Natural habitats are the places where plants and animals live and thrive. They provide essential resources such as food, water, shelter and space for the survival and reproduction of different species. They also support important ecosystem services such as pollination, nutrient cycling, climate regulation and biodiversity conservation.
However, natural habitats are under increasing threat from human activities that destroy, degrade or fragment them. 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. According to a study about tree density published in Nature, the number of trees worldwide has decreased by 46 percent since the start of civilization.
Habitat destruction has far-reaching impacts on the planet's ability to sustain life. It reduces the amount and quality of habitat available for wildlife, leading to population declines, species extinctions and loss of genetic diversity. It also disrupts the ecological balance and functioning of ecosystems, affecting their resilience and productivity. It contributes to global warming by releasing greenhouse gases stored in vegetation and soils, and by reducing the capacity of ecosystems to absorb carbon dioxide. It also increases the vulnerability of humans and wildlife to natural disasters such as floods, droughts, landslides and fires.
Despite the habitat loss that has occurred globally to date, there is still hope. Studies reveal that by protecting 50 percent of the land and ocean around the world, plant and animal species could thrive. Today, only 15 percent of the land and 7 percent of the ocean is protected, leaving us with a challenging yet attainable goal. The Campaign for Nature calls upon world leaders to take action in helping to protect 30 percent of the Earth's land and ocean by 2030, on the way to 50 percent of the planet in a natural state by 2050. This commitment represents our best opportunity to preserve the ecosystems necessary for our survival.
We can all play a role in protecting natural habitats and the biodiversity they support. We can reduce our consumption of natural resources and adopt more sustainable lifestyles. We can support conservation efforts by donating, volunteering or raising awareness. We can also pressure our governments and corporations to adopt policies and practices that respect and restore nature. Together, we can make a difference for ourselves and future generations.