Types of Habitats at Risk

Destruction of habitats is not just caused by human interference. There are natural causes such as cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons, volcanism, earthquakes and tsunamis. These factors can cause significant physical damage to reefs or move large amounts of bottom material, thus altering habitat, biological diversity, and ecosystem function. However, humans are the greatest threat to marine biodiversity and the intensity and frequency of these natural events may be human induced through our impact on climate change. The increase in sea-surface temperature associated with the major El Niño and La Niña climate switches in 1997-1998 resulted in extensive coral bleaching and mortality over large portions of the Indian Ocean and Southeast and East Asia. Also, increasing levels of ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth's surface, primarily resulting from stratospheric ozone depletions, could have serious implications for aquatic organisms.

Photo courtesy of UNEP competition, 1996.

Some of the more direct human interferences are due to exploitation of resources like destructive fishing practices, pollution, overexploitation, and direct physical destruction like cutting down mangrove trees, or building of ports and other structures. The problem is world wide but damage centres around areas with substantial human populations. Human activities are effecting marine ecosystems more than ever before and there seems to be no slowing in the rate of destruction.

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