Habitat loss and degradation | wwf

Habitat loss and degradation

Coral bleaching due to temperature rise, Indo-Pacific Ocean. rel=
Coral bleaching due to temperature rise, Indo-Pacific Ocean.
© Jürgen Freund / WWF-Aus
The biggest threat to wildlife is from the habitat loss and degradation caused by humanity’s expanding footprint. The greatest single impact in sheer area comes from clearing forests and woodlands for agriculture, primarily for the creation of pastures for livestock.
Even apparently natural ecosystems are significantly degraded without being directly destroyed due to the diversion and pollution of water, and the disturbances that logging, grazing and fishing cause to natural food chains.

Climate change, as a result of our pollution, is also warming the planet and forcing wildlife to move in search of suitable habitat. The change in wildlife habitats is creating an added challenge in tracking their movements.

Invasive plants and animals

Invasive weeds and pests also represent a major threat world-wide to native wildlife and plants. Invasive plants and animals degrade or replace the original natural habitats. In Australia, non-native cats, foxes, pigs and rabbits are just a few of the invasive species killing or out-competing native species. Climate change is also expected to give invasive species an added advantage.

Click here to read more about invasive plant and animal species.

Protecting habitats

WWF’s conservation work places a high priority on protecting critical wildlife habitats through strengthening legislation or establishing new protected areas.

When we protect the habitat, we protect the resident animal and plant species, and ensure that they will always have a safe haven.

Reducing threats


Often declaring a protected area is just the beginning in terms of reducing the threats native wildlife face.

Protected areas and production areas, alike, still need to be managed well to control the damaging impacts of weeds, feral pests and inappropriate fire regimes.

The biodiversity footprint of land use change

Forest conversion to pasture near Millmerran, Queensland, September 2005. 
	© Martin Taylor
In Australia, WWF is analysing for the first time the footprint of land use on our biodiversity using a new methodology, with the generous assistance of the Sara Halvedene Foundation.

Soon we will be able to put a figure on how much different land uses have depleted native animal and plant biodiversity, and how much of this footprint could be avoided or reduced by adopting better land use practices.

What is Biodiversity?

Biological + Diversity = Biodiversity

The benefits of biodiversity

Abundant research shows that natural habitats also produce “ecological services” worth trillions of dollars world-wide.

Natural habitats protect genetic resources for agriculture and health; protect communities from floods and tsunamis; protect healthy populations of exploited plants and animals; offer pollination services, carbon sequestration, clean air and water; and support eco-tourism. The list is long.

Multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical and agricultural industries critically depend on access to wild genetic resources. With every hectare of rainforest cleared or coral reef lost, we limit our options for curing diseases and feeding the world.