Habitat destruction

Habitat destruction is the process in which natural habitat is rendered unable to support the species present. In this process, the organisms that previously used the site are displaced or destroyed, reducing biodiversity. Habitat destruction by human activity is mainly for the purpose of harvesting natural resources for industrial production and urbanization. Clearing habitats for agriculture is the principal cause of habitat destruction. Other important causes of habitat destruction include mining, logging, trawling and urban sprawl. Habitat destruction is currently ranked as the primary cause of species extinction worldwide. It is a process of natural environmental change that may be caused by habitat fragmentation, geological processes, climate change or by human activities such as the introduction of invasive species, ecosystem nutrient depletion, and other human activities.

The terms habitat loss and habitat reduction are also used in a wider sense, including loss of habitat from other factors, such as water and noise pollution.

In the simplest term, when a habitat is destroyed, the plants, animals, and other organisms that occupied the habitat have a reduced carrying capacity so that populations decline and extinction becomes more likely. Perhaps the greatest threat to organisms and biodiversity is the process of habitat loss. Temple (1986) found that 82% of endangered bird species were significantly threatened by habitat loss. Most amphibian species are also threatened by habitat loss, and some species are now only breeding in modified habitat. Endemic organisms with limited ranges are most affected by habitat destruction, mainly because these organisms are not found anywhere else within the world and thus, have less chance of recovering. Many endemic organisms have very specific requirements for their survival that can only be found within a certain ecosystem, resulting in their extinction. Extinction may also take place very long after the destruction of habitat, a phenomenon known as extinction debt. Habitat destruction can also decrease the range of certain organism populations. This can result in the reduction of genetic diversity and perhaps the production of infertile youths, as these organisms would have a higher possibility of mating with related organisms within their population, or different species. One of the most famous examples is the impact upon China's giant panda, once found across the nation. Now it is only found in fragmented and isolated regions in the southwest of the country, as a result of widespread deforestation in the 20th century.

Biodiversity hotspots are chiefly tropical regions that feature high concentrations of endemic species and, when all hotspots are combined, may contain over half of the world’s terrestrial species. These hotspots are suffering from habitat loss and destruction. Most of the natural habitat on islands and in areas of high human population density has already been destroyed (WRI, 2003). Islands suffering extreme habitat destruction include New Zealand, Madagascar, the Philippines, and Japan. South and East Asia — especially China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Japan — and many areas in West Africa have extremely dense human populations that allow little room for natural habitat. Marine areas close to highly populated coastal cities also face degradation of their coral reefs or other marine habitat. These areas include the eastern coasts of Asia and Africa, northern coasts of South America, and the Caribbean Sea and its associated islands.

Regions of unsustainable agriculture or unstable governments, which may go hand-in-hand, typically experience high rates of habitat destruction. Central America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Amazonian tropical rainforest areas of South America are the main regions with unsustainable agricultural practices and/or government mismanagement.

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.

This page was last edited on 12 March 2018, at 08:30.
Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habitat_degradation under CC BY-SA license.

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