Biodiversity Loss: A Definition, Examples, Causes, Effects, & Solutions

In the guide below, we discuss some of the important aspects of biodiversity loss as an issue.

We provide a general definition, and also outline examples, causes, effects and the impact it may have, along with potential solutions to address it.

 

Firstly, What Is Biodiversity, & Why Is It Important?

We put together a separate guide where we provide a general definition of biodiversity, and discuss the various reasons it might be important to the environment, humans, and society.

 

What Is Biodiversity Loss? (A Definition)

Biodiversity loss is the loss of an aspect of biodiversity, in a specific geographic space/region, over a specific time scale.

For example:

– Biodiversity loss may be the loss of diversity within a species, but could also be the loss of genetic diversity (which measures the range of genetic material & information), and also ecosystem diversity

– This loss occurs in a specific geographic region of the world

– This loss is also either a short term or temporary loss (which may be able to be reversed or restored), or, it can be a longer term more permanent (or irreversible loss)

 

Examples Of Biodiversity Loss

Some current examples of biodiversity loss might be:

– The loss of rainforests

– Deforestation of other types of forests

– Degradation or loss of coral reefs

– Degradation or loss of wetlands

– Land conversion in savannas

 

Causes Of Biodiversity Loss

Different Environments & Different Geographic Locations Have Different Causes Of Biodiversity Loss

Something qld.gov.au outlines is how each of terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments have different causes of biodiversity loss

In their guide, they identify the individual causes of biodiversity loss in each of these different environments

In addition to the different environments, different geographic regions may have different natural and non natural forces impacting biodiversity loss

So, the causes should be assessed on an environmental and geographical region basis

 

General Causes Of Biodiversity Loss

The general causes of biodiversity loss can be from humans, or from nature.

Human activity might be considered the main general cause of biodiversity loss.

However, there’s also the natural elements of a changing climate to consider too, just as one example.

 

Some of the general causes might include:

General environmental degradation from human activity, which damages the environment and  ecosystems, leads to habitat alteration and loss, and can directly harm wildlife

Exploitation of the environment, natural resources and wildlife, and unsustainable human practices (such as overfishing)

Various forms of pollution from humans (waste pollution, nutrient pollution, and pollution to land and soil, water, and air environments), which can affect the chemical makeup and flow of the environment

Mining (on land, in the ocean, and sand mining/dredging in rivers and lakes)

Deforestation and land clearing

A changing climate (warmer temperatures can cause environmental stress, increase the risk of droughts, and so on)

Invasive species and alien species (such as animals and plants), especially when introduced or transferred from one geographical location to another

Disease (which can be spread by both wild and domestic animals and organisms)

Natural events (fires, flooding, etc.)

 

Effects & Impact Of Biodiversity Loss

Some of the effects and impact of biodiversity loss might be as follows:

Potential Impact On The Environment & Wildlife

– Degradation of the environment and it’s ecosystems, such as land and soil degradation and contamination, a decrease in water quality, a decrease in air quality, and so on

– Services and functions provided by different ecosystems become less effective or productive

– Habitats are altered or lost

– Population numbers of different species decrease, and in some instances face extinction

Natural resource depletion

 

Potential Impact On Humans & The Economy

– As environments and ecosystems degrade, and biodiversity decreases, less economic value might be produced or derived from those environments and ecosystems

– As economic value from biodiversity loss decreases, there might be a corresponding loss of income and employment opportunities 

– Food sources may begin to decrease, which leads to issues with food supply and food security

 

Potential Solutions To Biodiversity Loss

General Solutions That May Help Conserve Biodiversity, Or Prevent Further Biodiversity Loss

More effective protection of the environment and ecosystems in general from human activity

More sustainable practices when extracting resources from the environment

Pollution reduction and pollution control measures

Considering the best ways to address deforestation, particularly tropical rainforest deforestation

More effective protection of land and freshwater species that are endangered or at risk of extinction

More effective protection of marine species that are overfished, endangered or at risk of extinction

Better protection of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems that are being degraded or lost

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions where possible 

Considering ways to control invasive and destructive species in the wild

Considering ways to address disease affecting widlife and living organisms in the wild

 

Specific Solutions That May Help Conserve Biodiversity, Or Prevent Further Biodiversity Loss

We’ve previously put together separate guides that include some practices that might help conserve biodiversity in specific environments:

Potential Solutions To Help Save & Conserve Oceans

A List Of Sustainable Fishing Practices (to help conserve marine wildlife populations)

Potential Solutions To Save Coral Reefs

Potential Solutions To Address General Deforestation

Potential Sustainable Forest Management Practices

Potential Solutions To Save Rainforests

Potential Sustainable Resource Management Practices

 

In regards to wetlands and savannas:

– wikipedia.org lists the causes of wetland degradation and loss. Solutions may be based on addressing this list of natural, and also natural causes

– news.mongabay.com indicates that more protected areas of land in savannas and places with grassy land, could help conserve them, and protect them from land cover conversion

 

In regards to animals and wildlife:

– Protected areas in the wild, wildlife protection regulations, conservation programs, captivity programs, and breeding programs, all aimed at protecting or increasing species populations, may all help conserve animals and wildlife biodiversity

 

How Biodiversity Loss Might Be Measured

Considering Time & Space When Measuring Biodiversity

Any biodiversity measurements should account for time and space.

In regards to time – over which time period is it occuring? This can help differentiate between short term or temporary changes, and longer term more permanent changes.

In regards to space – in which geographic region is it happening? This helps differentiate between different regions in the world

 

Different Biodiversity Indices Might Be Measured

There might be various ways to measure different aspects of biodiversity in order to get an overall idea of biodiversity loss in a given area.

Each aspect of measuring biodiversity might be seen as an individual ‘Biodiversity Index’

 

Some Different Biodiversity Indices That Might Be Measured

Some different biodiversity indices that might be measured and tracked, might be:

– Land clearing and conversion rates and totals

– Deforestation rates and totals

– Soil erosion rates

– Rates and totals of coral reef loss

– Rates of habitat loss (on land, in the water, and so on)

– Species population decreases (including species that may be considered at risk, endangered, or close to extinction)

– Composition and richness within different species, and how it varies over tim

– Pollution rates and totals

 

What Is The Current Rate Of Biodiversity Loss?

The rate of biodiversity loss might be expressed on a worldwide level, but also on a regional level.

It can also be expressed on more specific levels, such as on a wildlife level, an ecosystem level, a genetic level and so on.

 

However, the imperial.ac.uk guide has a summary of some pertinent biodiversity loss related trends and stats

Some stats of note might be that:

[Since 1970, there been an] average 60% decline in animal populations …

… 28% of [all] species are threatened with extinction [and some species are higher than this] …

The current rate of biodiversity loss [in 2021] is 1000 times higher than the historical rate

 

 

Sources

1. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guides

2. https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/plants-animals/biodiversity/about

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resource_depletion

4. https://news.mongabay.com/2016/08/savannas-and-grasslands-are-more-biodiverse-than-you-might-think-and-were-not-doing-enough-to-conserve-them/

5. https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/219933/biodiversity-your-life-depends/

6. http://www.eniscuola.net/en/argomento/biodiversity1/loss-of-biodiversity/causes-of-the-loss-of-biodiversity/

7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodiversity_loss

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