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Habitat Destruction

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A simple concept with big consequences, habitat destruction/degradation is what it sounds like, destruction or degradation of a habitat or ecosystem so that it is no longer habitable by the species that rely on it for survival. The result is a loss of biodiversity in the area, which may not seem like a big deal to some people, but when there is no where else for those animals to go, nowhere that is suitable for them to live, then what happens? Species loss occurs, populations decrease because animals that are displaced from their natural habitat tend to not live for very long, either because of competition or simply because they can no longer get their needs met by whatever has replaced their habitat or wherever they were displaced to.

How does it happen? Urban development and infrastructure are obvious and visible causes, we can literally see it happening right in front of our eyes. Expanding metropolitan areas, most notable sprawling suburbs, have taken over much of what was once dense forests in the Eastern United States, and desert in the west. Just think of the areas around LA or Las Vegas. In addition to urban development there is agricultural development. Land cleared for conversion into agricultural land, big industrial farms popping up in an effort to feed the growing number of people that inhabit this planet and live in those urban areas and can’t grow their own food. Deforestation is another big cause of habitat destruction. It can be the first step in urban development or agricultural land conversion, or it could be for logging or other industry. Pollution, air and water pollution and even acid rain can render a habitat unfit for a species survival, and the leading causes of pollution come from some of our use of pesticides and herbicides especially in the agricultural industry. A lesser known cause of habitat destruction is the introduction of alien species, also known as invasive species, which can alter their new habitat or out compete a native species, which ultimately results in species loss and alteration of the habitat.

In the natural world everything is interlinked. Ecosystems and species do not exist independently of each other. They interact with and depend on each other in extremely complex ways that not even scientists completely understand. The uncertainty is the scary part. We don’t know exactly how the loss of one organism, plant or animal or fungus or whatever, will effect other organisms or to what extent. Hell, we haven’t even identified all of the species that live on this beautiful sphere.

Unrelated to biodiversity and the ecological consequences of habitat destruction and degradation, there are also cultural, spiritual, recreational, and aesthetic affects. The most basic statement I can think of making is that nature, untouched and pristine nature, is beautiful. Much nicer to look at than concrete. Humans use the natural world for a variety of reasons; sports (skiing, hiking, water-skiing, mountain climbing, mountain biking, boating, running, etc.), spiritual practices, and some cultures are intimately connected with nature (people of the Amazon, Native American tribes, etc.). So, in a purely selfish, human interest point of view we should conserve nature because of our own interests. (I will probably expand on any or all of these topics in other, individual posts depending on my mood, current interests, or how pissed I am about something related to them).

There’s also a human health and well-being aspect to biodiversity preservation, which is dependent on habitat preservation because the biodiversity has to live somewhere, but that will be a different post.

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