The Trinidad Motmot is a beautiful bird endemic to Trinidad and Tobago. This rainbow-coloured bird has a sweet song to sing, but its status is ‘Protected.’ Like many other species, its existence is threatened by loss of habitat due to deforestation and quarrying.

biodiversityThe beautiful Trinidad Motmot
Photo credit: Will George (Flikr)

Why is this important?

A healthy planet is a biodiverse planet and a healthy planet is a healthy you.

Biodiversity is at the foundation of the wide array of ecosystem services that are critical to human well-being and survival. The choices we make influence biodiversity and affect the preservation and conservation of all living things. Biodiversity ensures natural sustainability for all life on the planet.

Around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades. More than ever before in human history. 

This World Biodiversity Day, we recognise the immense anthropological impacts on biodiversity by listing the top 5 threats to a healthy planet.

Overfishing

About two-thirds of the marine environment has been significantly changed by human actions. Our actions directly affect the world around us. One such action is overfishing. Combined with the destructive and wasteful fishing techniques humans engage in on massive scales, it is a top-shelf culprit in loss of biodiversity. 

Marine biodiversity is crucial to the survival of humanity, yet we continue to disregard it and overexploit our oceans. Depletion of fisheries poses a major threat to the food supply of millions of people. Direct exploitation of organisms, mainly from fishing, has had the largest relative negative impact on nature since 1970.

If that’s not shocking enough, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported that over 70% of the world’s fish species are either fully exploited or depleted. 

Large scale overfishing around the world is destroying marine mammals and entire ecosystems.

Sea turtle is caught as bycatch in a shrimp trawl net. 
Photo credit: NOAA

Pollution

Pollution, in all its forms, has intense and far-reaching negative effects on biodiversity. Dependence on dirty energy by burning fossil fuels such as oil, coals, and gas contributes to atmospheric and hydrologic pollution, which affect both marine and land life.

Pollution poses a risk to the wellbeing of plants, animals, and microorganisms.

In some cases, polluted waterways result in the desertion of spawning areas and finally in the massive loss of marine populations. Many species are vulnerable to the indirect effects of pollution through bioaccumulation, which eventually affects us too when we consume them.  

Invasive alien species

If you’re a Stranger Things fan like me, then think Demagorgans and psychic vines taking over the world and destroying everything in their path. 

Yup, invasive species are among the leading threats to native wildlife and biodiversity. When non-native species are introduced into an ecosystem, this threatens endemic wildlife, as they have either to compete for scarce resources or fall prey to the alien species.

Some examples:

  • European green crabs in San Francisco, USA
  • Giant African Snail in Trinidad and Tobago
  • Lionfish in the Caribbean Sea

Natural ecosystems comprise a variety of species that developed in the area and co-exist. When an invasive species is introduced, it tends to grow in an uninhibited manner and disrupts the pre-existing ecosystem. Human activity has fast-tracked long-distance movement of non-native organisms.

 

The Lionfish is overtaking the Caribbean Sea. This small and beautiful fish is an unassuming pest that is hazardous to our coral reefs and commercial fishing. 

Climate change

It seems to go without saying, but we’ll say it a little louder for those in the back.

Climate change poses a massive threat to Earth’s biodiversity.

The impacts of climate change are direct, indirect, slow, quick, difficult to measure, seen in front of our eyes, and in many cases, irreversible. Climate change exacerbates the stresses already imposed on the environment. Species shifting their natural geographic distributions, habitat loss due to forest fires, and coral bleaching are all examples of the impressions of climate change on biodiversity. And it’s worsening an already tragic situation.

It is projected that up to 50% of species will lose most of their suitable climate conditions by 2100 under the highest greenhouse gas emissions scenario. In the tragedy of biodiversity loss, climate change is adding fuel to the fire. 

biodiversity

 

Before and After effects of Coral Bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Ocean Acidification

“The Great Barrier Reef is in grave danger. The twin perils brought by climate change – an increase in the temperature of the ocean and in its acidity – threaten its very existence.” – Sir David Attenborough

There’s a chemical change under way in our oceans. It’s called ocean acidification. With increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through burning of fossil fuels, our oceans are absorbing more CO2. 

It is estimated that the ocean sucks in about one-third of the carbon dioxide humans produce. When the CO2, which is an acid gas reacts with seawater, it forms an acid, which leads to ocean acidification. 

This negatively alters the chemistry of the ocean and affects marine life. 

Imagine soaking your fish and clams in a bucket of highly acidic water. This is happening globally, from the north and south poles to the oceans in between. The tiniest animals affected are an important part of an enormous food web and when little things change on a big scale, big changes are sure to follow. 

Scientists say that ocean acidification could wipe out half of the world’s corals by the middle of this century. 

So, this Biodiversity Day, let us all remember that it’s more than just a one-day recognition. Living in a way which secures a healthy planet improves our lives as well, on this big, bold, and beautiful spinning ball.  

Dizzanne Billy

About Dizzanne Billy

Dizzanne Billy is a communications and marketing specialist from Trinidad and Tobago. A former Climate Tracker Fellow, she now heads up some of our most exciting outreach work across the Caribbean and ‘the interwebs'