Since we have a vested interest in the use of timber around the world, Wood Designer strongly advocates the use of Forestry Commission Certified sources and analogue organisations around the world. We aim to help you visualise and focus on the impact of habitat loss on endangered and threatened species.
Loss of habitat is the single most damaging aspect that threatens the global ecosystem. All habitats from arboreal to oceanic are under threat from the activities of mankind. The rate at which areas of both land and sea are being repurposed or severely damaged by industry, logging, farming and waste management is currently both unprecedented and alarming.
Global Changes to Our Environment
Our planet is changing, with the distribution of animals across the Earth changing rapidly. These changes are largely driven by deforestation and other human activities such as intensive agriculture, urbanization, and climate change. Tropical forests are changing in response to ocean acidification, the growth of monocultures for biofuels, trade policies and the expansion of agricultural land. Continual forest loss contributes to increased erosion rates by endangering forest buffer zones (i.e., natural defense systems) that could mitigate floods or droughts caused by climate change or anthropogenic activities such as deforestation/reforestation in other parts of the world. Deforestation has displaced millions of farmers, leading to increased food insecurity and loss of agricultural land.
Habitat loss has been directly implicated as the main threat to 85% of the threatened and endangered species on the IUCN red list which seeks to classify species’ status in terms of their endangerment.
Main Causes of Habitat Loss
Deforestation is mainly caused by conversion to agricultural land or excessive logging for timber and often a combination of the two. Since 60% of the world’s population of animals live in forests and woodland, this is clearly a problem.
The 1990s were the worst decade for deforestation when an estimated 2.4% of the world’s forests disappeared. To date, less than half of the woodland and forest areas have remained from preindustrial times.
The rate of deforestation has abated somewhat, we have gone down from destroying an area the size of Uruguay each year to one the size of Portugal but is still happening at unsustainable rates and there was a sharp rise in 2020. One growing problem is the increasing annual consumption of palm oil which is used 5 times more than it was 40 years ago.
Palm oil is grown in tropical regions like Nigeria, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, it has traditionally been used in cooking in many parts of the world but its versatility in the production processes of many industrial and commercial chemicals has caused the escalation in its use. You will find it in most foods, personal care and cleaning products, in fact, an estimated 50% of the items on a supermarket shelf will have at least one ingredient made from palm oil.
Animals like orangutans, rhinoceros, tigers and elephants have been marginalised by the loss of the forests that they live in and depend upon. This often leads to human-animal conflict and the death or capture of many creatures.
In 1994, 2 billion people (37% of the world’s population) lived 60km (37 Miles) or closer to the sea. Little has changed, nowadays around 40% or 2.4 billion people live 100km (62 miles) from a coast.
Pollution, over-fishing, industrial effluent, tourism and agriculture contribute to the degradation of habitats and their inhabitants in the marine environment.
Areas of Protection
A way to preserve some diversity if not the numbers in the wildlife population is to preserve areas for the animals to exist undisturbed, these pockets need to be large enough to maintain their integrity and remain under some sort of security arrangement to be effective. It is, however, a minor remedy to a major problem and should only be seen as a short-term measure.