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This lesson first defines biodiversity for you.

Then you’ll learn about the numerous threats to this biodiversity, such as deforestation, poaching and many others.

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What is Biodiversity?

People are pretty diverse. There are all sorts of languages, body types, places we live and so on. Plants and animals are even more diverse with respect to their numbers, shapes, genetic variations and natural environments. This is what we mean when we talk about biodiversity.Unfortunately, biodiversity is under threat.

Let’s take a look at the major reasons why.

Habitat Destruction

To learn about the threats to biodiversity we are going to attach a very small and lightweight camera to a bird we’ve name Bob. Bob’s going to fly around the world and we’ll get to see what’s endangering the world’s biodiversity.Bob starts off his journey in the Amazon. As we fly over the Amazon we can see a lot of deforestation taking place. Deforestation is the felling of large sections of whole forests. This destroys the homes of many animals.

There’s just nowhere else to live. Deforestation has occurred in every part of the world. Some places more than others. For example, in the last 40 years, 20% of the Amazon rain forest has been cut down!

Deforestation in South America.
The cane toad is an invasive species in Australia.
cane toad

Climate Change

Climate change threatens biodiversity all over the world. For instance, with melting icecaps, everything from polar bears to penguins to whales depend on these areas for sustenance are threatened.

As ice melts into the sea, ocean levels rise. This leads to coastal areas and habitats being flooded and destroyed as a result, which can threaten everything from birds to trees that call these areas home.Global warming has also contributed to the destruction of coral reefs around the world.

Again, it’s not just the reefs that die, it is the entire ecosystem that depends on these reefs for survival.

Other Threats

There are many other threats to biodiversity, including:

  • The introduction of pharmaceuticals into our environment, which can happen by flushing them down the toilet
  • Acid rain
  • Herbicides and pesticides we use in our crops
  • Things we manufacture and throw away, like plastics, which poison habitats
  • The depletion of our ozone layer, which can cause DNA damage to plants and animals
  • War, which has little regard for habitat and biodiversity with its destruction

Lesson Summary

Biodiversity is a term that refers to the wide variety of flora and fauna that exist in an environment. It is under threat from many causes:

  • Deforestation, the loss of part or all of a forest
  • Fishing, which may damage sea beds or deplete species through overfishing
  • Drainage of wetlands for purposes like real estate development
  • Dams, which flood and destroy ecosystems and thus the biodiversity behind the dam
  • Poaching, or illegal hunting
  • Invasive species, which might kill native ones without abatement
  • Climate change, specifically the heating of the globe in recent decades that can affect ice melting and weather patterns, putting species at risk
  • Pharmaceutical, industrial, agricultural and sewage-based pollution

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