Earth has a rich and intricately woven biodiversity that consists of honeybees, coral reefs, polar bears, mango trees, and countless other plants, animals as well as insect species. Each living organism plays a significant role in this vast biodiversity that is interconnected irrespective of its size. If some of these species become extinct, the entire web of the ecosystem will suffer ripple effects, sooner or later. It is very important to remember that the loss of an increasing number of species amplifies the possibility of extinction.
Even though biodiversity exists all over the planet, few of the places on the globe are known as “biodiversity hotspots”. Some places seem to be teeming with species that are native and cannot be found in any other place like the Australian koalas and Chinese giant pandas. At the present moment, there are 36 hotspots but this makes a mere 2.4% of the earth’s landmass. Moreover, 43% of these species are endemic. Nonetheless, these hotspots have been increasingly becoming threatened due to climate change and human activity.
Importance Of Biodiversity Within Ecosystems
Biodiversity is undoubtedly crucial to daily life because we are able to acquire clean water and air, food, natural resources, and climate protection. On the other hand, science has been able to identify only 20% of the earth’s species so far. Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist, started the formidable task in 1700 and the scientists have since then estimated almost 8.7 million species remain unknown while 1.2 million have been identified.
The 6th mass extinction is now possible to be estimated while the 5th one has wiped out all the dinosaurs almost 67 million years back due to the asteroid strike. Each of the previous extinctions was triggered by environmental dynamics and eradicated 95% of the existing species. According to scientists, millions of years were needed to regain the pre-mass extinction population. However, the 6th extinction is being caused by human factors that have eliminated over 515 species since 1900. The mortality rate has increased 100 times within the past century.
ConsequencesThe abundant food supply and oxygen will drastically reduce if the number of appropriate species is in decline. The IUCN already identified 7 species of honeybees that are critically endangered. The disappearance of honeybees will make it difficult for plants to pollinate and greatly affect the food chains and our economy. A recent study revealed that 34 billion of the US economy during 2012 was contributed by insect pollinators.
The entire world is suffering from infectious diseases and loss of biodiversity and the worst-case scenario might soon take place. Scientists are seeing some connection between the coronavirus pandemic and loss of habitat. Human occupation is decreasing land for wildlife that is increasing interaction between man and animals. The UN has reported that governments worldwide allocated $78 to $91 billion per year to meet biodiversity goals.
Risks And Repercussions
The Red List of IUCN recognizes the vulnerable species that are on the verge of extinction that includes numbers, threats, and efforts of conservation. The list also estimates over 37,000 species known to us are presently facing extinction threats including 41% amphibians, 36% sharks, 33% coral reefs, 26% mammals, and 14% birds. The categories are divided into Not Evaluated, Least Concern, Vulnerable, Near Threatened, Data Deficient, Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Extinct. Some of the critically endangered animals are vaquita porpoises, Amur leopard, Cross-River gorillas, and Sumantran rhinos.
Consumer demand is pushing several species like Atlantic Bluefin tuna and Chilean sea bass towards extinction due to overfishing. There are countless species across the world that have already been permanently lost during the past century like Tasmanian tigers and Pinta tortoise. There are only 2 northern white rhinoceros remaining while the last-known Lonesome George died in 2012.
Habitat loss is the greatest threat to biodiversity globally. Large stretches of land are being cleared for agriculture, industries, and housing. 12% of the entire tree cover across the globe had been lost to wildfires and rainforests were the worst affected during 2020. Most wildfires result in deforestation. Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian President, cleared a large swamp of the Amazon Rainforest for industries related to soy and cattle. The Amazon Rainforest hotspot experienced a 12-year high rate of deforestation in 2020. This devastation is happening all over the world.
Biggest Reasons For Biodiversity Loss
Industrial agriculture has emerged as the leading reason for the loss of habitat since the last pieces of forested land are cleared. In addition, the ever-increasing human population is creating a massive consumer demand that is stressing the resources. Along with consumer demand and industrial expansion, human activities are driving the levels of pollution.
This is taking a huge toll on the ecosystems in numerous ways. For instance, toxic algae thrive in chemical-filled water, rapid climate changes are forcing several species to migrate or adapt, rise in sea level is causing flooding and depletion in freshwater, increasing ocean temperatures is killing coral reefs, marine life is choked by oil spills, and the plastic pollution had an adverse impact on aquatic life.
Climate change is certainly the biggest concern for biodiversity at present. Climate-induced events like rising sea levels, floods, droughts, wildfires, etc. are threatening the existence of animals and plants along with mankind. Strict and immediate actions must be taken collectively and governments all over the world must join forces to implement better measures to curb the adverse actions. Conservation efforts, captive breeding, protected regions, and sustainable practices will go a long way in preserving biodiversity.