Habitat loss

photo: Joseph KIng

Habitat loss typically results from habitat destruction (in most cases by humans) causing natural habitats to no longer be able to support the wildlife that lives there, reducing or even completely eliminating the diversity of plants animals in that habitat. The three main types of habitat loss are habitat destruction, habitat degradation and habitat fragmentation.

The effects of habitat loss echo up the food chain and disrupt the entire ecosystem. On our coast, the loss of eelgrass beds and degradation of spawning habitat for Pacific wild salmon species have caused severe negative effects on local wildlife- like the Southern Resident killer whales. The good news is that habitat degradation can be reversed by doing things like replanting eelgrass beds, cleaning up garbage in the ocean and freshwater rivers and streams, re-planting trees along rivers, and making sure boats are not allowed to anchor in sensitive areas, to name just a few.

Creating networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is another way to protect areas from habitat loss and therefore the marine life that uses these areas. Having a network of connected protected areas reduces the impacts of habitat fragmentation by eliminating barriers separating these habitats. There are many examples from around the world where the creation of MPAs has resulted in fish stocks rebounding, biodiversity returning to former status and flourishing economic opportunities for ecotourism and fishing adjacent to the marine protected areas.

Questions to think about:

  1. What does it mean to lose habitat?
  2. What are the causes and effects of marine habitat loss and destruction?
  3. What happens if habitats get fragmented?
  4. What is a Marine Protected Area (MPA)? How do they benefit both wildlife and humans?
  5. Where are there Marine Protected Areas in Canada? Where should there be more?

Check out these videos about habitat loss from the Voices of the Salish Sea Youth Video Challenge!

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