Biodiversity - Fact Pack

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5/21/12 Biodiversity - Fact Pack Home Policy Issues Biodiversity Fact Pack FACT PACK As biodiversity disappears, ecosystems become weak and inefficient, threatening the health and maintenance of all life. Today, earth�s biodiversity and its life-sustaining services are being threatened. Biodiversity Loss Implications of Not Preserving Biodiversity Water shortages, landslides, soil erosion, fish kills, and forest fires all result from biodiversity loss. These losses create irreparable ec
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  5/21/12 Biodiversity - Fact Pack1/5www.serconline.org/biodiversity/fact.html   Home>Policy Issues> Biodiversity > Fact Pack F ACT P ACK As biodiversity disappears, ecosystems become weak and inefficient, threatening the healthand maintenance of all life. Today, earth � s biodiversity and its life-sustaining services are being threatened. Biodiversity Loss Implications of Not Preserving Biodiversity Water shortages, landslides, soil erosion, fish kills, and forest fires all result from biodiversity loss. These losses create irreparable economic and ecological damage.The United States is now spending an estimated $7.8 billion to restore naturalecological processes in the Florida Everglades, which promises to help restore thehealth of the region � s biodiversity. (1) Only a few decades ago, oysters were capable of keeping the entire ChesapeakeBay clear by filtering out particles at a rate estimated to be the equivalent of the entirevolume of the bay, every three days. Over-harvesting has reduced populations by99%, and the remaining oysters cannot keep up with the filtering process. (2) Species decline is often an early warning sign of a health threat to all species,including humans. For example, when bald eagle populations and other birds of prey began to decline due to eggshell thinning caused by DDT, Americans became awareof the health risks of DDT and banned its use before humans experienced significantadverse health affects. The Reality of Biodiversity Loss The Natural Heritage Central Database lists 526 species as extinct or missing and arecent review of the status of all U.S. species by the Nature Conservancy revealsthat approximately one-third of U.S. plant and animal species are at risk of extinction. (3) In the United States, 37% of freshwater fish species, 67% of mussels, 51% of crayfish, and 40% of amphibians are threatened or have become extinct. (4)  Ninety-eight percent of America � s grasslands are gone, including 98 percent of the   5/21/12 Biodiversity - Fact Pack2/5www.serconline.org/biodiversity/fact.html .Eight-five percent of the virgin forests throughout the U.S. have been destroyed, withlosses estimated at 95-98 percent in the lower 48 states. For example, old-growthforests of the Pacific Northwest have declined by 90 percent, and longleaf pine,which once dominated the uplands of the southeastern coastal plain, have beenreduced by 98 percent. (3) Between 90-98% of wild and scenic rivers in the U.S. are degraded. (1) Seventy to ninety percent of southern California’s coastal sage scrub, a diverse andrare habitat type hosting many endemic species, has been lost to urban andagricultural expansion. (3)  Ninety percent of the wading birds that once graced Florida � s Everglades aregone. (3) California has lost over 99% of its native grasslands and 85% of its coastalredwoods. (3) The Chesapeake Bay has lost 90% of its submerged aquatic vegetation. (3) If current rates of biodiversity loss continue... There are currently more than 6 billion people living on earth, and experts predict theworld population will reach 9 billion people in the next 50 years. Incredibly, while theworld population has doubled since 1950, the world economy has quintupled, placing greater strain and demand on the world � s fixed supply of resources.Based on recent extinction rates, an estimated 4% of freshwater species will be lostin North America each decade, a rate nearly five times that of terrestrial species. (5) Destruction of biodiversity will reduce the quality of life for future generations,including psychological, emotional, and spiritual effects from ruined forests, beaches,lakes, mountains, and open spaces. What Contributes to Biodiversity Loss? Sprawl  Habitat loss from development, fragmentation, and degradation is the most significantthreat to biodiversity in the U.S. Much of this destruction occurred over a centuryfrom farming, logging, grazing, mining, road building, damming, and channelizing of streams. Today, the most immediate threat to habitat is from poorly plannedurbanization or sprawl. (3) Each year 2.2 million acres are lost to sprawl. (6) Other adverse impacts from sprawl include air and water pollution, erosion of landcleared for development, stream siltation, reduced natural capacity to filter pollutantsand detoxify waters, and less capacity to cycle nutrients and compost organicwaste. (7) Habitat destruction reduces or eliminates populations of a particular species, which,in turn, reduces genetic diversity, leaving the species more vulnerable to disease,disaster, and eradication.Although roads, developments, and dams do not destroy a large quantity of habitatoutright, they can have an extremely devastating ecological impact on species’ populations. The fragmentation that results divides and creates barriers in natural  5/21/12 Biodiversity - Fact Pack3/5www.serconline.org/biodiversity/fact.html habitat, leading to the disruption of wildlife movement, dispersal, pollination, andnatural processes, like fires and flooding, and drastically reduces the ability of thehabitat to support species.Channelization and bank stabilization projects on the Missouri River have eliminatedthe river otter population from this waterway. (8) The Willamette River in Oregon lost 80% of riparian forests and shoreline habitats asa result of straightening and deepening the river channel. (8) Eighty-three percent of 98 threatened or endangered plant species are threatened primarily by habitat destruction through human activity. (8)  Invasive Species Invasive species threaten biodiversity, habitat quality, ecosystem function, and producesevere, often irreversible impacts on agriculture, recreation, and our natural resources. Theyare the second most important threat to native species, behind habitat destruction, havingcontributed to the decline of 42% of U.S. endangered and threatened species. (9) Invasive species cost the United States approximately $137 billion per year. Thesespecies affect everything from habitat to natural cycles, like fire cycles and nutrientand water cycling in native ecosystems. (10) In 1991, because of reduced carrying capacity from leafy spurge infestations,ranchers and landowners in South Dakota were losing $1.4 million per year. The lostforage would have supported beef herds that could have generated $4.6 million inannual revenues. (11) Eurasian watermilfoil was discovered in 11 additional Minnesota water bodies during2003. There are now 152 Minnesota lakes, rivers, and streams known to contain theexotic submersed aquatic plant. (12) In Florida, from 1980-1993, managing the invasive plant hydrilla in public lakes andrivers where it clogs drainage and irrigation canals, prevents navigation, shades out beneficial native plants, degrades water quality, and interferes with hydroelectric plants and urban water supplies, cost $38.5 million; estimates indicate $10 million isactually needed for adequate annual statewide control. (13) Invasive species have played a major role in the listing of 35 to 46 percent of allspecies currently considered endangered or threatened in the United States. (1) Overexploitation Of the 6 billion people on earth, Americans consume more resources per personthan any other nation, increasing the demands on our already strained ecosystemsand threatening biodiversity. (8) The California abalone is one of many fish species on the verge of extinction due toover-harvesting at fisheries. (14) Industrial logging damages and destroys many habitats and ecosystems. (8) Illegal trade creates a demand for species that are over-hunted, placing them at risk of extinction. (8)  5/21/12 Biodiversity - Fact Pack4/5www.serconline.org/biodiversity/fact.html  Pollution Pollutants weaken immune systems and reproductive capacity, reducing species’resilience and ability to maintain adequate populations. (15) Though now banned in the U.S., high levels of DDT found in marine mammals makeit difficult for them to reproduce. (15) Toxic chemical buildup in ecosystems, primarily DDT, interfered with bald eagle andother raptor reproduction, and contributed to a serious population decline from75,000 nesting bald eagles in the lower 48 states in 1782 to only 450 nesting pairs by the 1960s. (16) Ozone pollution from the Ohio Valley damages trees in the AppalachianMountains. (15) Global Climate Change Deforestation and burning fossil fuels increase the concentrations of CO 2 and other greenhouse gases which trap heat in the earth � s atmosphere, leading to an increasein average yearly temperatures on earth.Global warming may lead certain species to expand their ranges, includingmosquitoes that carry malaria, encephalitis, and other diseases. (1) The anticipated speed of climate changes, coupled with direct loss of natural habitat,may prevent some species from adapting quickly enough, resulting in death and possible extinction. (1) Global warming shifts ecosystems and changes migration patterns. The ranges for marine life along the Pacific coast, for example, are shifting northward. (17) Statewide Biodiversity Information Every state has access to biodiversity information through Natural Heritage Programsand Gap Analysis Programs (GAP) that are complete or in progress. Many statesare forming additional information collection and assessment agencies as part of their  biodiversity policy. Increasingly, state fish and wildlife agency wildlife diversity programs, state departments of natural resources, and even many state universitieshave information and expertise on their state � s biodiversity. Economic Value of Biodiversity People travel to mountains, coasts, lakes, and forests for vacation and spend millionsof dollars on hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting. (1) In 1991, people in the U.S. spent $16 billion on sport fishing. This is almost twicewhat was produced by global commercial harvesting of freshwater fish for consumption in the same year. (1) The global estimated value of soil bacterial services provided by natural species is$33 billion a year. (1) Sources:“
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