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The habitat of a plant, animal or human can be defined as the combination of chemical systems, biological systems and environmental systems that make up the home of the living organism. When changes occur in the environment, these habitats also change. If those changes render the area less able to maintain life, habitat loss has occurred.
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The Two Types of Habitat Loss
There are two types of habitat loss. The first, isolated habitat loss, occurs when a natural event alters the habitat of a living species for a short period of time. In terms of nature, a short period of time may mean several years, but the habitat will regain the ability to house life again without any interaction from man.
The second type of habitat loss is termed global habitat loss. Global habitat loss most often occurs at the hand of man. The destruction of the habitat leaves the area unable to house life and without the ability to recover from the destruction within a timeline recognized by society.
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What Changes Contribute to Habitat Loss?
Habitat loss can happen at the hands of humans or nature. The most common form of habitat loss is directly related to global warming, pollution and physical destruction of lands by humans. When an entire forest is cut down to be replaced by housing units, global habitat loss has occurred. These changes will affect the local plant and animal life as well as the overall life of the ecosystem.
Natural habitat loss often occurs in isolated instances only. These will include landslides, earthquakes, avalanches and other weather phenomenon. While the habitat is affected for a short period of time, the natural process of life will regain a foothold on the ecosystem.
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How Does Habitat Loss Affect an Ecosystem?
The debate over the long term effects of habitat loss is one of the hottest right now. This debate may be misleading. There are definite long “term" effects of habitat loss, but what about the long “ranging" effects. When an estuary is destroyed the local people think little of the long ranging effect of that habitat loss. The truth of the matter is that estuaries are thriving with life and the habitat is the source of food for many other species. When you destroy one rung in the food ladder, the animals above that rung will need to move to another area in order to find food. The worms, crustaceans and shellfish that feed larger fish find homes in estuaries. When the habitats are destroyed, these rungs in the food ladder are also destroyed. The fish, eaten by humans, will move out of the area because they cannot find a food source. Fisherman in that area will no longer be able to catch fish and the human ecosystem will fail to thrive.
Habitat loss is simply the destruction of an area once housing life by either human or natural means. While humans have little control over the natural destruction of habitats, the human destruction can be ceased.