Around the world, there are many critical and irreplaceable ecosystems that, in no small part, help maintain life on the planet. But a combination of natural changes and human activities are putting some of them under serious strain.
The loss of any ecosystem is not only heartbreaking but could have serious repercussions for all life on Earth. While some are possibly past the tipping point, we may have time to save some of the others from complete and utter destruction.
What are some ecosystems that are disappearing around the world?
So, without further ado, here are some notable ecosystems that are facing the threat of disappearing from around the world. This list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.
1. The coral reefs of the Caribbean are thought to be under threat
Current findings released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have concluded that the coral reefs of the Caribbean might be in serious danger. This delicate ecosystem is currently being damaged from things, including tourism, overfishing, and other environmental factors.
Other research bodies like the World Network of Coral Reef Monitoring (GCRMN), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Environment Programme of the United Nations (UNEP) believe they could disappear within the next few decades.
According to other research by the World Resources Institute, it's loss could have massive economic impacts for the Caribbean, ranging from anywhere between $350 and $870 a year.
2. The Murray-Darling basin wetlands are also not in good shape
2,341- the total number of Wetlands of International Importance, protected sites recognized as of great value to the country and the world.— Wetlands Convention (@RamsarConv) April 15, 2019
Picture of the Macquarie Marshes, the most biologically diverse wetland systems in Australias Murray Darling Basin.#KeepWetlands pic.twitter.com/AMxZmpPtS9
The Murray and Darling river basins in Australia are another ecosystem threatened with destruction. They extend for over 3,500 km, supply water to some of the most populated parts of the country, and are vital for sustaining irreplaceable fauna and flora.
However, these wetlands are under threat from ever-expanding large swathes of farmland. However, vegetation clearance for farmland and massive irrigation programs are threatening the future of the wetlands.
3. The Alaskan kelp forest is also threatened
Kelp forest ecosystems are bursting with diverse species, from the leopard shark to the Garibaldi to the California halibut. These habitats are found all along the western coast, from southern Alaska to Baja California. You can catch these beautiful animals in our Oceans gallery! pic.twitter.com/cDoWB5AN1f— Shedd Aquarium (@shedd_aquarium) December 1, 2018
Off the coast of Alaska, an enormous kelp forest as old as time is currently struggling for survival. They help calm the waters to provide a near nature nirvana for many species of animals, including fish.
However, they are under serious strain as a combination of pollution and overfishing, which threaten the delicate balance of the system. Lack of fish has lead to a decline in otter numbers, which would normally keep urchin populations under control.
Sadly, with the loss of their natural predators, the sea urchins are left to their own devices to munch their way, unimpeded, through the algal kelp forests.
4. The Piccaninnie Ponds Karst Wetlands are also struggling
We started 2018 with an early morning adventure in the world famous Piccaninnie Ponds!— Alyssa Giannoni (@aly_adventuring) January 1, 2018
Piccaninnie Ponds Karst Wetlands is of international importance, being Ramsar listed in 2013.
The wetlands support species of conservation significance including the… https://t.co/8je8KOlxRR pic.twitter.com/o4UgBhklPD
The Piccaninnie Ponds Karst Wetlands in Australia is another vital ecosystem currently under a lot of pressure. It is home, to among other creatures, 50 or so species of crabs.
Sadly, just over 30 of these are currently considered endangered, and others critically endangered. The reason for this is a drastic drop in the water table.
Large swathes of the area are currently protected, but this may not be enough to save them.
5. The local ecosystem around Cape Town, South Africa is also not in a good place
Erica labialis (#Ericaceae) is a small shrub with terminal flowers. Their mass flowering adds a soft pink wash to the #fynbos landscape. A Western cape #endemic.#lipheath #biodiversity #botany #wildflowers #flowerphotography #nature #pringlebayfynbos #TwitterNatureCommunity pic.twitter.com/TZRz0OInGz— Jenny Parsons (@JennyPaPB) April 10, 2020
The surrounding ecosystem of South Africa's legislative capital Cape Town is also suffering severely. Some species like the "Mountain Fynbos" are in grave danger of extinction.
An almost perfect storm of fires, urban expansion, and invasive plants and animals are seriously threatening the "Fynbos" as well as many other native species of plants and animals.
The area is designated as a protected UNESCO site, and nearly 20% of all native plants in Africa have representative populations there.
6. The Senegal river basin are also in decline
The Senegal river basin is another ecosystem that is seriously under pressure. Vital for many native species of other animals and plants, as well as native communities of Senegal, Mali, and Mauritania, this river and its basin are of vital importance for this area of the world.
Many of these communities have been forced to relocate after intensive agriculture, dam construction, and animal husbandry are changing the landscape forever. Once fertile floodplains have been altered beyond all recognition, they cause many species like granivorous (seed-eating) birds to emigrate.
7. The Aral Sea might already be far too gone to be saved
A touchstone in world #waterhist, the drying of the Aral Sea left the ecology & economy of Central Asia indelibly changed. The lower 2/3 of this image shows the dry sea bed blowing away in a desiccating wind. https://t.co/s0c16Hx1a0— Gregory A. Hargreaves (@bordergroves) April 16, 2020
The Aral Sea of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan has seen some of the most drastic changes of all the world's ecosystems to date. Some organizations, like the aforementioned IUCN, even consider it to be "unrecoverable."
The Aral Sea was, once upon a time, one of the largest lakes in the world, but it has shrunk so much over the last few decades that it barely reaches the top 20. 28, or so, native species have long since departed thanks to large amounts of pesticide use, increasing salinity from evaporation, irrigation, and dam construction during the Russian Soviet era.
The area was once fed by the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, but starting from the 1960s massive irrigation programs, thousands of many kilometers of canals, tens of dams and reservoirs have practically bled the Aral Sea's sources dry.
Soviet poorly, and grossly shortsighted, plans have since devastated one of the world's most vibrant ecosystems to the point that they may never recover.