Biodiversity, meaning “the diversity of life”. It also refers to the variety of forms of life on Earth. Such complexity encompasses all of the differences that occur in the biological organization at all stages. There are many threats to biodiversity that are prevailing today and one should know about them.

Yet note that nature is more than just animals. To correctly identify life forms, consideration should be given to the differences within various environments and ecosystems. And, also to the variation in genetic makeup among individuals.

Biodiversity is essential to boost productivity in habitats that rely on biodiversity to survive. Several human-made practices also place tremendous impacts on biodiversity.

The six main threats to biodiversity are listed below: 

  • climate change
  •  habitat loss and deterioration
  •  deforestation
  •  invasive species
  •  over-exploitation 
  • epidemics

Let us discover how much threats to biodiversity lead to our Planet’s loss of biodiversity.

They need to have an idea of what we have until we decide where we should bring our conservation efforts. The results of Taking Nature’s Pulse is British Columbia’s Biodiversity Status. It is a milestone report. Further, BC’s companion Biodiversity Atlas provides a context and source of information for action to conserve biodiversity.

Such research offers a science-based basis from a regional perspective. And, it also provides us with the best available information to help British Columbians make informed choices about wildlife which includes the Nature Trust.

What is biodiversity & What are the threats to it?

Biodiversity (short for “biological diversity”) refers to all living things’ number, variety, and variability. It is the variety of life. It can be in an area that can extend from being in a pool of water that collects from a plant’s leaves to the all-encompassing biosphere.

There are many organizational levels that define biodiversity. These include human genetic diversity, the amount and forms of animals, the range and productivity of plant populations and habitats, and the relationships with their physical environment between the individuals.

Threats to biodiversity | 2020 List!

Let’s read about the various threats to biodiversity:

1. Climate change

Climate change relates to the long-term and permanent transition, which happens in the environment. The increase in atmospheric temperature has significant ecological implications like seasons, sea-level rise, and glacial retreats.

Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels and biomass, deforestation, and agricultural practices contribute to greenhouse gases. It further prevents heat from escaping the surface of the Earth. With the rise in the temperature, which is anticipated by such rising greenhouse gases, there will be higher levels of air pollution.  Thus, greater volatility of weather patterns, as well as shifts in plant growth in the countryside. Many animals will not be able to adapt. And thus would become vulnerable to these changes in the environment.

Nevertheless, many plant and animal species are predicted to try to migrate to higher latitudes and altitudes as the temperature rises. Therefore any gaps in the landscape, such as highways and urban areas that restrict migration to more hospitable places, would result in a threat to biodiversity. 

  • Organisms’ biodiversity gets influenced in terms of population, distribution, habitat level,  morphology, and role of organisms.
  • Thanks to the rise in temperature, animals have already evolved by extending their ranges of latitudes. Because of this action, the population of many animals has decreased. Other species demonstrated improvements in the pacing of their physiological functions. These include migration and spawning birds and insects earlier than usual. Thus, resulting in some breeding and youth development loss and further resulting in a threat to biodiversity.
  • About ecosystems, studies have revealed that climate change has resulted in the expansion of many desert ecosystems. Therefore, it has its effects on the function and services that the ecosystem can offer.

To humanity, the rapidly rising pace of climate change brings a significant threat to biodiversity as natural resources are increasingly limited. Global warming and climate change are already creating drastic effects on biodiversity. However, if not mitigated, such consequences may contribute to more severe future threats.

2. Habitat loss and degradation

Habitat loss relates to changes in the environment. It culminates as a threat to biodiversity. The habitat can no longer sustain and maintain the survival of the present species, thus increasing their population.

  • Habitat loss can either be caused by natural events such as natural calamities and geological events, or by anthropogenic activities such as deforestation and climate change induced by man.
  • The species that once existed in a particular area or country become destroyed and forced to relocate in the phase of habitat degradation, resulting in a decrease of biodiversity.

Human-made actions are indeed the primary reasons for loss of habitat and threat to biodiversity. Today, the process of forest clearance for crop development and industrial growth tends to displace species from their natural habitat. Specific activities include logging and mining.

3.  Pollution | One of the major threats to biodiversity!

Whether it is water, air, or land contamination, these types of emissions seem to impact any form of life on Earth. Moreover, when it comes to the nutrient loading of the elements nitrogen and phosphorus, it poses a significant threat to biodiversity.

The adverse effects of air and hydrological emissions on wildlife are far-reaching. Pollution from burning fossil fuels like tar, coal, and gas can either stay in the environment as particulate contaminants or fall to the ground as acid rain. Acid rain, which is made mainly of sulfuric and nitric acid, induces wetlands, streams, and fragile forest surfaces to acidify and leads to slower vegetation development and tree destruction at high altitudes. Furthermore, leaching agricultural waste, such as pesticides and herbicides, onto wetlands and watersheds. Many species of fish, such as salmonids, need small streams of fresh water to breed.

The consequence of polluted waterways is the destruction of common spawning areas and eventually, the depletion of salmon stocks. The exposure of animals to the emission is variable. Nonetheless, other animals remain susceptible to the indirect effects of pollution owing to the abundance of toxic chemicals in the top food chain predators and involvement with predator-prey encounters.

  • Atmospheric nitrogen is the only pollutant in Europe that has not been reduced in quantity since the regulation got introduced. The mere presence presents immense obstacles for the protection initiatives planned for the ecosystems and species that live there.
  • Also, the concentration of nitrogen compounds in water systems can contribute to eutrophication (excessive growth of plants and algaes).
  • The existence and concentration of phosphorus in water systems will affect the functioning of food chains. Excessive phosphorus, including nitrogen, may result in planktonic algae rising uncontrolled, thereby through the accumulation of organic matter in the seabed.
  • Acid rain is another source of emissions that can destroy and kill living organisms. As its name suggests, acid rain is rain that forms of toxic acids (i.e., nitric and sulfuric acid). Typically this rain is the product of pollution from massive fossil fuel burning.

Many forms of emissions can be reversed, such as depleting the ozone layer. It will only arise, though, as humans stop or limit the use of different chemicals that lead to their degradation. Thus, if not prevented or limited, it would become a threat to biodiversity.

4. Invasive species

An endangered or unusual species may be any creature introduced into a foreign environment. This incorporation will cause significant disruptions to the native species, as they often get exposed to a great resource, disease, and predation rivalry. When the area got successfully colonized by the species, they are already called “invasive.”

  • Invasive species are ranked second-largest threat to biodiversity alongside habitat loss.
  • The greatest threat invasive species can pose is their ability to change a whole ecosystem. Such animals are highly adaptable and can conquer a given area quickly. Because many human creatures can live in a particular setting, they continue to be replaced, or worse, to die.
  • Some places have minimal potential for species invasion. Such places usually include those with severe ambient conditions such as extreme temperatures and dense salinity.

Examples of invasive species:

  • After Guam (an island in the Pacific Ocean) got exposed to the brown tree snake, it killed out 3/4th of the bird population by swallowing their eggs and baby birds from the nests. It is one of the instances of aggressive invasive species. Learn more about the topic here.
  • Hawaiian Duck Vs. North American Mallard Hawaiian Duck Vs. North American Mallard Because Hawaiian ducks and North American ducks share a similar genetic composition; they balance each other to create a new breed of ducks. It leads Hawaiian duck populations to decline slowly. It is an illustration of hybridization with invasive species — link to this active University of California post for further information on this.
  • The North American beavers were introduced in the early 1940s to develop the Argentine fur industry. The result was quite astonishing. Beavers chewed off the roots and trunks of the ancient South American tree that washed about 40 million acres of pure forest area onto the barren ground. 

Many native organisms are introduced to a specific location to substitute the plants or incorporate more. It is important to note that not all animals added are invasive. Most of those attempts have succeeded.

Alien infestation, such as the Codling Moth, is also a significant threat to BC wildlife. Intentional and negligent addition to habitats of a large variety of species in which they do not belong has resulted in environments that vary dramatically in structure and function from those that got initially found. Generally, some exotic species got introduced into the ecosystems without their co-evolved predators and parasites. It allowed the alien invader to out-compete these native species with similar ecological needs.

Plants like Knapweed got introduced to arid grasslands. And, Purple Loosestrife got introduced to wetlands and riparian regions. Both of these are increasingly becoming dominant plant species within their respective habitats in British Columbia. Such exotic species change or disrupt the relationships between native species, and can become a threat to biodiversity.

5. Overexploitation

Over-exploitation refers to the fact that animals and natural resources are over-harvested at speeds higher than they can naturally support themselves in the wild. Because of this, the community of animals got placed at a significant risk of decrease.

  • Overharvesting, overfishing, and overhunting are just a few sources of overfishing.
  • Additionally, when their number is too small, some species of living organisms find it difficult to reproduce.
  • So as a community or habitat continues to suffer from reduced diversity of species, when a natural disaster or other factors decrease, the risk of getting wiped out completely.

If the act of overexploitation persists, it can ultimately cause other animals to disappear, even if they still live in the wild and further become a threat to biodiversity.

6.  Other threats To Biodiversity

Apart from the above – mentioned five factors, there are still a lot of different factors that can either relate directly or indirectly as a threat to biodiversity. An excellent example of this is human epidemics and infectious diseases such as Ebola virus disease, bursal contagious disease, and flu. This trend is impacting not only biodiversity but also human health.

  • Apart from that, human-induced activities that include fiscal, technical, science, cultural, and demographic influences often become a threat to biodiversity. Due to excessive draining of water tables, desiccation of wetlands and soils also leads to the mortality of organisms living in those habitats.
  • The overuse of natural parks and watersheds as tourist destinations and leisure sites often affects wildlife as people create too much noise and disruptions that disrupt the normal activities of the species.

These threats to biodiversity may lead to several species to go extinct. Maintaining ecosystem connectivity could mitigate its biodiversity impacts. The idea of a corridor argues that corridor-connected refuges will have higher immigration rates than independent natural habitat areas. It can account for the loss by encouraging gene flow and avoiding inbreeding. Corridors consisting of natural or reclaimed strips of land that link large patches of habitat may promote the migration of species between patches and decrease the threats to biodiversity. Habitat patches linked by corridors must always be wide enough to sustain species communities, especially for non-corporeal vertebrates.

The effectiveness of wildlife corridors depends on many factors of corridor construction, including vegetation quality and fundamental point, duration and width, and level of human operation within and around the hallway. Individual species need access at different scales. Many species can migrate in tiny stretches of natural vegetation, such as hedgerows. In contrast, other species require large areas of habitat nearby with very short distances of movement across the unsuitable habitat. Only the preservation or improvement of small stretches of vegetation in wildlife refuges cannot sustain biodiversity; the entire landscape’s ecosystem qualities must get maintained.

It is indeed necessary to make sure that there is no threat to biodiversity due to any of the above-mentioned factors — all of our need to ensure that we make the use of our surroundings correctly.