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Loss of Biodiversity
Loss of biodiversity is a result of multiple environmental issues, such as: habitat destruction, poaching, overfishing, illegal hunting and the business of capturing threatened and endangered species for export.
Did You Know?
1 out of 8 bird species are threatened with extinction, and 1 out of 4 mammal species are threatened with extinction.
1 out of 4 conifer species are threatened with extinction, and 1 out of 3 amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Additionally, 6 out of 7 marine turtle species are threatened with extinction.
75 per cent of agricultural crop genetic diversity has been lost, and 75 per cent of the world’s fisheries are being fully or overexploited. Even more frightening? 70 per cent of the world’s known species may face extinction if the world’s temperature rises by more than 3.5°C!
Coral reefs are home to innumerable species, yet 1/3 of reef-building corals around the world are threatened with extinction. Furthermore, 90 per cent of the wet lowland forests in western Ecuador has been cleared in the past 40 years. The clear-cut former forests used to be home to 10,000 species of plants, 25 per cent of which existed only in Ecuador.
Climate change and habitat loss threatens the existence of at least 25 per cent of all species on land by the year 2050 if current trends continue.
Some studies even suggest that 25 per cent of all mammal species could be extinct in just the next 20 years. According to James Lovelock, “no longer do we have to justify the existence of humid tropical forests on the feeble grounds that they might carry plants with drugs that cure human disease. Gaia theory forces us to see that they offer much more than this. Through their capacity to evapotranspirate vast volumes of water vapor, they serve to keep the planet cool by wearing a sunshade of white reflecting cloud. Their replacement by cropland could precipitate a disaster that is global in scale.”
The Great Potato Famine in Ireland is a prime example of the importance of genetic variety and biodiversity. The famine devastated Ireland’s population and economy between 1845 and 1852. One in eight Irish people died of starvation in three years during the Great Famine.
The Irish depended on a single variety of potato, “lumper,” for most of their diet. A single infestation was able to spread quickly and wipe out large percentages of their food supply because of this lack of biodiversity within their crops.
Over the last 100 years, decreases in biodiversity have been increasingly observed. Estimates are that up to 30 per cent of all currently living species will be extinct by 2050. Of these, about 12.5 per cent of known plant species are threatened with extinction. Some credible estimates go so high as 140,000 species lost forever, every year.
Variety is the spice of life, and biodiversity is the spice of Earth. The intricate web of ecosystems and habitats on the planet provide a fine balance, and when we lose biodiversity we lose possibilities.
**If you wish to make a long-term, ecological difference, consider a career in environmental science. You can learn more about the types of environmental degrees available at DistanceLearning.org!**