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Environment - Biodiversity And Ecosystems

Jan 16, 2008
Our global ecosystem is home to earth's entire collection of living organisms and the habitats in which they live. Biodiversity forms part of the earth's ecosystem and is short for biological diversity, a term used to describe the whole variety of life on earth.

Biodiversity doesn't just refer to rare species; it encompasses the diversity of all living things from the human race to micro-organisms. Biodiversity also refers to the amazing richness of habitats on earth such as snowfields, rain forests, mountain tops and the ocean floor. Even in a busy city park biodiversity is present as there are an enormous number of individual species living with it.

Biodiversity is a fundamental part of earth's life support as without it we wouldn't be able to survive. This is because no-one living organism lives in isolation; millions of organisms interact and contribute to the balance of the global ecosystem and the survival of the planet. It takes numerous organisms to regulate a natural process such as the growth cycle of plants, the mating season of animals and even our weather patterns.

Sadly however the planet is losing biodiversity at a rapid rate. Even though the normal course of evolution involves species to die out; the rate at which biodiversity is decreasing is extremely quick, much quicker than natural standards. So what is causing this decrease in biodiversity within our planet? There are a number of contributing factors that are causing biodiversity to come under threat from various dangers, sadly most of these factors are caused by the human race, an example being habitat loss and fragmentation. This is the primary cause of biodiversity loss; it refers to the clearance of vegetation for agriculture, housing, timber and industry. Habitat loss and fragmentation also refers to the draining of wetlands and the flooding of valleys to form reservoirs. By destroying habitats like this we are destroying organisms and therefore decreasing the biodiversity of our ecosystem.

Pollution is another contributing factor to the loss of biodiversity within our planets ecosystem. Pollution can affect all forms of life, whether they dwell in sea or on land. Transport, industry, construction, extraction and power generation are all contributors to the pollution of land, air and sea. These chemicals can directly affect biodiversity and cause chemical imbalances, which will kill species and there habitats.

One of the biggest threats however to biodiversity and also one of the largest environmental challenges facing the world today is climate change. Climate change is the result of co2 emissions, greenhouse gases, these gases are released when fossil fuels are burnt. Currently the world is emitting around 6.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year through burning coal, oil and gas and what is the world doing to help this? Cutting down the rainforest, destroying our landscape, getting rid of vital elements of nature that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere - trees. The more vegetation and forestry that is destroyed, the more carbon dioxide will build up in our atmosphere.

Climate change will make our climate feel too hot for certain species and too cold for other, wiping out yet more of our biodiversity. More than 16,000 species are already endangered and the rate of extinction has been increased 1000 times. The greater demand for land within the world is threatening species. Our planets resources are already overused by about 25% and the polar bear population has declined by 30%.

The world is running up a serious ecological debt and our ecosystems are being degraded at an unprecedented rate. Climate change will cause a rise in sea levels and problems to many coastal ecosystems; the planet will suffer irreparable damage if action is not taken.

There is a time lag between when emissions occur and when we begin to feel their effects, we have yet to experience the damage done from the past 30 years. This doesn't mean climate change can be reversed, it means that everyone has to come together to make a difference now to stop the decline of our planet in years to come. Climate change cannot just be stopped by environmentalists alone; it must become the responsibility of everyone.
About the Author
Helen Cox is the web master of Article Alley, home of all your Environmental article needs.
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