Animals and Human Society: Chapter 19 - Human Activity and Habitat Loss: Destruction, Fragmentation, and Degradation

Elsevier, Animals and Human Society, 2018, Pages 451-482
Colin G. Scanes

Humans have a detrimental impact on natural habitat due to various activities including deforestation, urbanization, roads, the energy sector (renewable and coal), mining, and climate change. The most important form of habitat destruction is deforestation either to develop land for agriculture (70%) or to harvest lumber intensively. There is ongoing economic pressure to convert the forests of the Amazon to pasture and arable land, for example, for corn and soybean production for the growing pig and poultry sectors. In Malaysia, Indonesia, and sub-Saharan Africa, there is growing production of palm oil with native forests being converted to oil palm plantations. The number and proportion of people living in urban areas is increasing rapidly with 5.8 million ha urbanized between 1970 and 2000 globally. Roads are influencing habitats particularly with the destruction of wetlands and habitat fragmentation. It is estimated that by 2050, there will be an additional 15.5 million miles (25 million km) of roads. The energy sector (e.g., coal mining and wind turbines) is also responsible for habitat loss. Environmental contamination associated with the extractive industries poses risks to wildlife and is viewed as potential habitat degradation. Even the vaulted wind turbines degrade habitat with substantial fatalities for birds (>200,000 in the USA) and bats (>800,000 in the USA). Mining also degrades and/or destroys habitats; for instance, unregulated gold mining can cause considerable damage including release of toxicants including cyanide, arsenic, boron, copper, fluoride, mercury, and zinc. Anthropomorphic (human-induced) climate change is degrading habitats, such as the polar region and the oceans due to acidification.