Have you ever wondered how we, as humans, impact our environment? Take a look at any ecosystem and there could be multiple types of contamination—streams filled with toxic chemicals released from industrial processes, rivers overloaded with nutrients that come out of farms, trash blowing away in landfills, and even city skies covered in smog. Even landscapes that appear to be pristine can experience the effects of pollution. But here’s the thing. Among all the threats our environment face, pollution is actually the biggest one against our biodiversity and here’s why. For starters, pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment causing adverse changes. This may harm landscapes, poison soils and water paths, or even kill plants and animals. If you haven’t noticed, humans are also regularly harmed by pollution in negative ways. Long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer, and other diseases. For instance, pollution from human activities has caused the ozone layer to be depleted in the stratosphere, leading to the “hole” in the ozone layer. When ozone in the protective layer has been destroyed, it lets more UV rays reach the ground. These harmful rays cause sunburns and skin cancer in people, harms crops, and marine algae. On the other hand, the release of toxic chemicals and pollutants into the environments (seas, air, and land) results in the accumulation of toxins/harmful substances in the environment where they were released. The concentration of these toxic chemicals (biological magnification) and pollutants eventually accumulates and gets absorbed by lower organisms in the food chains. This means that the toxic chemicals that start to get accumulated in top predators can make some species unsafe to eat, affecting humans dependent on these. All of these problems cause a gradual loss of species on local, regional and global levels. Species diversity is very important because it’s the number of different species that are represented in a given community, but the loss of one species affects many other species and causes imbalance. As a result, many different functions within the ecosystem are not carried out anymore. Any species that will take over the lost species niche will most certainly not replace all of the functions it used to perform. Less species, mean less diversity which actually unbalance completely the ecosystem. When there’s disruption in an ecosystem, competition for introduced species decreases which means that their survival rate increases. With pollution, many species are affected (they die because they aren’t adapted to the new changes in their ecosystem) and this is the reason why competition slows down. The thing is we introduce those species in different environments, not only decreasing a species population when adding them, but the effective number of them to create equally abundant species.In addition, chemical pollutants that make their way into animals’ systems have been shown to cause direct changes to genetic diversity. For example, one study found exposure to heavy metals from smelter plants in Finland caused an increase in genetic diversity for wild populations of the great tit and an opposing decrease in populations of the pied flycatcher. Moreover, asymmetry which is a physical change that signals genetic abnormality also suggests a decrease in genetic diversity within species with pollution, leading to inability to respond appropriately to stress. If there is less genetic diversity, organisms have less genetic-makeup characteristics that will allow them to succeed in a changing climate environment. Meaning that they will be less resilient to disease and have less possibilities of reproducing. Furthermore, if an area is fragmented, animals won’t be able to migrate anymore. Meaning that they have fewer chances of survival because their environment is changed and they can’t adapt. This is all caused by pollution because species in a certain environment have different traits to survive in them, but with all the changes that pollution produced in their ecosystems, those species can’t evolve new traits to survive in them (their genetic traits are limited). Another unintended consequence of pollution is acid rain. Acid rain is rain that contains nitric and sulfuric acid and is usually caused by pollution from power plants that burn fossil fuels. As you might imagine, acid falling from the sky is not great for things it lands on—rivers, lakes, trees, even buildings, and cars. The thing is that the organisms that live in those lakes and streams that receive the acid rain have a hard time surviving in acidic conditions. Meaning that those species will die because they can’t resist the new environmental conditions in their habitat. Not lasting, acid rain also hurts trees by damaging their leaves, slowing their growth, and making the soil more toxic to plants. In addition, pollution also contributes to climate change which continues to threaten species and their habitats for the foreseeable future. The problem now is that anthropogenic climate change caused by human activity is making the climate change a lot faster than it normally would. How did we do that? By burning fossil fuels (overexploiting natural resources for human use) which are a necessity in our daily lives for cooking, driving and other industrial activities, and increasing the amounts of CO2 released into the atmosphere which leads to smog that can restrict sunlight from reaching the earth. Thus, preventing plants in the process of photosynthesis. These climate changes affect ecosystem diversity because temperatures are rising up, changing completely the characteristics found in a certain environment. For instance, warming may force species to migrate to higher latitudes or higher elevations where temperatures are more conducive to their survival. Similarly, as sea level rises, saltwater intrusion into freshwater systems may force some key species to relocate or die, thus removing predators or prey that are critical in the existing food chain. This means that pollution is constantly changing these ecosystems by elevating it’s temperature and decreasing the species variety on the ecosystem both terrestrial and aquatic (they are the ecosystems around the world). With climate change, species are less resilient to survive in new climates which impact completely the structure of each ecosystem. This is why we need to create a major solution for this humongous threat for us to save our environment/biodiversity. One of the best solution there is for pollution is bioremediation. This way, we could use living organisms such as prokaryotes, fungi, or plants to detoxify a polluted area. These microorganisms can be used in other ecosystems to remove toxins from soils that are contaminated by accidental oil or fuel spills. We could also use clean energy technologies like solar, wind and geothermal for us to decrease pollution. Governments of various countries have been providing grants to consumers who are interested in installing solar panels for their home. This will go a long way to curb air pollution. So, now you know that stopping pollution is the best solution to save our home!