Degradation of Natural Resources
The disappearance of natural resources damages an area and limits its ability to sustain a population. The population could be trees, sea grass, animals, or even people. Often, this damage is the result of beneficial activities performed irresponsibly. Wastewater discharged into an estuary can alter the salinity, affecting the lifecycle of sea grass and fish nurseries. If fishing is a source of income for a community, not only will improper treatment and disposal of wastewater damage natural resources, but it will harm the local economy as well.
On a larger scale, natural resources can be impacted to a point that they can no longer be repaired. Species cannot be brought back and populations can no longer survive on the land. Damage from deforestation impacts biodiversity, causes soil erosion, and limits the farming of an area.
Degradation of natural resources often has a chain effect. For example, consider the impact that clearing acres of rain forest for farming has on the environment — both local and global. The soil cannot support crops that are harvested on a yearly basis and its productivity quickly diminishes.
As income decreases along with the crop yield, farmers abandon the land in search of more fertile fields, increasing pressure on local resources. The deforested land does not absorb rainwater as before, so rainfall causes more water to flow into nearby rivers all at once, flooding downstream villages and cities. However, drought is also an outcome of deforestation.
Part of the reason rain forests are so wet is that trees play a vital role in supplying water to the atmosphere through transpiration; without trees, the water to produce rain simply isn't there. Haphazard deforestation results in patches of remaining forest separated by cleared land. Plants and animals are effectively marooned, isolated from their species. Fewer options can result in inbreeding, weakening the gene pool.
Larger species, usually predators, are especially vulnerable to population loss simply because there are so few of them. A bad breeding year, a natural disaster, or a disease can wipe them out. On a global scale, deforestation contributes to a buildup of greenhouse gases; fewer trees mean more carbon dioxide is left in the atmosphere.
However, people are gaining a better understanding that one system cannot operate at the expense of another. Conservation of natural resources has become a priority for businesses and governments, which tout sustainability as a way to strike a balance between helping the environment and preventing economic or personal hardship.