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What are the main causes of biodiversity loss?

June 4, 2010, 9:09 pmFiled under: Home — Posted by Eco-Question Editor

Content from: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) www.unep.org
Posted by: Eco-question Editor
Source:United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) www.unep.org
Photo Credit: www.unep.org
Logo Credit: 2010 International Year of Biodiversity www.cbd.int
VDO Credit: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) www.unep.org

What are the main causes of biodiversity loss?

Habitat loss and destruction

  • This is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. Habitat loss is directly linked to human induced pressures on land.

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Alterations in ecosystem composition

  • Assemblages of species and their interactions with their ecosystems is critical for not only saving the species, but also for their successful future evolution. In the event of alterations, either ecosystems can begin to change. Alterations to ecosystems are critical factor contributing to species and habitat loss.


  • Over-hunting, over-fishing or over-collecting of a species can quickly lead to its decline. Changing consumption patterns of human is often cited as the key reason for this unsustainable exploitation of natural resources.

Invasive alien species

  • The introduction of exotic species that replace local and native species is cited as the second largest of biodiversity loss. Alien invasive species replace, and offer result in the extinction of native species. The annual economic damage caused by invasive plant and animal species is estimated to be in the region of US$1.4 trillion.

Pollution and contamination

  • Biological systems respond slowly to changes in their surrounding environment. Pollution and contamination cause irreversible damage to species.

Global climate change

  • Both climate variability and climate change cause biodiversity loss. Species and populations may be lost permanently, if they are not provided with enough time to adapt to changing climate conditions.


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What is biodiversity?

Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 – VNR

The most comprehensive report yet compiled on the state of life on our planet based not only on a wide range of scientific studies, but also on 110 national reports, compiled by governments.


What is biodiversity?

From the hot arid deserts of the Sahara, through the lush green rainforests of the Amazon, to the ocean depths and bright corals, our natural world is a marvel of different landscapes, materials, colours and textures.

The land, air and seas of our planet are home to the tiniest insects and the largest animals, which make up a rich tapestry of interconnecting and interdependent forces.

This is life, this is biodiversity.

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Biodiversity found on Earth today consists of many millions of distinct biological species, the product of four billion years of evolution.

However, the word “Biodiversity” is relatively new, and is thought to have first been coined as a contraction of the term "biological diversity" in 1985 and then popularized by a number of authors. (Nematology: advances and perspectives, Volume 1By Z. X. Chen, S. Y. Chen, Donald Ward Dickson p439)

Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth, it includes all organisms, species, and populations; the genetic variation among these; and their complex assemblages of communities and ecosystems.

It also refers to the interrelatedness of genes, species, and ecosystems and in turn, their interactions with the environment.

Three levels of biodiversity are commonly discussed—genetic, species, and ecosystem diversity.

     1. Genetic diversity is all the different genes contained in all the living species including individual plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms.

     2. Species diversity is all the different species, as well as the differences within and between different species.

     3. Ecosystem diversity is all the different habitats, biological communities and ecological processes, as well as variation within individual ecosystems.

Related Story to Biodiversity:

Please see 2010 International Year of Biodiversity

2010 International Year of Biodiversity


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The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the voice for the environment in the UN system. Established in 1972, UNEP’s mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UNEP is an advocate, educator, catalyst and facilitator promoting the wise use of the planet’s natural assets for sustainable development. It works with many partners, UN entities, international organizations, national governments, non-governmental organizations, business, industry, the media and civil society.

UNEP’s work involves providing support for: environmental assessment and reporting; legal and institutional strengthening and environmental policy development; sustainable use and management of natural resources; integration of economic development and environmental protection; and promoting public participation in environmental management.


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