Habitat destruction is damage to an area that certain species live in, to the extent that the species can no longer survive in that area. The causes of habitat destruction can be either man-made or natural in origin. Large scale damage to an area can have obvious implications on the habitat, but even what is perceived as a small amount of damage can have an enormous impact on the environment.

Split Tree

Man-made causes of habitat destruction include construction of both previously undeveloped areas as well as new construction on the fringe of developed areas. Deforestation for construction can have a huge impact on many different animal species. A wetland area may be filled in to build a structure or road on. A field may be mowed to make the area more aesthetically pleasing, or to purposely discourage the presence of wildlife from a developed area.

Agriculture is another man-made cause of habitat destruction. Again, land cut clear of trees or natural grassland mowed to provide farmland can destroy the habitat of mammals, insects, or birds. In addition, efforts to irrigate farmland and provide water for farm animals can impact habitat, either by taking water from an area, or adding water to an area that was previously dry.

Global warming is a process that human activity has contributed to. Burning fossil fuels and deforestation have both contributed to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere keeps solar heat in the atmosphere. Global warming is an important cause of habitat destruction for polar bears as the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean is melting. The sea ice platforms are retreating, making it more difficult for the polar bears to swim from shore to ice. This interferes with their ability to successfully hunt seals. Polar bears are likely just the tip of the iceberg in regard to the species that will be affected by global warming.

Fire is another culprit that can fall under man-made or natural causes of habitat destruction. Human error or intent can result in forest fires. Lightning strikes can also result in serious fires. Either way, the end result can be devastating to species that live in grasslands or forests that are damaged by fire.

Natural disasters can be causes of habitat destruction. Examples of natural disasters that can be devastating include earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes. Earthquakes can physically move the land, and may be associated with subsequent tsunamis. Floods can destroy the vegetation and cause erosion of the land. Tornadoes can physically rip trees out of the ground and crush vegetation with debris that is strewn about.

There are some ways we can try to reduce causes of habitat destruction, including attempting to minimally impact an area with new construction, by using existing farmland instead of creating new farmland, and being extremely cautious with fire. In addition, promoting the use of renewable energy sources and finding alternatives to deforestation may help slow down the effects of global warming. Unfortunately, there are some causes of habitat destruction that are out of our control. Efforts to mitigate destruction can be attempted by planting trees and plants native to a specific area where there has been destruction.

More Reading:

The Effects of Habitat Destruction

5 Habitat Destruction Solutions