According to a new study, the world’s forest cover is dwindling at an alarming rate and poses a major threat to the global ecosystem.
The study, which was conducted by researchers from the North Carolina State University, states that shrinking habitats have adverse effects on world ecosystems. The study on global habitat fragmentation, the division of habitats into smaller and more isolated patches, estimates major trouble for a number of the world’s ecosystems and the plants and animals living in them.
Dr. Nick Haddad, professor of Biology at North Carolina State University, and the lead author of the study, said, “It’s no secret that the world’s forests are shrinking, so this study asked about the effects of this habitat loss and fragmentation on the remaining forests.”
For their study, the researchers covered many different types of ecosystems, from forests to savannas to grasslands. It also tracked seven major experiments on five continents that examine habitat fragmentation.
They found that fragmentation causes losses of plants and animals, changes how ecosystems function, reduces the amounts of nutrients retained and the amount of carbon sequestered, and has other deleterious effects.
The study showed that 70% of the existing forest lands are within a half-mile of the forest edge, where encroaching urban, suburban or agricultural influences can cause any number of harmful effects, like the losses of plants and animals. They also found that that fragmented habitats reduce the diversity of plants and animals by 13 to 75%, with the largest negative effects found in the smallest and most isolated fragments of habitat.
The researchers also discovered that there were a handful of habitats that remained free from any form of human development.
“The key results are shocking and sad. Ultimately, habitat fragmentation will also hurt people. This study is a wake-up call to how much we’re affecting the ecosystems – including areas we think we’re conserving,” added Haddad.
The findings of the study were published in the Science Advances journal.