What’s Threatening Biodiversity? Hint: It’s US!

The American Museum of Natural History explained that over the last century, humans have come to dominate the planet, causing rapid ecosystem change and massive loss of biodiversity across the planet. This has led some people to refer to the time we now live in as the “anthropocene.” While the Earth has always experienced changes and extinctions, today they are occurring at an unprecedented rate.

In fact, it’s estimated that in the last four decades, we’ve lost more than 50 percent of the planet’s biodiversity and a recent UN report found that up to one million plant and animal species face extinction, many within decades, because of human activities.

The Biggest Threats: Human activity has disrupted every part of our planet and poses a serious threat to biodiversity. We’ve altered our planet’s critical cycles but more specifically we’re threatening biodiversity in the following ways:

  • Climate change: warming rivals habitat loss and land degradation as a threat to global wildlife.
  • Deforestation and habitat loss–especially as we clear land for farming.
  • Overexploitation: overhunting, overfishing, and over-harvesting contribute greatly to the loss of biodiversity, killing off numerous species over the past several hundred years.
  • Invasive species: The introduction of non-native species into an ecosystem can threaten endemic wildlife (either as predators or competing for resources), affect human health and upset economies.
  • Pollution: while all forms of pollution pose a serious threat, nutrient loading, in particular, is a major and increasing cause of biodiversity loss and ecosystem dysfunction.

Why This Matters: Consider this stat from the Guardian for a second:

The extinction rate of species is now thought to be about 1,000 times higher than before humans dominated the planet, which may be even faster than the losses after a giant meteorite wiped out the dinosaurs 65m years ago. 

While we’re beginning to have policy conversations about how to transform our economic, social and political systems–like the Green New Deal–we can’t underestimate the urgency that exists to drastically limit our impact on our planet. Our own lives are depending on it, without a vibrant Earth our chances of adequately feeding and sustaining 9.8 billion people by 2050 become slim.

 

Up Next

Passenger Rail Could Be The Winner of a Biden Infrastructure Bill

Passenger Rail Could Be The Winner of a Biden Infrastructure Bill

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer While working to pass a COVID relief package through both houses of Congress, the Biden administration is simultaneously working on its next priority legislative package: a much-awaited $2T infrastructure bill.  One of the anticipated winners of this bill could be passenger rail, as President Biden has said he wants […]

Continue Reading 619 words
COVID’s Toll On The Environmental Community: Remembering NOAA’s Jen Pizza

COVID’s Toll On The Environmental Community: Remembering NOAA’s Jen Pizza

This week, we marked the grim milestone of 500,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19.  We know that many among them cared deeply about the environment and climate change, and many were public servants.  In their honor, we want to tell the story of one — Jennifer “Jen” Pizza, who died suddenly last Sunday of […]

Continue Reading 719 words

One Brave Thing: Rowing Solo Across the Atlantic

A 21-year old woman from the U.K., Jasmine Harrison, became the youngest female to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean — she did it in just over 70 days — surviving capsizing twice and a near collision with a giant tanker ship.  Why did she do it, you ask? She said on her website, “I […]

Continue Reading 130 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.