The Destruction of Biodiversity

We are in the midst of a global biodiversity crisis.

Because of the widespread ignorance of the value of biodiversity, we continue in our non-sustainable destruction of species and ecosystems, decreasing our quality of life and endangering the future of our children. To make matters worse, if unchecked, we are moving towards dangerous tipping points where damage to ecosystems will become irreversible.

Combined with accelerated climate change and global toxic pollution, this cocktail of crises could add up to the “perfect storm” of environmental catastrophes, causing human quality of life to suffer greatly.

Robert Scholes: “There’s so many different things happening simultaneously ... and all of this, in a sense, is the perfect storm, it’s all coming together.”

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The Destruction of Biodiversity

Gulls after Boat
Degraded ecosystems increase the risk of floods

Through human activities, genetic diversity is lost, species go extinct, and ecosystems are degraded and polluted.

For example, we are losing thousands of genetic varieties of our domestic plants and animals because of the homogenization caused by modern agriculture. Such varieties harbour valuable genes resistant against drought or diseases, but they are continually replaced by the few varieties favoured by the agro-industry. Species are vanishing forever at 100 to 1000 times the normal rate of extinction. About 60% of ecosystem services are degraded, and the growing ecological footprint of humanity displaces more and more natural ecosystems with human-dominated ‘ecosystems’, such as cities, monocultures, mines and roads.

We can push ecosystems beyond a point of no return

Most worryingly, we may now push these remaining natural ecosystems towards tipping points (or thresholds) beyond which they collapse into a state of much diminished productivity which is almost irreversible. This happened to the cod fisheries off the east coast of Canada, and may soon happen to most fisheries of the world with fish being replaced by jellyfish and other less palatable species.

This may soon happen to rainforests around the world, which may dry out because of climate change and negative feedbacks between tree felling and rainfall. Coral reefs could collapse because of the synergistic effects of overharvesting, pollution and climate change, and alpine ecosystems could disappear because of rising temperatures causing increased erosion as well as the extinction of cold-loving plants.

Add in the various other crises caused by unsustainable human endeavours, such as the water crisis, the soil crisis, the pollution crisis, the energy crisis, and the resource crisis, and we are really facing ‘a convergence of crises’ (Leonardo DiCaprio) swirling together into the perfect environmental storm, unless we change the way we manage the earth.