Species Extinction: The Destructive Environmental Impact

A topic that deserves more of the spotlight in climate change conversations is the impact of animal extinction, and the deterioration of biodiversity of the ecosystem on our climate. Healthy ecosystems clean our water, purify our air, maintain our soil, regulate the climate, recycle nutrients and provide food. Every living thing plays a role in the food chain and Earth’s ecosystems. Rich biodiversity and healthy ecosystems are fundamental to life on our planet.

If we were to lose our ecosystem, the Earth would no longer be a habitable place for anyone. The nutrients and natural fertilisers in the soil would no longer exist, so the lush green forests we see today would no longer grow. The rivers and oceans would become overgrown with algae and natural pollutants and we would lose the sublimity of our planet.

Impact of Animal Extinction on Biodiversity

Simultaneously, as animal extinction is affecting our climate, the impacts on biodiversity in parallel are equally affecting the environment. As hierarchies of the food chain are taken out or modified it causes the rest of the food chain to take a hit as the predator-prey matchups have to be reformed. This is a problem because the foundations of these matchups have been organically decided based on the nutrients and food groups that each animal needs.

If a group of prey were to become extinct, it is not certain that the group below it on the food chain could provide the predator with the nutrients or volume of food it would need. If it got to that point, it is entirely possible that the predator could become extinct, therefore carrying on the cycle. This is known as trophic cascade, an ecological phenomenon triggered by a predator’s extinction. 

The predominant disadvantage is the hierarchy is wiped out meaning the survival rates of the below layer are enhanced. Whilst initially, this could seem like a benefit, it can quickly turn into a problem. With the established food chain & hierarchy, there are theoretical predetermined roles for all life. If certain animals can’t fulfil their role due to extinction and other animals are overpopulating, the natural order becomes disturbed. This fiercely affects our climate because almost every living thing in our ecosystem plays a part in maintaining and nurturing the environment. As we lose animals and plants, we lose the natural caretakers of the earth.

As animal extinction begins to worsen, it also begins to drastically affect our ecology. Alongside systems like the food chain breaking down, processes like biotic pollination (pollination carried out by animals such as bees) cease to carry on. 80% of plants that require pollination for reproduction (angiosperms) rely on biotic pollination.

The chain reaction caused if the animal group that provided a certain plant with the biotic pollination it needed was to be made extinct is truly detrimental. Not only would the plant cease to grow, but the soil and surrounding areas would be affected physically and chemically, preventing other plants from growing. This would then deny certain animals of food, causing the gradual decline of their species, in turn setting off the whole cycle again.

“These declines in species threaten the services that nature provides to people. Prioritising nature conservation and embracing strategies to promote climate change adaptation can enhance species survival.”

A Personal Pledge to Tackle Climate Change

For a long time, I was not clued into how much our actions can affect the climate. As time went on, I started to look around and realise that the beaches I had come to love were having to shut down for clean up days because the litter was so bad. Long walks in cities were becoming harder because the pollution made it impossible to feel like I was breathing fresh air. It dawned on me that I was also playing a part in adding to this so I started treating the Earth with more respect.

I made small changes in my life such as always properly recycling and switching to ethical brands. I began walking a lot more instead of using transport. Whilst all of these changes may not seem like they make a difference, if we all start to live cleaner, we will begin to see the beauty return to the Earth. It is surprisingly easy to make these changes in your life and they will not only benefit our environment but you too! So what can you do yourself?

How can we protect wildlife to make a positive impact on climate change?

Restore habitat in your garden

If you have a garden, consider turning it into a mini-wildlife sanctuary. In a world where habitat loss is the number one cause of biodiversity loss, providing wildlife with water, food, cover, and a place to raise their young, can go a long way to reducing the loss of animal biodiversity. What if you don’t have a garden? Restore habitat in your community. You’ll spend time outdoors and learn about the native plants and animals.

Tougher policies and legislation

Governments should introduce restrictions on hunting and tighten the laws on illegal poaching to protect at-risk wildlife. These regulations would help individuals approach the activity in a way that limits environmental damage. If stricter laws can be enforced, illegal poaching activities could be minimised.

Buy from ethical brands

Alternative ways of aiding the cause would be to support ethical products. We should put our money toward ethically made products. Look out for labels that say Organic, Vegan, Fairtrade, and Cruelty-Free. However, it is important to remember that not all brands are honest about these things, so it is always worth doing your research and making sure that unethical brands are not receiving support! Also, reducing overall consumption can help save money and the planet. It’s something that most of us can do. We must try to keep our ecological footprint to a minimum. 

Support animal conservation projects to prevent species extinction

Lastly, you can support and fund Conservation Agencies such as Natural England who find nature-based solutions, and are contributing fully to tackling the climate change challenge. World Wildlife Fund works to conserve endangered species, protect endangered spaces, and address global threats to the planet. the Wildlife Conservation Society’s goal is to conserve the world’s largest wild places in 14 priority regions, home to more than 50% of the world’s biodiversity. 

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