Humans have always exploited the resources available to them, whether for subsistence or for trade. Sadly, mankind has a history of doing so in unsustainable ways that can cause great harm to their surroundings. The impact of human activities on marine ecosystems was succinctly discussed in a previous post about Global Goal 14 –however, it doesn’t stay there. As you will see in this post, atrocious practices such as poaching, deforestation and the introduction of invasive alien species into land and water ecosystems have taken a massive toll on the planet.
According to the Population Reference Bureau (2004), human activities such as logging, development and agricultural expansion caused the deforestation of 12,000 kilometers in the two decades prior to their study. However, natural re-growth and reforestation could only regain 10% of the area. The study remarks that deforestation is closely related to population growth, which is backed up by a study Population Action International conducted in 2010. Said growth does not necessarily have to be geographically close, says the PRB, as “external forces such as demand for timber or cattle in other parts of the country or world can lead to deforestation”. This is especially evident in zones of the Brazilian Amazon.
Human activities also contribute to desertification, a phenomenon in which the biological productivity of drylands is severely reduced. The World Ecology Report of spring, 2009 shows that 10-20% of drylands were already severely degraded at the time of the study, with 70% of all soil degradation being induced by humans through “population growth, agricultural technologies, and unsustainable policies”. Land degradation is followed by feedback effects that maim biodiversity and affect even the human population.
Moreover, practices such as poaching and owning of “exotic” pets directly target animals, which further deteriorates biodiversity in some ecosystems. In the instance of owning exotic pets, when ownership of said pets becomes unmanageable, owners typically release them into the wild. In the majority of cases, the animals perish, as they do not have the survival skills to adapt after being raised by humans. However, exotic pets that survive release and adapt to their new environment can become a threat to the native ecosystem. Florida, for example, is known for the tremendous impact invasive species have caused in the Everglades ecosystem.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development proposes two actions in order to achieve Global Goal 15: