Environmental Degradation and Biodiversity Loss
Environmental degradation and biodiversity loss are the deterioration of natural environments and the reduction of biological diversity. Degradation stems from multiple factors including pollution, habitat loss, and the impact of climate change on the environment.
Biodiversity loss occurs when the number, genetic diversity and variety of species declines in a particular area or planet. It can be a natural process or an accelerated one due to human activities.
Habitat loss, through human alteration, remains a key contributor to biodiversity decline, interconnected with deforestation and invasive species in environmental degradation.
The destruction of forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other natural areas has caused a rapid decline in the number of mammal, bird, fish, reptile, and amphibian populations around the world since 1970.
The detrimental effects of climate change intensify, compromising the growth and adaptability of flora and fauna, hindering their resilience against changing climate conditions.
Habitat loss also fragments ecosystems, reducing their size and the connections that provide space for species to survive and thrive. This can make it difficult for migratory species to find food and mates along their routes.
When plants or animals become invasive, they threaten biodiversity and ecosystems. Climate change poses risks to human activities, hindering navigation, flood control, agriculture, and introducing diseases to commercially reared or harvested animals.
When invasive species infiltrate new habitats, they vie for resources like nutrients, light, space, water, and food, leading to competition. In many cases, they are able to outcompete native species because they have biological properties that make them more suited for their new environment than native plant or animal species.
The propagation of invasive species occurs through various means, including watercraft transport, mowing, firewood importation, and the transfer of gear carrying residual mud. A notable example is purple loosestrife, which arrived in North America from Europe in ship bilge water over two centuries ago, posing a global threat to wetlands.
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Air pollution is caused by a wide range of sources, including the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas. It can affect human health and the environment.
Air pollution includes the emission of particulate matter and ozone (a key component of smog). Comprising minute particles, particulate matter can be inhaled, deposited on surfaces, or penetrate and embed itself in the soil.
Environmental Degradation and Biodiversity Loss. Ozone is a harmful gaseous pollutant that forms when volatile organic compounds, such as gasoline and solvents, react with nitrogen dioxide.
Environmental Degradation and Biodiversity Loss. Both pollutants contribute to climate change and the destruction of the ozone layer that protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation. Additionally, both gases cause multiple adverse respiratory effects. They are associated with increases in hospital admissions and emergency department visits for respiratory illness.
Water pollution occurs when pollutants, such as sewage, chemicals or trash, enter rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and oceans to the point where they interfere with beneficial use of the water or with the natural functioning of the ecosystem.
The most common sources of water pollution are industrial wastes, agriculture runoff, and stormwater runoff. They can contaminate groundwater, lakes and rivers with toxic chemicals that can harm aquatic life.
These chemicals include pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. They also contain heavy metals, which are harmful to aquatic life and can harm human health when absorbed into the body.
These chemicals can also change the temperature of freshwater, reducing oxygen levels and making them unsafe for marine life. This happens when companies dump chemical waste into nearby water systems without proper treatment.