In the guide below, we discuss some of the important aspects of biodiversity loss.
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?
What Is Biodiversity Loss? (A Definition)
Biodiversity loss is the loss diversity across a specific measure of biodiversity, in a specific geographic space/region, over a specific time scale.
– 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), or 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:
– Degradation or loss of wetlands
– Land conversion in savannas
– Wildlife populations becoming at risk, threatened, or facing extinction
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, a changing climate, which is commonly identified as a cause of biodiversity loss, also has a natural forces driver too (in addition to human drivers).
Some of the general causes of biodiversity loss 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, mainly with destructive or 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
Growing monocultures, and GM technology that promotes less biodiversity
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 potential 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
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
– Humans have less opportunity to experience the environment, it’s ecosystems, and wildlife from a recreational perspective, and there may be a negative impact for local cultures that place importance on biodiversity
Potential Solutions For 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 diseases affecting wildlife 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:
A List Of Sustainable Fishing Practices (to help conserve marine wildlife populations)
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 more 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
So, according to some data, biodiversity loss might be trending in a negative direction according to some indices.
Is Some Biodiversity Loss Inevitable?
Some groups argue that at least some biodiversity loss is inevitable.
One of the reasons for this is that there are some activities that humans have to carry out to get access to the resources we need to keep society running, and it might be difficult to find more feasible or less destructive alternative ways get access to these critical resources.
One example of this might be mining – we might be able to reasonably or practically reduce some of the negative biodiversity related effects of mining, but not all of them.
There may also be other limitations or challenges in preventing all biodiversity loss in some regions around the world.
So, some groups may argue that biodiversity loss needs to balanced with various factors to arrive at an assessment that considers what is practical and feasible, and also that considers the net gain/loss of a particular activity.
1. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guides