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.


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