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9.10 Human Impacts on Biodiversity

7 min readjanuary 16, 2023

Jenni MacLean

Jenni MacLean

Riya Patel

Riya Patel


AP Environmental Science ♻️

252 resources
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Introduction

Human population growth has had a significant impact on biodiversity on Earth. As the population increases, more land is needed for housing, agriculture, and industry, which often results in the destruction of natural habitats and the displacement of native species. Pollution, overconsumption of resources, and the introduction of invasive species also contribute to the loss of biodiversity. Climate change, driven by human activities, is also having a major impact on biodiversity, as it disrupts natural ecosystems and makes it difficult for many species to adapt.
Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth, including the variety of species, ecosystems, and genetic diversity within species. It is the result of billions of years of evolution, shaped by natural processes and, in more recent times, by human activity. Biodiversity plays a critical role in maintaining the health and resilience of the planet's ecosystems, providing a wide range of benefits to humans, including food, medicine, and ecosystem services such as pollination and climate regulation. However, human activities, such as habitat destruction, pollution, and overconsumption, are causing the loss of biodiversity at an unprecedented rate. This loss of biodiversity is a major concern as it can lead to ecosystem collapse and a loss of the services and resources that biodiversity provides.
The destruction of tropical rainforests for the cultivation of palm oil is one of the most significant examples of how human activities are leading to the loss of biodiversity. Rainforests are one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, and they are home to millions of species of plants and animals, many of which are not found anywhere else. When these forests are cleared to make way for monocultures like palm oil plantations, the result is a significant loss of biodiversity. The monoculture can't support the diverse animal life that once lived in the area, and this destruction of habitat is the most pressing threat to biodiversity.
Additionally, overfishing, pollution, the introduction of invasive species, and climate change are other examples of how human activities are leading to the loss of biodiversity. Climate change is causing changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, which can disrupt natural ecosystems and make it difficult for many species to adapt. It can also cause sea level rise, acidification of oceans, and many other impacts that can affect the biodiversity of our planet.

HIPPCO

The major factors causing a decrease in biodiversity can be abbreviated as HIPPCO:

Habitat destruction

Habitat destruction refers to the destruction, fragmentation, or degradation of natural habitats, which can make it difficult for species to survive. This can be caused by human activities such as urban development, agriculture, and logging.
An example of habitat destruction is the destruction of tropical rainforests. Tropical rainforests are home to an estimated 50% of all plant and animal species on Earth, but these forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate. The main cause of destruction is the conversion of forests to agricultural land for crops such as soybeans, palm oil, and beef. The destruction of tropical rainforests can lead to the extinction of many plant and animal species that are found nowhere else on Earth, and it also releases large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Additionally, deforestation can lead to soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, and destruction of indigenous peoples' ways of life.

Invasive species

Invasive species are non-native species that have been introduced to an ecosystem and are causing harm to native species. They can outcompete native species for resources and spread diseases.
An example of an invasive species is the Burmese python in the Florida Everglades. Burmese pythons are native to Southeast Asia, but they have been introduced to the Florida Everglades as a result of pet owners releasing them into the wild. These snakes have no natural predators in the Everglades and they have been able to thrive and reproduce, leading to a population explosion. As a result, they are now considered a major ecological threat to the Everglades. They are known to eat native animals such as raccoons, opossums, and even alligators, which can have a significant impact on the food chain and ecosystem. This invasive species have been causing the decline of native animals population and the disruption of the ecological balance of the region.

Population growth

Population growth can lead to an increase in human activities that can harm wildlife and their habitats, such as urbanization and resource extraction.
An example of population growth impacting the environment is the overpopulation of cities. As population grows and urban areas expand, more land is developed for housing and infrastructure. This leads to the destruction of natural habitats and the fragmentation of ecosystems. As a result, many species of plants and animals are losing the areas they need to survive. Additionally, as cities grow and demand for resources increases, pollution and waste also increase, leading to a degradation of air and water quality. Furthermore, overpopulation can put a strain on local resources and services such as water and sanitation systems, transportation, and housing, making it difficult for cities to sustain the growing population. This can lead to increased poverty and social issues.

Pollution

Pollution can have a variety of negative impacts on species, including the release of toxic chemicals, plastic debris, and other pollutants that can harm or kill animals and plants.
An example of pollution is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a massive collection of plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean. It is estimated to be twice the size of Texas and is made up of millions of pieces of plastic, including bottles, bags, and microplastics. These plastics can be harmful to marine life, as they can be mistaken for food and ingested, leading to suffocation, starvation, and entanglement. Marine mammals, sea turtles, and fish are among the species most affected by plastic pollution. The plastic debris can also have a negative impact on commercial and subsistence fishing, as well as tourism, recreation and other activities. Plastic pollution can also have a serious impact on human health, as some of the chemicals in plastics can leach into the food we eat and the water we drink, causing negative health effects.

Climate change

Climate change can lead to changes in temperature, precipitation, and other weather patterns that can make it difficult for species to survive. Changes in temperature can also affect migration patterns, reproduction, and other aspects of animal behavior.
An example of climate change is the melting of Arctic sea ice. Arctic sea ice plays a critical role in regulating global temperatures and weather patterns, and it also provides important habitat for polar bears, walruses, and other Arctic species. In recent decades, the Arctic sea ice has been shrinking at an alarming rate. The sea ice has been declining at a rate of roughly 13% per decade, and the amount of older, thicker ice has been declining even faster. This is caused by the warming of the earth's atmosphere and the oceans which is due to the increasing levels of greenhouse gases. This loss of sea ice is having a ripple effect throughout the Arctic ecosystem, disrupting the food web and making it harder for animals to find food, leading to population decline. Additionally, the loss of sea ice can also have far-reaching effects on weather patterns and coastal communities worldwide, as the ice helps to reflect sunlight back into space, and as the ice melts, it reveals darker ocean waters that absorb more heat, leading to a feedback loop of warming.

Overexploitation

Overexploitation refers to the overuse of natural resources, including the overharvesting of wild animals and plants, which can lead to population declines and endangerment.
An example of over exploitation is the overfishing of cod in the North Atlantic. Cod is one of the most important commercial fish species in the North Atlantic, and it has been fished for hundreds of years. However, in the 20th century, fishing technology advanced rapidly, allowing boats to catch more fish faster. This, combined with increased demand for fish, led to overfishing of cod. As a result, cod populations declined dramatically, and by the 1990s, many cod stocks were considered to be overfished. This has not only had a negative impact on the cod population, but also on the entire ecosystem of the North Atlantic, as cod is a key species that plays an important role in the ocean's food web. This overfishing has led to the collapse of the cod fishing industry, and has had serious economic and social consequences for coastal communities that rely on fishing for their livelihoods. Many countries and international organizations have implemented management measures such as quotas, fishing bans, and marine protected areas to help rebuild cod populations, but it is a slow process and many stocks still have not fully recovered.
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c4/Field_Hamois_Belgium_Luc_Viatour.jpg/486px-Field_Hamois_Belgium_Luc_Viatour.jpg

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Conservation

Conserving biodiversity also involves protecting and managing the genetic diversity within species. This can be done through captive breeding programs, reintroduction of species to their natural habitats, and protection of key breeding sites and habitats. Additionally, conservation efforts often involve working with local communities and involving them in conservation efforts, as well as promoting sustainable use of natural resources to ensure that the needs of both people and biodiversity can be met.
Climate change also plays a major role in biodiversity loss, as it can cause shifts in species ranges, changes in the timing of seasonal events, and changes in the availability of resources. Therefore, conservation efforts must also address the issue of climate change and work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote adaptation to the impacts of climate change.
Overall, conserving biodiversity is a complex and ongoing process that requires a multifaceted approach. It involves preserving habitats, protecting and managing genetic diversity, promoting sustainable use of natural resources, and addressing the impacts of climate change. Collaboration between scientists, policymakers, local communities, and other stakeholders is crucial for the successful conservation of biodiversity.
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🏜Unit 1 – The Living World: Ecosystems
🐠Unit 2 – The Living World: Biodiversity
👪Unit 3 – Populations
🌏Unit 4 – Earth Systems & Resources
🏖Unit 5 – Land & Water Use
⚡️Unit 6 – Energy Resources & Consumption
💨Unit 7 – Atmospheric Pollution
♻️Unit 8 – Aquatic & Terrestrial Pollution
🔥Unit 9 – Global Change
🧐Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)
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📆Big Reviews: Finals & Exam Prep

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