural areas can cause the fragmentation of habitats, that is, that these are divided, having negative effects such as the ” edge effect “. This phenomenon occurs in areas where two different natural habitats or two structurally different adjoining communities come into contact. An example of this is what would happen when a communication route, such as a road, is built through a forest.
As we discussed before, the destruction of habitats , in whole or in part, has consequences on species, since those whose mobility is reduced may suffer threats by reducing their ecosystem and not being able to move to another, in the composition of ecosystems, result of the previous alterations on the species or on the natural resources that we extract from them.
We tell you more about this cause of biodiversity loss here: Destruction of the environment and habitat: causes and consequences .
The pollution of the environment through various chemicals have serious repercussions on biodiversity. These substances can affect the air, water or soils and among them are fertilizers and pesticides, plastic materials or the dumping of different agricultural and environmental wastes from industrial, livestock, agricultural and urban activities. In addition, derived from this type of activity, the burning of fossil fuels produces acids such as sulfur and carbon that precipitate through acid rain, which causes harmful effects on ecosystems at reproductive and nutritional levels.
However, chemical substances are not the only pollutants that affect biodiversity, as there are other sources of pollution such as:
It causes most species to flee from areas with higher levels of noise pollution and surroundings, especially in species with more acute hearing abilities such as rodents, bats or owls. Some species of birds are very sensitive to these high sound levels since it hinders their communication or even their reproductive rites by not being able to attract a mate through their song.
Light or light pollution produces changes in the biorhythms of various species. For example, some European robins sing at night under powerful artificial lighting that creates a feeling of false daylight.
It has many effects as yet unknown, although the most affected organisms are aquatic ones. They can be affected due to the low availability of oxygen, since with increasing temperature the solubility of gases in water decreases. In addition, changes can occur in feeding, reproduction, embryonic development and growth rates. In relation to the latter, the sex of some reptiles is determined during embryonic development depending on the temperature at which the eggs are found during incubation, as is the case of turtles, crocodiles and some lizards.
Learn more about the consequences of this environmental problem in this other post about How pollution affects the environment .
Introduction of invasive species
Invasive species are those that produce changes in the ecosystems they access, displacing the species that were previously in them (autochthonous species). These ecosystem changes produced by invasive species can interfere with the composition of ecosystems, their structure or the processes between species that occur within them.
The introduction of these species can occur voluntarily or involuntarily, and today it has increased significantly. The danger of invasive species is that they do not find competition from the species that were previously in the new environment to which they have accessed. Consequently, the native species are displaced , being able to die and become extinct. In addition, these species from foreign areas can be carriers of diseases, putting our health at risk.
You can expand this information with these articles about the Introduction of exotic species: causes and consequences and Invasive species in Spain and their consequences .
Climate change encompasses the changes that are taking place in the Earth’s current climate on ecosystems. It is very possible that before the end of the century, it will be the main responsible for the loss of biological diversity .
It is increasingly seriously affecting the survival capacity of many species, which are forced to adapt to new climatic conditions (moving to new areas with climatic conditions similar to those of their original habitats, changing behavior patterns or through modifications genetic, which supposes a period of time that covers entire generations) or succumbing to them.
The most direct consequence of climate change is an increase in the number of threatened species , the clearest example of this being that of polar bears that are threatened by the melting of the polar ice caps, and the extinction of many of them.
We recommend reading this other AgroCorrn publication on How climate change affects biodiversity .
Consequences of biodiversity loss
The loss of biodiversity has very serious consequences , and it is essential for the survival of life on our planet.
The extinction of species has serious impacts on ecosystems, which can lose their functions when species that constitute the links in the food chains are eliminated. This means that the extinction of some specific species can trigger the extinction of as many as if it were a domino, including humans. The problem that exists with the extinction of bees is known to all, without which a large number of plant species will see their pollination capacity impossible, many of them forming basic levels in various trophic chains.
On the other hand, the imbalances generated in the trophic chains can cause from the appearance of pests (when those that the predators of the species that become pests are eliminated), to the destruction of very extensive plant areas due to the effect of said plagues, with their respective consequences that we will discuss a little later.
The extinction of species has no solution and, with this, our survival is threatened since it endangers our diet, our health or our well-being, since many pharmacological substances have a natural origin, both animal and vegetable, the latter being more abundant. With the destruction of this biodiversity, unknown plant species may be eliminated, preventing any possibility of finding cures for diseases that today do not have them.
Soil, water and air also depend on the biodiversity of the planet. Vegetation plays an important role in maintaining all of them. It uses CO2, among other things, to produce its food. With its elimination, the amount of atmospheric CO2 would increase, contributing to climate change and increased temperatures.
On the other hand, the soils found under the forests make it easier for the water that reaches them to leak into the aquifers, providing a source of water for human consumption (remember that its exploitation must be carried out in a responsible way). With all this, the forests prevent the soil from losing moisture, but if the forests disappear, the soil will erode, losing its fertility and becoming arid areas .
Last but not least is the fact that man enjoys biodiversity, although it may be difficult to imagine today. However, this biodiversity can provide us with the possibility of finding well-being with ourselves and with the environment that surrounds us.
Loss of biodiversity: solutions
Perhaps after reading all this information and seeing the serious consequences of the loss of biodiversity, you have some more questions. In fact, it is very likely that you are wondering how to take care of biodiversity to stop this loss and help it to recover in different parts of the world.
These are some key points to take into account, both at a personal level and by governments and institutions, to find solutions for the loss of biodiversity and achieve its reduction:
- Do not favor actions that are directly or indirectly related to the extinction of species, be they animals, plants or other types of living beings.
- Apply the 7Rs of ecology to reduce consumption and, in general, our negative impact on the environment and biodiversity.
- Encourage actions to protect biodiversity, such as those carried out by various non-profit organizations to help endangered species and other actions that improve the environment.
- Help raise awareness and educate others on these issues, especially the youngest.
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