Habitat Loss Around the World

Habitat loss is a very serious problem on our planet today. All animals have a habitat in which they live, whether it's a vast rainforest or a tiny anthill. They have food to eat and a safe place to sleep and raise their young. They compete for food with other species and protect their habitat by being territorial or migrating from place to place to find more food. When humans clear a forest for farming or to build homes, whatever animals live in that forest lose their habitat. This is a very serious threat for animals that have limited habitat. It can lead to extinction.

Historic Garbage

Imagine that some litterbug has thrown a bag of trash on the side of the road. If no one stops to pick it up, some of that trash could still be there in a hundred years or more! See if you can match each item with the number of years it will take to decay (break down).

TryThis

Save a Tree!

Try having a live Christmas tree this year. Instead of buying a cut tree, purchase a large potted evergreen. Or you can start the summer before and buy a balsam fir or blue spruce from a nursery and keep it in a large pot through the fall. Bring it inside before it gets too cold. Be sure and keep watering it all winter, since it won't be getting any rain indoors! Then dress it at Christmas time. It might be smaller than the trees you are used to having, but it will make the pile of presents look A LOT bigger. Then next summer, plant it in your yard!

What Can Be Done

Wildways for Wildlife

Many conservation groups have formed to try to protect and restore “wildways.”These are wild areas from Canada to Mexico that are linked together to provide migration paths for birds and mammals. This is important to try and reduce the fragmentation of wild areas and the effect that has on wildlife. Migrating birds and mammals need safe wild areas to rest, feed, and travel through in the changing seasons.

As the human population expands, more and more natural habitats are destroyed to make way for the needs of humans. Fragmented habitats result, with some areas developed while others are left wild. The animals that survive may move into the smaller fragments of their habitat. This increases competition and stress in the remaining habitat. It can result in some species dying out. This decreases the biodiversity of the habitat.

Panda Panic

An example of habitat loss affecting a species is the giant panda. Although protected from hunting and listed as an endangered species in 1984, panda numbers are still declining. This is because the giant panda feeds almost totally on bamboo, and the bamboo forests have been cut down to make way for the ever-expanding population of China. The pandas are left in small, isolated bamboo forests separated by development. When an area of bamboo has an occasional die-off, in which the bamboo all dies as a result of natural causes, the pandas can't get to another bamboo forest to feed. The giant panda is one of the most endangered mammals in the world. It is believed that there are less than 1,600 left. There is so little nutrition in bamboo that they have to eat for fourteen hours a day to get calories and cannot even stop eating to hibernate without starving! Unless the Chinese can stop development of panda habitat, it is just a matter of time before the pandas will be lost forever.

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