Habitat loss poses the greatest threat to species. The world's forests, swamps, plains, lakes, and other habitats continue to disappear as they are harvested for human consumption and cleared to make way for agriculture, housing, roads, pipelines and the other hallmarks of industrial development. Without a strong plan to create terrestrial and marine protected areas important ecological habitats will continue to be lost.
It is identified as a main threat to 85% of all species described in the IUCN's Red List (those species officially classified as "Threatened" and "Endangered").
Increasing food production is a major agent for the conversion of natural habitat into agricultural land.
Why is it happening?
Forest loss and degradation is mostly caused by the expansion of agricultural land, intensive harvesting of timber, wood for fuel and other forest products, as well as overgrazing.
High land conversion rates
The net loss in global forest area during the 1990s was about 94 million ha (equivalent to 2.4% of total forests). It is estimated that in the 1990s, almost 70% of deforested areas were converted to agricultural land.
Around half of the world's original forests have disappeared, and they are still being removed at a rate 10x higher than any possible level of regrowth. As tropical forests contain at least half the Earth's species, the clearance of some 17 million hectares each year is a dramatic loss.
Coastal and marine areas
Human impact on terrestrial and marine natural resources results in marine and coastal degradation. Population growth, urbanization, industrialization and tourism are all factors.
In 1994, it was estimated that 37% of the global population lived within 60 km of the coast. Poverty, consumption and land-use patterns contribute to the degradation of marine habitats and to the destruction of the species that rely on them to survive.
Protected areas are one of the most effective tools for conserving species and natural habitats. They also contribute to the livelihoods and well-being of local communities and society at large.
For example, well-planned and well-managed protected areas can help to safeguard freshwater and food supplies, reduce poverty, and reduce the impacts of natural disasters.
Orangutans and other species lose habitat to palm oil plantations
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Understand the impact of habitat loss on:
Did you know?
- Only 0.6% of the world’s oceans are protected, and the vast majority of existing marine parks and reserves suffer from little or no effective management. This is despite the fact that MPAs not only help safeguard biodiversity, they can also benefit fisheries and people.