CHAPTER 2: BIODIVERSITY LOSS
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We all are inhabitants of the Earth held together by an intricate web of connectivity. What each species contributes to its ecosystem impacts other species outside of it. So the loss of even the smallest part of biodiversity creates huge effects that we shouldn’t disregard.

Loss of biodiversity doesn’t gain media coverage as extensively as it should. Organizations and large industries are now raising awareness globally. Even so, individuals are still unfamiliar with what it is and the depth of its effects.

Read more as we discuss the causes and effects. Including the dangers it poses, making this a primary environmental concern.

An Overview of Biodiversity

Biodiversity is the foundation of our ecosystem. It is the variability of living organisms from different ecosystems. This includes marine and other aquatic ecosystems. Managed and unmanaged ecosystems are all included in biodiversity.

This means that plantations, farms, and croplands are also part of biodiversity.

Even rangelands, urban parks, nature preserves, and wildlands belong to it.

Our well-being as humans has an intimate link to biodiversity more than we realize. With this in mind, the loss of biodiversity is something we should be aware of.

What is Biodiversity Loss?

It is the extinction of species, which includes plants or animals worldwide. This covers the loss or reduction of species in a particular habitat. Minor changes in the species composition can have a dramatic influence on the food chain. It can affect co-extinction, which can lead to the reduction of biodiversity.

Biodiversity covers all species worldwide, and the loss of it can pose a danger to food security. The food chain is a complex web rather than a ladder. Species interact with each other in direct or indirect ways to survive. Any minor change can have a dramatic effect on a large number of species. We will delve into this further as we discuss biodiversity loss.

The Decline of Global Species

Our world faces mass extinction of species due to human activities. Human civilization has made a negative impact on most living things, whether we want to admit it or not.

  • We have been losing species 1,000 to 10,000 times more than we used to. This is the most significant number of species extinction in the last 60 million years.

  • Between 1970 and 2012, marine biodiversity has declined to 36%.

  • The world has harvested more than 30% beyond fisheries’ biological capacity.

  • Biodiversity suffered a decline of 81% in the freshwater system between 1970 and 2012.

  • More than 650,000 of marine mammals worldwide get injured or caught by fishing gear per year.

  • 1 in 8 birds is at the risk of extinction globally, which means a 40% decline in our world’s bird species.

  • Climate change has made the lizard population vulnerable. 40% of all lizard species are projected to go extinct by 2080, a recent study reports.

  • A new study showed a decrease of 75% in insect population over the last 28 years in Germany.

  • 60% of the world’s 504 primate species are under extraordinary threat of extinction. 75% of those primate species have a severe decline in population.

  • The world’s big cats are in dangerous decline. Many of them will become extinct in the next 10 years. This includes tigers, cheetahs, and leopards worldwide. They are being hunted and exploited for their skins and body parts.

What Causes Biodiversity Loss?

Different factors contribute to the loss of biodiversity. We will discuss the significant threats that contribute to habitat loss.

  • Habitat Loss and Degradation

    Simply put, habitats are the places where organisms live. Habitat loss and degradation happens when either natural or human activities cause changes. This changes the habitat so that fewer species are able to live there.

    An example of human activity is when people cut down a section of a forest to make space for farmlands. This eliminates the habitat of hundreds of species and can drive them to extinction.

    We often think of landslides and earthquakes when it comes to ruinous natural events. Although they alter the landscape, the ecosystem can still recover from such events. But, human-caused habitat loss often creates irreversible destruction. It changes the ecosystem on a global scale that poses a significant threat.

    The primary culprit of forest deterioration is illegal logging. We lose 18.7 million acres of forests per year around the world due to illegal logging activities. That’s equal to 27 soccer fields of forest every minute.

    This is not to say that only other species get affected by habitat loss. We, as humans, depend on the entire ecology functioning to survive. Natural habitats provide our food, create the air we breathe, and purify the water we drink. They supply all the materials we need to survive and as such, are part of the great cycle of life. This is why the loss of habitat and deterioration is a massive threat that will endanger plants and animals.

    Deforestation
    The Amazon has lost around 17% of its forest in the last 50 years. Remote areas with valuable mahogany felt the encroachment as well. This was during the discovery of oil and gold. Deforestation has become rampant due to forest conversion for cattle ranching. This is a major concern since these forests are home to a large part of the world’s biodiversity.

  • Heat and Drought Stress

    Climate change has been a term associated with a negative impact on our planet. Climate change, simply put, is the abnormal change in climate patterns. As patterns fluctuate, our ecosystems have no choice but to follow the trend. Such fluctuation poses harm to many species.

    Changes in our climate can also increase droughts. It can also weaken the natural infrastructures we depend on. This, in turn, will affect natural habitats. It will make them smaller or inhabitable to different species.

  • Air Pollution

    Air pollution contributes to biodiversity loss. It affects the ability of ecosystems to function and grow. Sulfur, ground-level ozone, and nitrogen emissions are the leading causes of air pollution. These produce acid rain affecting our water nutrient cycling of ecosystems.

  • Overexploitation

    Harvesting of species beyond their biological capacity is overexploitation. This means we collect them in a small amount of time before they can even replenish. Different types of overuse contribute to biodiversity loss.

    1. Overhunting
    The great auks, a type of bird, got hunted to extinction in the 19th century. American bison came to imminent destruction due to overhunting but luckily recovered. Overhunting contributes considerably on biodiversity loss where the disappearance of organisms is irreversible.

    2. Overfishing
    Catching fish is not that bad for the ocean. But, we have evolved on how we gather food over time. The advancement with technology has made it easier for us to fish. Too easy, that our fishing capacity is now three times stronger than needed. 70% of the world’s species of fish have depleted, and the damage goes beyond the marine environment.

    3. Over-harvesting
    Not all overexploitation results in the extinction of organisms. It can also affect the quality of the resources. One good example here would be the over-harvesting of the footstool palm. Found in Southeast Asia, the leaves are used for food wrapping and thatching. The over-harvesting of the leaves has resulted in reduced leaf size.

  • War and Armed Conflict

    Rapid environmental degradation is a result of wars. Armed conflict has posed a critical threat to the world’s biodiversity for over six decades.

    Here are some examples of direct and indirect effects of war both to humans and the environment.

    1. Agent Orange
    This happened during the Vietnam war. The US military sprayed millions of liters of agent orange across Southern Vietnam.Viet Cong guerrillas launched their attacks by hiding within the forests. To counterattack, the US military formulated a particular chemical. Agent orange is a dioxin-laced defoliant that deliberately destroyed forests. The spraying of herbicides and defoliants lasted a decade.

    Traces of dioxin found in the mixture have caused severe health problems. This has, in turn, affected four million people in Vietnam.

    Exposed veterans and people near the area suffered from various kinds of cancers. These resulted in many lawsuits. Reforestation is still challenging in many regions due to defoliants.

    2. Mesopotamian marshes and burning oil wells
    The draining of the Mesopotamian Marshes started in the 1950s. This was to reclaim land for oil exploration and agriculture. During the presidency of Saddam Hussein, the draining of the marshes accelerated. This resulted in up to 10% of its original size.The marshes have partially recovered after the fall of Hussein’s regime. But dam construction and operation in Turkey, Syria, and Iran have hindered the recovery.

    The Mesopotamian marshes are now listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site since 2016.

    3. Afghanistan Deforestation
    Ever since the Soviet Union, Afghanistan has been at war. It has destroyed more than half the country’s forests due to armed combat. This resulted in the vulnerability to natural disasters such as landslides and avalanches.

  • Invasive Alien Species

    No, we’re not talking about UFO’s here. This is about species that don’t belong in a habitat but have established in the environment. Species such as plants, fungi, or animals can be invasive to others. These species reproduce rapidly and compete with the native species for food.

    Invasive species are one of the leading causes of the global loss of biodiversity. These species are detrimental to other species. The best example we can use here is the small Indian mongoose.

    The mongoose is a predator native to areas like Iran, India, Myanmar, and the Malay Peninsula. It was introduced in Japan to control the poisonous snake and harmful black rat in 1910.

    The island species had evolved without the threat of a fast-moving predator. This was before the introduction of the mongoose. This created a significant impact on the native species as they were no match for the mongoose.

    This caused the extinction of many endemic birds, reptiles, and amphibians. The most notable threat was the near extinction of the rare Japanese Amami rabbit. It was a cause for concern since the mongoose is also a vector of the rabies virus.

    The small Indian mongoose settled and spread gradually. In the 1990s, it reached northern Okinawa, which is a hotspot of wildlife. The damages on agriculture gradually appeared in 1983. This led to the start of the pest control efforts by local government in 1993.

    The pest control from 1993 to 2012 had caught a total of 32,357 mongooses. The new eradication plan of the government will use sniffer dogs, hair traps, and camera traps. This is to ensure that no mongoose survives in every area. This plan was set to last ten years starting 2013 and lasting up to 2022.

    The effects were immense and insidious to the environment. It created irreversible extinction to native species.

Loss of Biodiversity Timeline
  • January 1, 1960
    WWF raised over $5.6 million to support 356 conservation-related projects worldwide.

  • April 13, 1962
    The Charles Darwin Research Station was established. The station played a crucial role in raising awareness of unique species preservation.

  • January 1, 1969
    The National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA was one of the first laws that established the protection of our environment.

  • April 22, 1970
    The first Earth Day

  • January 1, 1973
    The Endangered Species Act was passed.

  • January 1, 1975
    The first conservation campaign based on an entire biome instead of an individual habitat was launched.

  • January 1, 1980
    The world conservation strategy was published

  • September 29, 1992
    The Energy Policy Act was passed in the United States to increase clean energy use.

  • March 11, 1998
    The creation of the Living Planet Report. A science-based analysis of biodiversity health and our ecological footprint.

  • January 1, 2002
    An effort made to save the Amazon. Brazil, along with other partners, and WWF launched a 10-year initiative to preserve 12% of the Brazilian Amazon.

  • January 1, 2010
    The largest environmental activism was created to show support on climate change. This is widely known as the Earth Hour.

  • February 18, 2012
    Hudson River estuary restoration was launched.

What this means

We have discussed the major threats to biodiversity. Let’s discuss what happens next.

  • On Human Health

    Human development has been possible through nature. But, our relentless demand for resources is accelerating the extinction of our world’s ecosystem.

    Dwindling Fish Stocks
    Our primary source of protein comes from fish. Industrialized fishing has been an alarming concern for years, causing mass extinctions of marine life.

    If this continues, the ocean will no longer be able to produce any fish at all. The reproduction will come to a halt, and our source of protein will cease to exist.

    Threat of Extinction
    The danger of extinction not only applies to the different organisms on our planet. With a count of 7.5 billion people on Earth, we are adding 227,000 more each day. Our wildlife is taking a massive toll on our ever-growing population, and it’s impossible to miss. Currently, most biologists agree that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event. This is not because of war and chemical warfare but due to overpopulation. Our population growth is causing overconsumption of resources. This needs addressing before it becomes too late. Otherwise, our natural resources will no longer have the ability to produce. The hunt for food will become our most pressing problem.

  • On The Environment

    Counting through biomass, we humans compromise global biodiversity by only 0.01%. This may seem small, but recent reports have shown that we have endangered other species and hurt nature to extract its resources.

    Ecological Loss
    In a study by Rice University, more than half of all species have changed their diets. Some of them change more than once as they develop into adults.

    This makes the natural ecosystem less stable. It also puts species at risk of facing an even greater threat of extinction

    Massive Extinctions
    A major report released in March 2005 stressed a substantial and irreversible loss of biodiversity due to human actions. World Wide Fund (WWF) also noted that the Earth is no longer able to regenerate from the demand for resources.

    Massive extinction varies from different animals and species.

    These species are at the threat of extinction.
    – 1 out of 4 mammals
    – 1 out of 8 birds
    – 1 out of 3 amphibians
    – 1 out of 4 conifers
    – 6 out of 7 turtles

Why It’s Important

Awareness of biodiversity loss is paramount. Its loss will create catastrophic effects on humans and nature. It’s as immense a threat to us as climate change.

In the past 50 years, the deterioration of nature has been driven by the different causes we have mentioned earlier.

Biodiversity encompasses more than just the animals we can see. It includes bacteria and tiny genes as well as entire ecosystems like the Amazon rainforest. This creates a figure of 1.5 million identified species in the world. But, the true figure is estimated to be 10 million or 2 billion species. This is because we haven’t explored 95% of the ocean where other species are still unknown. This makes it harder for our scientists and biologists to provide an actual data.

You may ask, why is it so important? Organisms interact with each other. The decline of a single species can and will trigger a loss on the broader ecosystem. You may have seen news about the threat of extinction to our bees. Without pollinating bees, basic processes such as breathing will become harder.

A recent report found that a quarter of our plant and animal species face extinction within decades unless we take action.

The Relationship Of Business to Biodiversity Loss

Companies and brand are linked with biodiversity more than we care to think.

Why Should Businesses Care

Companies and businesses rely heavily on renewable resources. Biodiversity loss should be considered as a huge business risk.

Loss of biodiversity is a clear indicator of how our ecosystems are being degraded at a rapid rate.

With the help of technology, companies can eliminate hidden risks. The eradication of illegal activities can also help biodiversity.

What can a business do about it

Being aware of biodiversity loss is the first step. There are various steps companies can take to help curb the loss of biodiversity.

  • Reduce Carbon Footprint

    Reduced carbon footprint helps a lot with the environment as it will lessen the damages.

  • Policy concerning Deforestation

    Corporations and companies can refuse to use timber suppliers that contribute to deforestation. In the same way, consumers can stop supporting companies that patronize illegal logging.

  • Raise Awareness

    Companies that have a large number of patronizers can raise awareness about overexploitation. Other corporations will be more conscious of how they get their resources.

  • Go Package Free

    Instead of using plastic and carbon boxes, companies can opt-out for package-free products. Some corporations are no longer producing plastic straws. This pushed the use of stainless straws and raised awareness of the waste they produce.

    Other businesses have switched to using biodegradable plastic. Grocery stores now educate consumers to bring their own eco-bags.

  • Protect Local Habitats

    Leading companies can change the course of agriculture to a more sustainable path.

    On October 2017, 23 of the world’s leading food companies committed to protecting the Brazilian Cerrado. This move made other industries conscious as it sent a strong message – they are ready to help stop the expansion of biodiversity loss.

Focusing on Implementation

Now that we are aware of what biodiversity loss is, we can focus on implementation.

You can start small by using zero waste products and joining small organizations. It’s not too late, and we can still save our planet and all living organisms on our planet. A small but steady step takes a long way.

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