Biodiversity loss: what are the main causes?

    Biodiversity loss is mainly caused by human activity. Find out the main causes of biodiversity decline and how 3Bee, through innovative technological solutions, is combating this global emergency and is regenerating the biodiversity.
    Biodiversity loss: what are the main causes?


    Biodiversity alarm: an exponential decline

    An April morning, a warm breeze blows over the hills. The world is slowly awakening: the buds on the trees are beginning to blossom and nature seems ready to welcome a new season. However, closer listening reveals an eerie silence. The familiar hum of the bees no longer fills the air and the melodious song of the birds is a deafening memory. Spring, once marked by an explosion of life, seems to have lost its vibrancy. This is not a distant future but a prospect that is becoming increasingly real. In 2020, the Global Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Report sounded a chilling alarm: it is predicted that, if timely action is not taken, around one million animal and plant species could be at risk of extinction in the coming decades. A distressing scenario caused by threats from human activity, which are contributing to the exponential loss of biodiversity.

    The destruction of natural habitats

    One of the main dangers is the destruction of natural habitats, often a consequence of deforestation, urbanisation, intensive agriculture and mining. Rainforests, which provide habitat for more than half of the world's terrestrial species, are disappearing at an alarming rate. For example, the Bornean Orang-utan is at risk of extinction due to deforestation for palm oil production, with an estimated loss of 50% of its population in the last 60 years. Similarly, species living in primary forests, such as the mountain gorilla, are in steep decline: from 2001 to 2020, 43 million hectares of primary forest, an area larger than the whole of Germany, have disappeared.

    Climate Change

    Climate change is putting unprecedented pressure on ecosystems. But what are they in detail? We are talking about a variety of phenomena including rising global average temperatures, known as global warming, and changes in precipitation cycles, which can lead to extreme events such as droughts, storms, heat waves and floods. Climate change also includes ocean acidification, caused by the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide: a serious threat to marine life, particularly corals and shellfish. For example, altered climate patterns are affecting the lives of hummingbirds. Known for their dependence on specific flowers and their important role as pollinators, they are undergoing changes in their migratory patterns. Climate change could shift the ideal habitat for hummingbirds northwards, due to changes in the flowering periods of the plants they feed on.


    Consequences for marine species and water pollution

    In addition to terrestrial fauna, marine species are also suffering from climate change. The population of Adelia Penguins, which live on the West Antarctic Peninsula, has declined by 50% in the last 30 years. This has been caused by reduced sea ice and changing marine food chains. Rising temperatures have caused a shortage of krill, the main food of these penguins, leading to a drastic decline. In parallel, pollution represents another major challenge for biodiversity. Pollutants can alter and damage ecosystems, threatening the survival of many species. For example, fertilisers and pesticides used in agriculture can end up in watercourses through surface runoff, leading to eutrophication of the water, i.e. excessive growth of algae and aquatic vegetation that can deprive the water of oxygen, causing the death of aquatic species.

    Plastic pollution

    However, the best known example is probably plastic. This ubiquitous material has invaded every corner of the planet, from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the mountains. It is estimated that 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year, creating huge islands of waste such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating carpet of plastic debris that is three times the size of France. This pollution has devastating effects on marine wildlife. Every year, an estimated 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die from ingesting plastic or drowning after becoming trapped in it.

    Air pollution

    Air pollution not only contributes to climate change, but can also have direct impacts on wildlife. One particularly worrying example concerns bees, the pollinators par excellence. These small insects are particularly sensitive to air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and ozone, which can interfere with their sense of direction and their ability to find flowers from which to collect nectar. Invasive species are added to the list of threats. These are foreign species that are introduced into a new environment, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and that adapt quickly, proliferate and upset the balance of the local ecosystem. These species can replace native ones, alter habitats, disrupt trophic networks and cause biodiversity loss. This phenomenon has been observed worldwide.

    Poaching and illegal wildlife trade

    Last but not least, poaching and illegal trade in wild fauna and flora. This criminal activity has a huge impact on species conservation, both directly, by causing a decrease in individuals in the wild, and indirectly, by altering ecological balances and creating demographic pressures. For example, the African Grey Parrot, famous for its vocal abilities, is one of the most illegally traded birds in the world. The capture and trade of these birds has led to a sharp decline in the population in the wild, making this species vulnerable to extinction. A similar situation also applies to the Black Rhinoceros. In Africa, the population of this mammal declined by 97.6% between 1960 and 1995 due to poaching for its valuable horns, which are in great demand on the black market for their supposed healing properties.

    Nectariferous trees for the creation of resilient ecosystems

    Nectariferous trees are crucial for the creation of resilient ecosystems and bring with them a number of benefits. Besides providing food for pollinating insects, they contribute to the regeneration of natural habitats in the country, counteracting the loss caused by the expansion of intensive cultivation and urbanisation. They also help improve soil structure and composition and create new refuges and feeding sites for wildlife, especially wild pollinators. Nectariferous trees also contribute to the reduction of the so-called 'heat island' phenomenon, which results in a warmer microclimate within urban city areas, compared to surrounding suburban and rural areas. Finally, they improve air quality by absorbing CO2.

    3Bee: technology for the protection of biodiversity

    3Bee is the leading climate-tech company in the protection of biodiversity through technology, with a fundamental mission: to protect pollinators, the true heroes and guardians of ecosystems and biological diversity, and to restore their habitats. 3Bee's approach to biodiversity conservation is revolutionary. Through the use of unique and innovative technologies, 3Bee is able to listen to pollinators and intervene when necessary. The sensors and algorithms developed make it possible to collect quantifiable data on the health of domestic and wild bees, and their host habitat, making it accessible to all. This transparency not only improves understanding and awareness of the status of pollinators, but also facilitates the development of targeted solutions and the implementation of effective conservation actions to which everyone can contribute. Want to know more? Contact us to start your biodiversity journey.

    By Elena FraccaroNovember 7, 2023

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