It’s Not *Just* Global Warming, Part 2: Biodiversity

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(Brent Beaven, DOC New Zealand)

Back at it!

Erizon is back on ATC for its second weekly installment of “It’s Not *Just* Global Warming.” This week, the focus is on loss of biodiversity. That phrase isn’t nearly as sexy as “climate change,” but the issue is just as awful and urgent.

Basically, only Thanos and that damn meteor were better at killing off lifeforms than humanity is today. We’re terrifying, and now we’re feeling the effects of what went around coming back around.

Once again, I’ll let Australian environmental company Erizon explain.

Erizon’s Environmental Concerns Guide, Part 2: Loss of Biodiversity

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 rate of species extinction in the last 60 million years.
  • Between 1970 and 2012, marine biodiversity has declined 36 percent.
  • The world has harvested more than 30 percent beyond fisheries’ biological capacity.
  • Biodiversity suffered a decline of 81 percent in the freshwater system between 1970 and 2012.
  • 1 in 8 bird species is at the risk of extinction globally, which means 40 percent of our world’s bird population could possibly vanish.
  • Climate change has made the lizard population vulnerable. 20 percent of global lizard species are projected to go extinct by 2080, along with 40 percent of Australian lizard species, a recent study reports.
  • A new study showed a decrease of 75 percent in Germany’s insect population over the last 28 years.
  • 60 percent of the world’s 504 primate species are under extraordinary threat of extinction. 75 percent of those primate species are currently in a severe population decline.
  • Many of the world’s big cats 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, destruction of the places where organisms live. Habitat loss and degradation happens when either natural (e.g. landslides) or human activities (e.g. urbanization) cause changes.
    • Although ruinous natural events can alter the landscape, the ecosystem can recover from such events. But human-caused habitat loss often creates irreversible destruction. It changes the ecosystem on a global scale.
    • 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. In the last 50 years, we’ve managed to wipe out 17 percent of The Amazon Rainforest due to increased cattle ranching and mining for gold and oil. This is a major concern since the Amazon is a large part of the world’s biodiversity.
    • 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. The loss of habitat and deterioration is a massive threat that will endanger plants and animals.
  • Heat and Drought Stress
    • 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 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.
    • Overhunting
      • Overhunting contributes considerably on biodiversity loss where the disappearance of organisms is irreversible (e.g. great auks, dodos).
    • Overfishing
      • Catching fish is not that bad for the ocean, but the advancement with technology has made it easier for us to fish. Our fishing capacity is now three times stronger than necessary. 70 percent of the world’s species of fish have depleted, and the damage goes beyond the marine environment.
    • 3. Overharvesting
      • 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. Overharvesting of the leaves has resulted in reduced leaf size.
  • War
  • Invasive Species
    • Humans often introduce species that are foreign to an area to solve an environmental problem. When this happens, the chance of causing major imbalance to the native ecosystem is high.
    • For example, the Japanese introduced the Indian Mongoose to Japan in 1910 to control the population of black rats and venomous snakes. In a century since, it has led to the extinction of many native birds, reptiles, and amphibians, as well as the rare Amami rabbit.
    • Japan has since made considerable extermination efforts of the Indian Mongoose.

Loss of Biodiversity Timeline

Loss of biodiversity timeline

What This Means

Human-caused loss of biodiversity threatens the stability of the global ecosystem. By driving species to extinction or threatening them, ecological cycles get messed up. This can make human life much more difficult in a variety of ways.

For instance, overfishing is making one of humanity’s leading protein sources much harder to come by. Overexploitation of bees threatens plant diversity everywhere which threatens global oxygen levels. Simple things such as breathing and eating are already becoming much harder due to the loss of biodiversity.

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.

This is how many species are at 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
:'( (National Wildlife Federation)

Why It’s Important

Organisms interact with each other. The decline of a single species can and will trigger a loss on the broader ecosystem.

The Relationship Between Business and Biodiversity

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 a business can 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:

  • 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.
  • Change Deforestation Policy
    • 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.
  • Protect Local Habitats

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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