At AllThingsNature, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
An endangered ecosystem is a natural environment that is threatened with collapse and disappearance due to human activity, pollution and species extinction or overpopulation among other factors. Living and nonliving entities interact, form interdependent relationships and exchange energy and matter in ecosystems that can be as large as the planet or as small as a fishbowl. When the interdependence between an environment’s species and physical and chemical factors is disrupted, the ecosystem becomes endangered and can possibly disintegrate completely. The consequences of ecosystem collapse include mass extinction, species populations surging beyond control, disruption of human food supplies, erosion, flooding, acceleration of climate change and the disintegration of large regions of the natural environment.
There are many natural and human causes of an endangered ecosystem, causes that often disrupt an ecosystem’s food chain and physical environment. Overfishing of a particular aquatic species such as sharks or bluefin tuna can detrimentally impact a food chain by depleting large predators that keep smaller species populations from surging out of control. Without large predators, many species will breed beyond the immediate environment’s ability to support them thus resulting in resource and food diminution and an endangered ecosystem.
When the resources of the current ecosystem are exhausted, an overbred species may then move to a new environment where it may become invasive and destructive. Species can also be introduced into an ecosystem by man in an effort to control the population of a native animal or insect but have a disruptive effect instead.
Pollutants can have a domino effect on an endangered ecosystem by destroying the physical environment and killing or mutating species. For example, a pollutant introduced into an aquatic ecosystem can kill the plants that the larger fish and crustaceans consume. These herbivore species begin to die and thus deplete the food sources of the system’s carnivorous predators that also perish in large numbers or migrate to a new ecosystem in search of sustenance. Additionally pollutants can cause an ecosystem’s species to mutate resulting in everything from infertility to extra limbs and crippling physical defects.
Construction, development and other human activities including hunting can result in an endangered ecosystem. Improperly managed or excessive hunting can weaken the population of a species by removing animals faster than they can breed and thus interrupt the food chain. Construction and development may destroy an ecosystem’s physical environment that the living species depend on for survival. Unless the endangered ecosystem’s species can be successfully relocated they may be threatened with extinction.