Explain how human activities have contributed to the condition of ecosystems and services.
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Explain how human activities have contributed to the condition of ecosystems and services. (10 marks)
An ecosystem refers to a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. All life on earth depends on ecosystems; whether it be directly or indirectly. Ecosystems provide provisional, regulative, cultural and supporting services. The recognition of the provisions of the ecosystem has led to major changes in the conditions of ecosystems; as human impacts has led to both degradation and improvements.
The majority of global ecosystems are very degraded due to human activities, such as over fishing. This has led to exhausted fisheries and animals. Overfishing in an unsustainable way reduces the natural stock of species as they are not given enough to replenish themselves in order to survive. Some animals, such as tigers are over hunted for material and leisure purposes, for example sometimes they are hunted for their fur. As some animals like Rhinos are hunted for their horns. Wood from forests have faced severe removal; as a result of deforestation, clearing for cattle and agriculture. This has major impacts on ecosystems regulation of naturally maintaining air quality, as well as regulating the climate. Water resources have been depleted; as agriculture contaminates water via fertilisers, in addition excessive irrigation reduces water supply. The increase of deforestation, and general human activity like road clearing and tourism erodes the soil; therefore removes natural stability of soil. The mass removal of vegetation and soil erosion creates a more likely situation of flooding and landslides.
However, some ecosystems are not as heavily degraded, but do face worrying issues which should be addressed before it creates knock on effects. Partly degraded ecosystems face issues of deforestation; which removes the well known “Green lungs” feature of ecosystems. Unsustainable use of ecosystems reduces its use as a resource base. Forests are natural barriers/regulators of floods; however the removal of forests creates a more vulnerable state for an ecosystem as it is not able to protect itself. Water pollution and supply being contaminated increases chance of waterborne diseases, which consequently affects humans. In addition, eutrophication could occur leading to disastrous impacts on marine species.
However, human activities have not only degraded ecosystems, it is argued that they have also improved ecosystems. Whereby, farming has enhanced food production and agriculture. There is a larger supply of food for the growing population at cheaper prices, and aquaculture and agriculture is now able to create greater yields of food via genetic modification and better technologies. On the other hand, this may not be seen as an improvement for the ecosystem, rather a benefit for human needs; it is just another successful way humans have utilised natural resources. This will inevitably cause problems for other species/life further down the chain, for example the degradation of forests and extinction of species.