The Atlas Of Endangered Species considers the destruction of habitat the ‘most significant threat ‘ and ‘ the most difficult to prevent ‘. What is happening to the world’s rain forests is an alarming example. A rich heritage of trees has become lost to mankind by mankind’s constant logging operations and shifting patterns of agriculture. These short-sighted methods of agri-business have even changed weather conditions, reducing the rainfall in one area while causing floods elsewhere.
As the ground is cleared for agriculture, the plants, animals, insects, reptiles and birds are disappearing and eventually becoming extinct. Even areas such as the island of Madagascar, known as ‘a geological Noah’s Ark ‘ because of its’ abundant variety of wildlife, is being threatened by man’s economic needs. Population increases and the growth of international trade insecurities are exerting pressure on the island inhabitants to turn forests into rice paddies which then creates less habitat for the golden bamboo lemur, so much so that at last count only 400 of these loved animals remain.
Added to the forests are swamps, lakes, wetlands and plains. These also are fast disappearing due to the need for housing, roads, pipelines and future industrial expansion. Among these threatened geographical ecosystems are the Sydney coastal wetlands, the Murray-Darling basin wetlands and the bogs of the Rhineland. When researching the least protected ecoregions in 2020, Australia topped the list, followed by Indonesia. I also realized while attempting to chronicle the decline in endangered wildlife habitats that every one of them is threatened by climate change.
Not to be ignored, are the growing numbers of invasive species which continue to plague Polynesia and Micronesia, a part of the world titled the “epicenter of the current global extinction”. Their impact upon the native species includes a lessening of native dominance along with a loss of richness, a lower range of biodiversity and a decrease in the number of vertical tiers of plants. Three of the world’s most invasive species include the Asian Carp, the Zebra Mussel and the Cane Toad. These invasive species have left a trail of environmental destruction since first introduced. Four types of Asian carp found in the United States today are the result of measures taken when creating aquaculture ponds. Accidental release and inadvertent flooding followed by lower water quality are the means by which these carp find their way into the Mississippi River system and its’ various tributaries. Invasive species act as carriers, spreading diseases and parasites. They consume vast amounts of plankton leaving less and less for the native species all the while creating conditions ideal for toxic algal blooms.
The zebra mussel is notorious for the damage done to infrastructure and recreational areas. They clog pipes, render beaches off limits and dangerous, destroy watercraft engines, deplete native food supplies, and create water toxicity similar to botulism. As of 2020, zebra mussels were making headlines for damage done in Manitoba, the most western province of Canada to be troubled by this invasive species. The zebra mussel is especially harmful because of its’ ability to change important substrates necessary for the survival of native fish eggs. Any action taken to import this species of mussel to Canada is in violation of The Federal Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations Act. Am I mistaken in thinking “too little too late”?
The cane toad possesses toxin strong enough to kill most native animals that would otherwise eat them. They especially like still or slow-flowing water along with temperatures ranging from 5-40 degrees Celsius. All stages of its’ life cycle are poisonous. Australia introduced three thousand of them to control a population of beetles that were eating the sugarcane crops. The toads did not like the beetles and therefore did not eat them. They did/do like Australia and millions of them now live and thrive there becoming yet another national ecological problem.
Habitat destruction is a present and persistent threat. It is not going away. A loss of habitat translates into a loss of planet sustainability. It means an elimination or serious alteration of the conditions necessary for animals and plants to survive. The health of our global ecosystem hangs in the balance. What can we do? What can I do? I can talk, write, hope, think and conserve where and when possible. I can stay informed. And you, dear reader, what will you do?
The Campaign for Nature is calling upon world leaders to take action. That action is to protect 30% of the Earth’s land and ocean by year 2030. It sounds so possible.