From the burning of fossil fuels (releasing dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere and, in some cases, depleting ozone levels) to dumping 19 billion pounds of plastic into the ocean every year, pollution completely disrupts the Earth's ecosystems. While it may not necessarily cause extinction, pollutants do have the potential to influents species' habits. For example, acid rain, which is typically caused by the burning of fossil fuels, can acidify smaller bodies of water and soil, negatively affecting the species that live there by changing breeding and feeding habits.
Carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels and biomass, deforestation, and agricultural practices contributes to greenhouse gases, which prevent heat from escaping the earth’s surface. With the increase in temperature expected from increasing greenhouse gases, there will be higher levels of air pollution, greater variability in weather patterns, and changes in the distribution of vegetation in the landscape. Some species will not be able to adapt to these changes in the environment and will become extinct.
However, it is expected that many plant and animal species will attempt to disperse to higher latitudes and altitudes as the temperature increases. Therefore, any barriers in the landscape, such as highways and urban areas that prevent movement to more hospitable environments, will result in loss of biodiversity.
What can we do?
We can participate in biodiversity conservation by increasing our knowledge of environmental issues, increasing our awareness of the impacts of biodiversity loss, and increasing support for government policies and actions that conserve our valuable ecosystems. We can become educators and role models as stewards of the environment by aiding in the recovery of species at risk and preventing other species from becoming at risk. Habitat Stewardship consists of activities that range from enhancing the quality of soil, water, air and other natural resources to monitoring and conserving wildlife species and their habitat by donating the property to a land trust.