Researchers have identified five important drivers of biodiversity loss:
Habitat loss and degradation—which is any thinning, fragmentation, or destruction of an existing natural habitat—reduces or eliminates the food resources and living space for most species. Species that cannot migrate are often wiped out.
Invasive species—which are non-native species that significantly modify or disrupt the ecosystems they colonize—may outcompete native species for food and habitat, which triggers population declines in native species. Invasive species may arrive in new areas through natural migration or through human introduction.
Overexploitation—which is the harvesting of game animals, fish, or other organisms beyond the capacity for surviving populations to replace their losses—results in some species being depleted to very low numbers and others being driven to extinction.
Pollution—which is the addition of any substance or any form of energy to the environment at a rate faster than it can be dispersed, diluted, decomposed, recycled, or stored in some harmless form—contributes to biodiversity loss by creating health problems in exposed organisms. In some cases, exposure may occur in doses high enough to kill outright or create reproductive problems that threaten the species’s survival.
Climate change associated with global warming—which is the modification of Earth’s climate caused by the burning of fossil fuels—is caused by industry and other human activities. Fossil fuel combustion produces greenhouse gases that enhance the atmospheric absorption of infrared radiation (heat energy) and trap the heat, influencing temperature and precipitation patterns.