Erosion of ecosystem diversity Decreasing ecological diversity Decreasing diversity of biological habitats Destruction of biological niches
Degradation or destruction of large natural environments, as well as environments partially modified or cultivated by man (including forests, rangelands, wetlands and aquatic ecosystems), designated wilderness areas, and culturally important landscapes (whether natural, modified, cultivated or built environments). This diversity of environments provides habitats for a variety of species and supports a range of activities of value to man (including timber, agriculture, livestock, and fish production).
The natural environment contains a number of terrain-discrete habitats. They include forests, mountains, plains, marsh or wetlands, desert, tundra, reefs, islands and many more, some of which are subdivisions of the above. Each habitat has any or all of the following: humans and human artefacts, animals, insects, plants, minerals, specific climate and other characteristics. There are food chains and other elements of ecosystems characteristic to each habitat. When one of the ecosystems is under attack as a result of natural or man-made disaster it is extremely difficult to calculate the ripple effects throughout nature. When two or more ecosystems are being degraded the probabilities of synergistic destructiveness multiply.
Ecosystems in many regions are threatened , despite their biological richness and their promise of material benefits. This has been documented with examples from ecosystems including forests (temperate, tropical, mangrove), coral reefs, savannas, arid zones and grasslands.
The scale of oil spills and other pollution in the oceans threatens the entire sea environment. Ocean vegetation dies, ocean life dies and human hunger arises. Pollution of the atmosphere makes people and animals ill, affects crops, and alters weather patterns in persistent ways so that humans may not go out of doors in some places. However, oil slicks affect the atmosphere too, and a clouded sun and polluted atmosphere affect ocean temperature, sea level, and organic ocean life. As yet humanity has not been able to build a model of the global ecosystem interrelationships because they are not sufficiently understood. Pollution and degradation continue by sectors in the ecosystem niches, until some at least will fail. There may be a domino effect causing the human habitat to ultimately perish.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
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