Threats to Biodiversity
Biodiversity is currently being lost at an unprecedented rate globally, and Ireland is no exception. The decline in biodiversity has been more rapid in the past 50 years than ever before in human history and human activity is leading to increased extinction rates.
Biodiversity loss in Ireland is caused mainly by;
- Habitat destruction (for example through construction and wetland drainage or infilling)
- Invasive alien species (such as Japanese Knott Weed and Zebra Mussel)
- Pollution (for example from use of excess fertilizer leading to excessive levels of nutrients in soil and water)
- Land use change (such as conversion of land to plantation forestry or agriculture)
- Unsustainable and excessive consumption
- Climate Change (see Case Study)
Picture showing Japanese Knotweed and habitat fragmentation caused by road construction
Case Study – Climate Change & Biodiversity Loss
Human induced climate change is already having a significant impact on species and ecosystems around the world.
The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) 4th Assessment Report estimates that 20 – 30% of plant and animal species are ‘likely to be at increased risk of extinction’ if greenhouse gas emissions remain at or above current rates.
Climate change - Impact on Irish Biodiversity
In Ireland, climate change is predicted to lead to warmer and drier summers, milder and wetter winters and an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events. Such climatic changes will disrupt Irish wildlife and our natural environment.
Warmer weather may lead to changes in the life cycles of insects, birds, plants and mammals. Changes in weather patterns could lead to behavioural change in pests and pollinators and disturb the delicate balance that exists in the wild. In the Irish marine environment, some species may suffer including kelp, barnacles and starfish, while others such as cuttlefish and purple sea urchin may thrive more in the changed climate. Climate change may also bring changes in the distribution and abundance of invasive species. To reduce the impacts of climate change, protection of our bogs is imperative as loss of peatlands, will lead to release of stored carbon.
Evidence of changing life cycles has already been seen in the international migratory patterns of birds and some insects. The Little Egret, commonly found in Mediterranean Europe, is now a regular visitor in Irish coastal ecosystems.
The Litte Egret - recent migrant to Irish waters
Climate Change & Biodiversity Loss – News & Research
Irish Research has identified 171 species of flora in Ireland that could be facing extinction by 2050. Click here
‘Effects of Global Warming Already Evident – scientists say. Click here
Peatlands at Risk, Says Trinity Paper. Click here
Climate Change a Threat to Plant Species Diversity. Click here
Sounding an SOS for our Seas. Click here
Climate Change and The Butterfly Effect. Click here