Habitat destruction

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Habitat destruction (also termed habitat loss and habitat reduction) is the process by which a natural habitat becomes incapable of supporting its native species. Habitat destruction_sentence_0

The organisms that previously inhabited the site are displaced or die, thereby reducing biodiversity and species abundance. Habitat destruction_sentence_1

Habitat destruction through human activity is mainly for the purpose of harvesting natural resources for industrial production and urbanization. Habitat destruction_sentence_2

Clearing habitats for agriculture is the principal cause of habitat destruction. Habitat destruction_sentence_3

Other important causes of habitat destruction include mining, logging, trawling, and urban sprawl. Habitat destruction_sentence_4

Habitat destruction is currently ranked as the primary cause of species extinction worldwide. Habitat destruction_sentence_5

The destructive environmental changes include more indirect factors like geological processes, and climate change, introduction of invasive species, ecosystem nutrient depletion, water and noise pollution and others. Habitat destruction_sentence_6

Loss of habitat can be preceded by an initial habitat fragmentation. Habitat destruction_sentence_7

Impacts on organisms Habitat destruction_section_0

When a habitat is destroyed, the carrying capacity for indigenous plants, animals, and other organisms is reduced so that populations decline, sometimes up to the level of extinction. Habitat destruction_sentence_8

Habitat loss is perhaps the greatest threat to organisms and biodiversity. Habitat destruction_sentence_9

Temple (1986) found that 82% of endangered bird species were significantly threatened by habitat loss. Habitat destruction_sentence_10

Most amphibian species are also threatened by native habitat loss, and some species are now only breeding in modified habitat. Habitat destruction_sentence_11

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. Habitat destruction_sentence_12

Many endemic organisms have very specific requirements for their survival that can only be found within a certain ecosystem, resulting in their extinction. Habitat destruction_sentence_13

Extinction may also take place very long after the destruction of habitat, a phenomenon known as extinction debt. Habitat destruction_sentence_14

Habitat destruction can also decrease the range of certain organism populations. Habitat destruction_sentence_15

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. Habitat destruction_sentence_16

One of the most famous examples is the impact upon China's giant panda, once found in many areas of Sichuan. Habitat destruction_sentence_17

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. Habitat destruction_sentence_18

Geography Habitat destruction_section_1

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. Habitat destruction_sentence_19

These hotspots are suffering from habitat loss and destruction. Habitat destruction_sentence_20

Most of the natural habitat on islands and in areas of high human population density has already been destroyed (WRI, 2003). Habitat destruction_sentence_21

Islands suffering extreme habitat destruction include New Zealand, Madagascar, the Philippines, and Japan. Habitat destruction_sentence_22

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. Habitat destruction_sentence_23

Marine areas close to highly populated coastal cities also face degradation of their coral reefs or other marine habitat. Habitat destruction_sentence_24

These areas include the eastern coasts of Asia and Africa, northern coasts of South America, and the Caribbean Sea and its associated islands. Habitat destruction_sentence_25

Regions of unsustainable agriculture or unstable governments, which may go hand-in-hand, typically experience high rates of habitat destruction. Habitat destruction_sentence_26

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. Habitat destruction_sentence_27

Areas of high agricultural output tend to have the highest extent of habitat destruction. Habitat destruction_sentence_28

In the U.S., less than 25% of native vegetation remains in many parts of the East and Midwest. Habitat destruction_sentence_29

Only 15% of land area remains unmodified by human activities in all of Europe. Habitat destruction_sentence_30

Ecosystems Habitat destruction_section_2

Tropical rainforests have received most of the attention concerning the destruction of habitat. Habitat destruction_sentence_31

From the approximately 16 million square kilometers of tropical rainforest habitat that originally existed worldwide, less than 9 million square kilometers remain today. Habitat destruction_sentence_32

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_sentence_33

Other forest ecosystems have suffered as much or more destruction as tropical rainforests. Habitat destruction_sentence_34

Deforestation for farming and logging have severely disturbed at least 94% of temperate broadleaf forests; many old growth forest stands have lost more than 98% of their previous area because of human activities. Habitat destruction_sentence_35

Tropical deciduous dry forests are easier to clear and burn and are more suitable for agriculture and cattle ranching than tropical rainforests; consequently, less than 0.1% of dry forests in Central America's Pacific Coast and less than 8% in Madagascar remain from their original extents. Habitat destruction_sentence_36

Plains and desert areas have been degraded to a lesser extent. Habitat destruction_sentence_37

Only 10-20% of the world's drylands, which include temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands, scrub, and deciduous forests, have been somewhat degraded. Habitat destruction_sentence_38

But included in that 10-20% of land is the approximately 9 million square kilometers of seasonally dry-lands that humans have converted to deserts through the process of desertification. Habitat destruction_sentence_39

The tallgrass prairies of North America, on the other hand, have less than 3% of natural habitat remaining that has not been converted to farmland. Habitat destruction_sentence_40

Wetlands and marine areas have endured high levels of habitat destruction. Habitat destruction_sentence_41

More than 50% of wetlands in the U.S. have been destroyed in just the last 200 years. Habitat destruction_sentence_42

Between 60% and 70% of European wetlands have been completely destroyed. Habitat destruction_sentence_43

In the United Kingdom, there has been an increase in demand for coastal housing and tourism which has caused a decline in marine habitats over the last 60 years. Habitat destruction_sentence_44

The rising sea levels and temperatures have caused soil erosion, coastal flooding, and loss of quality in the UK marine ecosystem. Habitat destruction_sentence_45

About one-fifth (20%) of marine coastal areas have been highly modified by humans. Habitat destruction_sentence_46

One-fifth of coral reefs have also been destroyed, and another fifth has been severely degraded by overfishing, pollution, and invasive species; 90% of the Philippines’ coral reefs alone have been destroyed. Habitat destruction_sentence_47

Finally, over 35% of the mangrove ecosystems worldwide have been destroyed. Habitat destruction_sentence_48

Natural causes Habitat destruction_section_3

Habitat destruction through natural processes such as volcanism, fire, and climate change is well documented in the fossil record. Habitat destruction_sentence_49

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_sentence_50

Human causes Habitat destruction_section_4

Habitat destruction caused by humans includes land conversion from forests, etc. to arable land, urban sprawl, infrastructure development, and other anthropogenic changes to the characteristics of land. Habitat destruction_sentence_51

Habitat degradation, fragmentation, and pollution are aspects of habitat destruction caused by humans that do not necessarily involve over destruction of habitat, yet result in habitat collapse. Habitat destruction_sentence_52

Desertification, deforestation, and coral reef degradation are specific types of habitat destruction for those areas (deserts, forests, coral reefs). Habitat destruction_sentence_53

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. Habitat destruction_sentence_54

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. Habitat destruction_sentence_55

The proximate causes were clustered into broad categories of agricultural expansion (96%), infrastructure expansion (72%), and wood extraction (67%). Habitat destruction_sentence_56

Therefore, according to this study, forest conversion to agriculture is the main land use change responsible for tropical deforestation. Habitat destruction_sentence_57

The specific categories reveal further insight into the specific causes of tropical deforestation: transport extension (64%), commercial wood extraction (52%), permanent cultivation (48%), cattle ranching (46%), shifting (slash and burn) cultivation (41%), subsistence agriculture (40%), and fuel wood extraction for domestic use (28%). Habitat destruction_sentence_58

One result is that shifting cultivation is not the primary cause of deforestation in all world regions, while transport extension (including the construction of new roads) is the largest single proximate factor responsible for deforestation. Habitat destruction_sentence_59

Global warming Habitat destruction_section_5

Rising global temperatures, caused by the greenhouse effect, contribute to habitat destruction, endangering various species, such as the polar bear. Habitat destruction_sentence_60

Melting ice caps promote rising sea levels and floods which threaten natural habitats and species globally. Habitat destruction_sentence_61

Drivers Habitat destruction_section_6

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. Habitat destruction_sentence_62

The forces that cause humans to destroy habitat are known as drivers of habitat destruction. Habitat destruction_sentence_63

Demographic, economic, sociopolitical, scientific and technological, and cultural drivers all contribute to habitat destruction. Habitat destruction_sentence_64

Demographic drivers include the expanding human population; rate of population increase over time; spatial distribution of people in a given area (urban versus rural), ecosystem type, and country; and the combined effects of poverty, age, family planning, gender, and education status of people in certain areas. Habitat destruction_sentence_65

Most of the exponential human population growth worldwide is occurring in or close to biodiversity hotspots. Habitat destruction_sentence_66

This may explain why human population density accounts for 87.9% of the variation in numbers of threatened species across 114 countries, providing indisputable evidence that people play the largest role in decreasing biodiversity. Habitat destruction_sentence_67

The boom in human population and migration of people into such species-rich regions are making conservation efforts not only more urgent but also more likely to conflict with local human interests. Habitat destruction_sentence_68

The high local population density in such areas is directly correlated to the poverty status of the local people, most of whom lacking an education and family planning. Habitat destruction_sentence_69

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 demographic factors (61%). Habitat destruction_sentence_70

The main economic factors included commercialization and growth of timber markets (68%), which are driven by national and international demands; urban industrial growth (38%); low domestic costs for land, labor, fuel, and timber (32%); and increases in product prices mainly for cash crops (25%). Habitat destruction_sentence_71

Institutional and policy factors included formal pro-deforestation policies on land development (40%), economic growth including colonization and infrastructure improvement (34%), and subsidies for land-based activities (26%); property rights and land-tenure insecurity (44%); and policy failures such as corruption, lawlessness, or mismanagement (42%). Habitat destruction_sentence_72

The main technological factor was the poor application of technology in the wood industry (45%), which leads to wasteful logging practices. Habitat destruction_sentence_73

Within the broad category of cultural and sociopolitical factors are public attitudes and values (63%), individual/household behavior (53%), public unconcern toward forest environments (43%), missing basic values (36%), and unconcern by individuals (32%). Habitat destruction_sentence_74

Demographic factors were the in-migration of colonizing settlers into sparsely populated forest areas (38%) and growing population density—a result of the first factor—in those areas (25%). Habitat destruction_sentence_75

There are also feedbacks and interactions among the proximate and underlying causes of deforestation that can amplify the process. Habitat destruction_sentence_76

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. Habitat destruction_sentence_77

Growth in these markets, in turn, progresses the commercialization of agriculture and logging industries. Habitat destruction_sentence_78

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. Habitat destruction_sentence_79

Either way, more land is cleared more rapidly for commercial markets. Habitat destruction_sentence_80

This common feedback example manifests just how closely related the proximate and underlying causes are to each other. Habitat destruction_sentence_81

Impact on human population Habitat destruction_section_7

Habitat destruction vastly increases an area's vulnerability to natural disasters like flood and drought, crop failure, spread of disease, and water contamination. Habitat destruction_sentence_82

On the other hand, a healthy ecosystem with good management practices will reduce the chance of these events happening, or will at least mitigate adverse impacts. Habitat destruction_sentence_83

Agricultural land can actually suffer from the destruction of the surrounding landscape. Habitat destruction_sentence_84

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. Habitat destruction_sentence_85

Humans also lose direct uses of natural habitat when habitat is destroyed. Habitat destruction_sentence_86

Aesthetic uses such as birdwatching, recreational uses like hunting and fishing, and ecotourism usually rely upon virtually undisturbed habitat. Habitat destruction_sentence_87

Many people value the complexity of the natural world and are disturbed by the loss of natural habitats and animal or plant species worldwide. Habitat destruction_sentence_88

Probably the most profound impact that habitat destruction has on people is the loss of many valuable ecosystem services. Habitat destruction_sentence_89

Habitat destruction has altered nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and carbon cycles, which has increased the frequency and severity of acid rain, algal blooms, and fish kills in rivers and oceans and contributed tremendously to global climate change. Habitat destruction_sentence_90

One ecosystem service whose significance is becoming better understood is climate regulation. Habitat destruction_sentence_91

On a local scale, trees provide windbreaks and shade; on a regional scale, plant transpiration recycles rainwater and maintains constant annual rainfall; on a global scale, plants (especially trees from tropical rainforests) from around the world counter the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by sequestering carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. Habitat destruction_sentence_92

Other ecosystem services that are diminished or lost altogether as a result of habitat destruction include watershed management, nitrogen fixation, oxygen production, pollination (see pollinator decline), waste treatment (i.e., the breaking down and immobilization of toxic pollutants), and nutrient recycling of sewage or agricultural runoff. Habitat destruction_sentence_93

The loss of trees from the tropical rainforests alone represents a substantial diminishing of the earth's ability to produce oxygen and use up carbon dioxide. Habitat destruction_sentence_94

These services are becoming even more important as increasing carbon dioxide levels is one of the main contributors to global climate change. Habitat destruction_sentence_95

The loss of biodiversity may not directly affect humans, but the indirect effects of losing many species as well as the diversity of ecosystems in general are enormous. Habitat destruction_sentence_96

When biodiversity is lost, the environment loses many species that perform valuable and unique roles in the ecosystem. Habitat destruction_sentence_97

The environment and all its inhabitants rely on biodiversity to recover from extreme environmental conditions. Habitat destruction_sentence_98

When too much biodiversity is lost, a catastrophic event such as an earthquake, flood, or volcanic eruption could cause an ecosystem to crash, and humans would obviously suffer from that. Habitat destruction_sentence_99

Loss of biodiversity also means that humans are losing animals that could have served as biological control agents and plants that could potentially provide higher-yielding crop varieties, pharmaceutical drugs to cure existing or future diseases or cancer, and new resistant crop varieties for agricultural species susceptible to pesticide-resistant insects or virulent strains of fungi, viruses, and bacteria. Habitat destruction_sentence_100

The negative effects of habitat destruction usually impact rural populations more directly than urban populations. Habitat destruction_sentence_101

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 simply have to pay more to continue to receive more than their per capita share of natural resources. Habitat destruction_sentence_102

Another way to view the negative effects of habitat destruction is to look at the opportunity cost of destroying a given habitat. Habitat destruction_sentence_103

In other words, what are people losing out on by taking away a given habitat? Habitat destruction_sentence_104

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. Habitat destruction_sentence_105

Outlook Habitat destruction_section_8

The rapid expansion of the global human population is increasing the world's food requirement substantially. Habitat destruction_sentence_106

Simple logic dictates that more people will require more food. Habitat destruction_sentence_107

In fact, as the world's population increases dramatically, agricultural output will need to increase by at least 50%, over the next 30 years. Habitat destruction_sentence_108

In the past, continually moving to new land and soils provided a boost in food production to meet the global food demand. Habitat destruction_sentence_109

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. Habitat destruction_sentence_110

The impending global food crisis will be a major source of habitat destruction. Habitat destruction_sentence_111

Commercial farmers are going to become desperate to produce more food from the same amount of land, so they will use more fertilizers and show less concern for the environment to meet the market demand. Habitat destruction_sentence_112

Others will seek out new land or will convert other land-uses to agriculture. Habitat destruction_sentence_113

Agricultural intensification will become widespread at the cost of the environment and its inhabitants. Habitat destruction_sentence_114

Species will be pushed out of their habitat either directly by habitat destruction or indirectly by fragmentation, degradation, or pollution. Habitat destruction_sentence_115

Any efforts to protect the world's remaining natural habitat and biodiversity will compete directly with humans’ growing demand for natural resources, especially new agricultural lands. Habitat destruction_sentence_116

Solutions Habitat destruction_section_9

In most cases of tropical deforestation, three to four underlying causes are driving two to three proximate causes. Habitat destruction_sentence_117

This means that a universal policy for controlling tropical deforestation would not be able to address the unique combination of proximate and underlying causes of deforestation in each country. Habitat destruction_sentence_118

Before any local, national, or international deforestation policies are written and enforced, governmental leaders must acquire a detailed understanding of the complex combination of proximate causes and underlying driving forces of deforestation in a given area or country. Habitat destruction_sentence_119

This concept, along with many other results of tropical deforestation from the Geist and Lambin study, can easily be applied to habitat destruction in general. Habitat destruction_sentence_120

Governmental leaders need to take action by addressing the underlying driving forces, rather than merely regulating the proximate causes. Habitat destruction_sentence_121

In a broader sense, governmental bodies at a local, national, and international scale need to emphasize: Habitat destruction_sentence_122

Habitat destruction_ordered_list_0

  1. Considering the irreplaceable ecosystem services provided by natural habitats.Habitat destruction_item_0_0
  2. Protecting remaining intact sections of natural habitat.Habitat destruction_item_0_1
  3. Educating the public about the importance of natural habitat and biodiversity.Habitat destruction_item_0_2
  4. Developing family planning programs in areas of rapid population growth.Habitat destruction_item_0_3
  5. Finding ecological ways to increase agricultural output without increasing the total land in production.Habitat destruction_item_0_4
  6. Preserving habitat corridors to minimize prior damage from fragmented habitats.Habitat destruction_item_0_5
  7. Reducing human population and expansion. Apart from improving access to contraception globally, furthering gender equality also has a great benefit. When women have the same education (decision-making power), this generally leads to smaller families.Habitat destruction_item_0_6


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habitat destruction.