environmental sciences

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Will Biodiversity Loss Harm Humans Environmental Sciences Essay

Biodiversity loss has a negative impact on our societies; it negatively affects or contributes to the health of individuals, the climate, natural resources, pollution, poverty and the extinction of species. In the past years, biodiversity has been increasing faster than at any other time in human history. Consequently, its metamorphosis is anticipated to continue at the same pace. Virtually, all of Earth’s ecosystems have been severely transformed as a result of human actions and ecosystems are still being converted for agricultural and other uses. More land was converted to cropland in the 30 years after 1950 than in the 150 years between 1700 and 1850. Numerous plant populations and animals have decreased in numbers as well as their geographical spread, or both. The extinction of species is a natural part of Earth’s history. However, as a result of human activity, the extinction rate has grown by at least 100 times in comparison to the natural rate. Over the last century, some people have benefited from the conversion of natural ecosystems and an increase in international trade, but other people have suffered from the consequences of biodiversity losses and from restricted access to resources they depend upon. Consequently, changes in ecosystems are harming many of the world’s poorest people, who are the least capable to adapt to these changes. Historically, poor people lost disproportionate access to ecosystem services and biological products because demand for those services has grown. Over the past several decades, there has been an increase in economic losses and human suffering as a result of natural disasters. A rich source of biodiversity such as coral reefs and mangrove forests are excellent natural protection against floods and storms. However, they have diminished in coverage. Thus, they have increased the severity of flooding on coastal communities. In my research essay, I refer to Pettigrew. His theory states that there are three level of social analysis of a social problem. First, there is the macro level which is large scale and social structural such as institutions and organizations. This level can be found in Economics. Then, there is the meso level which is between the macro and micro level. It is a situational level in which there is face-to-face interaction and it can be found in Sociology. Lastly, there is the micro level which is small scale and individual such as personality. It can be found in Psychology. Biodiversity loss has a negative impact on our societies; it negatively affects or contributes to the health of individuals, the climate, natural resources, pollution, poverty and the extinction of species. Biodiversity refers to “the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat, a high level of which is usually considered to be important and desirable.” Extinction signifies being no longer existing or living. I will use Sociology to explain the demographic change. I will use Psychology to explain the health of individuals. Finally, I will use Economics to explain the deepening of poverty, the economic decline. Most sources are online journal articles taken from EBSCOhost database (Academic Search Premier) which are almost entirely peer-reviewed. The other source is a book. The theory that will be used in this research is Thompson’s Theory of Demographic Transition and the related discipline will be Sociology. This theory seeks to explain the transformation of countries from having high birth rates and death rates to low birth rates and death rates as a country develops from a pre-industrial to an industrialized economic system as well as an increasingly rapid rise in population growth. Thus, the population will use more natural resources which will decrease the biodiversity.

Biodiversity loss affects the natural resources. Jha and Bawa (2006) found out that the population growth has an effect on the rate of deforestation rate in biodiversity hotspots. When population growth was high and Human Development Index (HDI) was low there was a high rate of deforestation, but when HDI was high; rate of deforestation was low, despite high population growth. The correlation among variables was significant for the 1990s. Thompson’s Theory of Demographic Transition seeks to explain the rapid rise in population growth as a result of a transition between a pre-industrial to an industrialized economic system. Thus, there has been an exponential population growth over the last 200 years as a result of the advances made in the industrial, transportation, economic, medical, and agricultural revolutions. Moreover, there has been a simultaneous growth within the industrial sector. Developed countries, in general, have and use more of the Earth's resources. Population growth in developed countries puts a greater pressure on global resources and the environment than growth in less developed nations. As a result, Newman (2008) argues that “humanity’s use of natural resources is now 20% higher than Earth’s biologically productive capacity” (p.411). Furthermore, intact forests also provide protection from floods, landslides, erosion and avalanches. Beyond this, forests are indispensible for regulating the water balance. Damage to the forest means that it cannot furnish these environmental services any more, the consequence of which is greater damage to residential buildings, production plants and infrastructural facilities if there is a nature catastrophe. Also, there is a restricted access of resources that people depend on. In the past, increases in the supply of resources were often achieved despite local limitations by shifting production and harvest to new, less exploited regions. Consequently, these options are rapidly diminishing, and developing substitutes for services can be expensive. The use of ecosystems for recreation, spiritual enrichment, and other cultural purposes is growing. However, the capacity of ecosystems to provide these services has declined significantly. The use of resources such as food, water, and wood has increased rapidly, and continues to grow, sometimes unsustainably. Rainforests once covered 14% of the Earth's land surface; now they cover a mere 6% and experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years. Also, the price of natural resources is increasing because the demand is higher as a result of its reduction. The increase is a major challenge for developing countries without their own raw materials.

The decrease in biodiversity has an impact on the extinction of species. Hautemulle (2010) argues that the current situation is alarming: there are thirty-four "hot spots" of the globe, areas characterized by both their large number of species and an increased threat to biodiversity. Among them is the Mediterranean. The current extinction rate of species is 100 to 1 000 times faster than the natural rate. It evokes a sixth extinction crisis, which would not, unlike the first five, caused by a natural event like a volcanic or impact of large meteorites. Humans are responsible for the extremely high extinction rate. Many plant and animal populations are declining, both in terms of number of individuals, geographical spread, or both. Dirzo and Raven (2003) claim that “565 of the 1137 threatened species of mammals will go extinct within the next 50 years due to habitat loss and fragmentation” (p.162). Furthermore, Dirzo and Raven (2003) found out that habitat loss is the principal driver of extinction throughout the world. Consequently, the survival times of species in small areas of habitat should be considered in relation to their likely time of survival. One in four mammals, one in eight birds, one third of all amphibians and 70% of all plants assessed in the IUCN Red List 2007 are at risk. Moreover, more than 16,000 species are at risk of extinction.

The reduction of biodiversity has an effect on the health of individuals. A new generation of antibiotics, new treatments against bone loss or kidney problems, cancer drugs, it could all be lost if the world fails to reverse the rapid loss of biodiversity. Experts warn that many forms of terrestrial and marine life that have economic and medical interest may disappear before the people can learn their secrets. The reduction of biodiversity means that individuals lose the opportunity to experience many chemicals and genes similar to those already given to mankind for their enormous benefits in terms of health. It can limit the potential discovery of new treatments against many diseases and health problems. Diaz, Fargione, Chapin & Tilman (2006) discovered that “the loss of biodiversity-dependent ecosystem services is likely to accentuate inequality and marginalization of the most vulnerable sectors of society, by decreasing their access to basic materials for a healthy life and by reducing their freedom of choice and action” (p. 1302). An enormous portion of the world population could suffer severely as a result of biodiversity loss. It has been estimated by the World Health Organization that approximately 80% of the world’s population from developing countries rely mainly on traditional medicines (mostly derived from plants) for their primary health care. Biodiversity plays a critical role in nutrition. Thus, its loss could decrease the quality of nutrition which would affect the normal development of children (both physical and mental) as well as the health and productivity of adults. Meat from wild animals forms a very important contribution to food sources and livelihoods. Consequently, the reduction of biodiversity could have negative consequences on the food security which would affect many countries particularly those with high levels of poverty and food insecurity. Furthermore, biodiversity safeguards human health since fruits and vegetables are grown in plants and trees. Thus, its loss could decrease the production of healthy food.

Biodiversity loss has negative consequences on the climate. I will also discuss the causes related to climate. Rosales (2008) argues that “Although much uncertainty remains about individual species and ecosystems, it is well established that the overall impact of climate change on biodiversity has been and will be negative” (p.1410). There has been significant climate change from 1970 to 2005 according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Regarding biodiversity, it affirms that recent warming is already strongly affecting natural biological systems. There has been an increase in wildfire risk and changes in species such as timing of growth, abundance, the length of growing season and changes in migration. Changes have also been seen in aquatic systems. Rosales (2008) states that “Of the 28,671 observed biological changes reviewed by the IPCC, 90% are consistent with what one would expect to see with global warming” (p. 1411). Global warming destroys and alters certain habitats such as forests and wetlands. Trapped, these endangered species cannot migrate. Roads are blocking them on their journey. A nature that has not been modified by humans is increasingly rare. Over the next 50 years, the increase in global temperatures by 1.8 to 2 ° C threatens a million species extinction. If nothing is done to stop global warming, this figure will continue to increase. Land degradation in dry lands is associated with the diminution of biodiversity. Thus, its loss contributes to global climate change through the loss of carbon capacity. Furthermore, as a result of climate change, there has been an increase in ocean acidification, the continuous decrease in the pH of the Earth's oceans which affects negatively biodiversity. The consequences of the augmentation of greenhouse emissions especially carbon dioxide on the oceans may well be serious. Moreover, coral reefs are threatened by climate change because all of them are at risk. The average level of the oceans of the world has doubled. Also, climate change has also been found to have an impact on the reproductive periods of species, on their distribution and a highly increased extinction rate.

The diminution of biodiversity has an influence on poverty. Diaz et al. (2006) argue that “Its degradation is threatening the fulfillment of basic needs and aspiration of humanity as a whole, but especially, and most immediately, those of the most disadvantaged segments of society” (p.1305). Seventy percent of the poor of the planet live in rural areas and depend. directly on biodiversity for their survival and well-being. Poor areas also depend on urban biodiversity, not only for food production and other commodities, but also for services provided by ecosystems, including the preservation of clean air and water and waste decomposition. If the impact of biodiversity loss is more severe for the poorest people, it is because they have few alternatives to deal with. Moreover, the poor people have a limited purchasing power. Thus, it leaves them less capable of buying in-substitutes for local ecosystems from outside. Therefore, they highly rely on integrity of their local environment. Additionally, the reduction of biodiversity affects the sustainable supply of the service.

Pollution has an impact on the diminution of biodiversity. It is emitted in many forms, including form of atmospheric pollution, of soil and water, pesticides, particulate matter and heavy metals. Thousands of pollutants circulating in the Earth's ecosystems and many of these materials have a significant impact on large-scale forest and aquatic ecosystems. For example, pollution acid had a significant impact on sugar bushes of Ontario and pollution caused by industries such as DDT is known to have resulted in significant decreases in populations of many species of birds, including the peregrine falcon and bald eagle. Pollution can also disrupt ecological processes. Thus, scientists are now the link between light pollution and the decline of migratory songbirds. Moreover, pollution affects biodiversity by potentially increasing the mutation rate and applying pressure or stimuli to populations to move or adapt. Thus, pollution can harm or kill members of a population indiscriminately, or reduce fecundity. Soil acidification creates ecological dead zones, leaving areas unfit for plant life and the animals that depend upon them. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) may cause declines, deformities and death of fish life. Terrestrial and aquatic plants may absorb pollutants from water (as their main nutrient source) and pass them up the food chain to consumer animals and humans. Chemical contamination can cause declines in frog biodiversity. Zvereva, Toivonen & Kozlov (2008) found out that “Species richness of vascular plants significantly decreased with pollution. (…)An overall decline in species richness of vascular plants was primarily due to the contribution of acidic polluters” (p. 310).

The biodiversity loss has many devastating consequences on the ecosystem, the climate, pollution and on society. It affects the health of the individuals with the rise of infectious disease as well as the loss of potential new medicines and medical models. Also, its degradation is threatening the fulfillment of basic needs and aspiration of humanity as a whole, but especially, and most immediately, those of the most disadvantaged segments of society. It limits both the capability of species to migrate and the ability of species to survive in fragmented habitats. Many actions can be taken in order to conserve biodiversity. Informing all of society about the benefits of conserving biodiversity, and explicitly considering trade-offs between different options in an integrated way, helps maximize the benefits to society. Strong institutions at all levels are essential to support biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of ecosystems. International agreements need to include enforcement measures and take into account impacts on biodiversity and possible synergies with other agreements. Most direct actions to halt or reduce biodiversity loss need to be taken at local or national level.


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