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Threatened habitats are areas of land, particularly forests, that are in danger of disappearing. The plants, animals, and birds that live on these lands are subsequently at risk of endangerment or, in extreme circumstances, extinction. There are threatened habitats all over the world, but some of the most well-known are in tropical rainforests.
By its definition, a habitat is a place where certain species and organisms live. Habitats can be forests, marshlands, prairies, and deserts. When these lands are encroached upon or in some way damaged, the habitats therein are often said to be threatened. Threatened habitats can be caused by a number of factors, including human development, natural disaster, or pollution. A threatened habitat is distinct from a threatened species, though the two often go hand in hand.
One of the biggest dangers of a threatened habitat is the loss of indigenous plant and animal life. When a habitat becomes threatened, the plants there may begin to suffer, and native animals often seek shelter elsewhere. More often than not, this sort of forced lifestyle change leads to population declines. The majority of the animals on the international endangered species list are endangered in part because their natural habitats are being decimated.
Most threatened habitats are threatened because of human activities. Clearing land for development purposes is one of the leading causes of threatened habitats. As the world’s population expands, people need more space and are turning inland to develop what was once uninhabitable forestlands.
Logging and farming activities are common culprits, as well. Building houses and other structures typically requires wood, and the wood of old-growth forests and tropical hardwoods is often quite valuable. Loggers, particularly in the developing world, will clear-cut forests in order to make cash — but they often lack the resources or know-how to log in such a way that surviving trees can regenerate. As a result, many of the world’s rarest animals and plants find their habitats shrinking around them. Pollution, particularly in the form of oil spills, chemical runoff, and smog, also harms habitats.
Conservation groups around the world have set about to restore and preserve what is left of threatened habitats. Some of the work that these groups do is hands-on, including clean-up days and replanting projects. More of it is awareness-based. The groups raise habitat awareness in communities, lobby governments, and try to influence conservation policies at national and international levels. In most cases, threatened habitats cannot ever be fully restored — but they usually can be preserved, and damage can often be at least tempered.