The Kinds of Human Activities That Have Destroyed Ecosystems

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Humans rely on ecosystems to supply food and other necessities for a healthy human life. Certain human activities have had a devastating impact on ecosystems, however. From pollution to overharvesting, the damage and exploitation of wildlife and natural vegetation by humans has left some ecosystems in bad shape.

Ecosystem Pollution

Many byproducts of industrialization have harmed ecosystems. For example, burning coal to produce energy releases chemicals like sulfur dioxide. Such chemicals in the air lead to acid rain and acid deposition, which can harm plant and animal life, especially as it acidifies aquatic ecosystems. In addition, liquid chemical runoff from human activities can negatively impact ecosystems. Such runoff is not just produced by big industrial factories. Zinc and lead runoff from lawns, driveways and sidewalks in residential areas can damage ecosystems.

Urban Sprawl

Urban sprawl is the ever-increasing spread of cities out into formerly rural areas. Clear-cutting and deforestation have occurred in order to accommodate the push of urbanization into rural regions. Besides resulting in loss of forests and other vegetation, such actives lead to habitat fragmentation. When roads, homes or even vehicles cut through the original ecosystem composition, animals can be cut off from a large part of their habitat and, by extension, their population.

Introduction of Invasive Species

The transfer of species can be unwitting, such as a plant spore hitching a ride on a shoe. Or the introduction of a new species could be on purpose, as was the case with the Asian carp in the United States. According the National Wildlife Federation, 42 percent of endangered animals are threatened by non-native species. These species pose a problem because they compete for food and may not serve as good food for the native species. In addition, invasive species can decrease biodiversity and physically alter the ecosystem. For example, an invasive species can change the soil's chemical composition.

Overharvesting Ecosystems

Overharvesting, sometimes called overexploitation, happens when species are taken from their natural habitat. This can happen as a result of habitat destruction, but more often it is a result of hunting or fishing. Such unsustainable activities can especially be seen in the fishing industry, where species like cod, haddock and flounder have had their populations drastically reduced. Overharvesting can lead to an imbalance in ecosystems, upsetting the food chain and harming other nonharvested species.


About the Author

An avid lover of science and health, Meg Michelle began writing professionally about science and fitness in 2007. She holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Creighton University and master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins. Her work has appeared in publications such as EARTH Magazine.

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