There is no doubt that agriculture, forestry, and infrastructure developments—the main drivers of habitat loss and fragmentation—play an important role in socio-economic development across Africa. Nevertheless, many (perhaps most) of these developments are set up to benefit a select few individuals and corporations primarily interested in short-term gains rather than a wide range of stakeholders over the long-term. To maintain biodiversity and improve our quality of life, governments across the region must ensure that the benefits of development are shared fairly across society and that industries are accountable for their fair share of the natural resources they use (Section 4.5.3). Also, the region’s growing number of wealthy people who benefit most from development must re-evaluate their lifestyles (whether willingly or through government interventions, such as taxation) to avoid excessive consumption patterns. Some of the first steps may be relatively easy. For example, the water used to produce Sub-Saharan Africa’s wasted food—a full third of all produced food (FAO, 2013)—equals the annual discharge of the mighty Zambezi River where it enters the Indian Ocean in Mozambique (Beilfuss and dos Santos, 2001). At the same time, we >must all play our part in achieving sustainable development, by encouraging family planning activities and assisting industries to grow in a responsible way (Section 15.1). Neglecting that, we compromise our own futures, and that of our children.
- One of the primary threats to biodiversity today are habitat loss and habitat fragmentation. Many species living in tropical forests, freshwater ecosystems, the marine environment, and seasonal drylands are at risk of extinction due to habitat loss.
- The theory of island biogeography and the species-area relationship can be used to predict the numbers of species that will go extinct due to habitat loss. Both theories predict that large habitat patches are better able to maintain wildlife populations because they accommodate populations better buffered against extinction.
- Habitat fragmentation describes the process when once large and widespread habitats (and hence wildlife populations) are divided into several increasingly smaller and isolated units. This process leads to extinctions because it impedes dispersal, colonisation, foraging, and reproduction.
- Edge effects reduce the functional size of habitats because they alter microclimates and expose habitat specialists to displacement by invasive species, predators, and other disturbances.
- Habitat loss and fragmentation are rooted in expanding human populations and excessive consumption of natural resources. The >IPAT equation illustrates how population size, wealth, and technology together determine our impact on the environment.