animal ag causes biodiversity loss
Ecosystem services are worth $125 -140 trillion per year and provide the foundations for life on earth.
Biodiversity loss is currently occurring 1,000 -10,000 times faster than the natural rate. Intensive livestock is a major contributor to this devastating biodiversity loss.
The EEA has found that biodiversity decreases when the intensity of farming increases. In Europe, livestock farming accounts for around 78% of agriculture’s negative impact on biodiversity, and livestock’s disproportionate impact has been highlighted by the FAO.
Factory farming is driving habitat loss and land-use change
Habitat loss is the greatest threat to biodiversity, and agriculture is the primary cause of deforestation in 7 of 11 of the world’s most ecologically important forest landscapes.
Beef production is the largest driver of tropical deforestation. However, pig, poultry and dairy production also have a startling impact on habitat loss, through feed. Producing animal feed (often with soya, corn, or palm) drives land use change and deforestation. This also increases the risk of zoonotic disease outbreaks, as humans and domestic animals come into sustained contact with previously unknown pathogens.
Crops to produce food for farm animals use 40% of the arable land in the world. This means that humans are putting enormous pressure on ecosystems and destroying wild animal habitats to feed livestock. This feed is then used in factory farming systems which cause systematic animal cruelty and environmental harm.
Meanwhile, replacing animal protein with plant protein would reduce the land used for food by 76% (3.1 billion hectares).
The biodiversity impacts of factory farming are not limited to deforestation. The industry also has huge impacts on water and air quality.
Industrial animal agriculture heavily reliant on agrochemicals used in animal feed production, and livestock produce large amounts of waste - food animals produce 2 billion tons of manure per year in the USA alone.
Pesticides can directly kill plants and animals in-stream, while nutrient runoff from manure can cause eutrophication.
Eutrophication occurs when the levels of nutrients such as nitrogen increase, which decreases oxygen levels and causes algal blooms, leading to a decrease in water quality, death of macrofauna and a degradation of the aquatic ecosystem.
This issue occurs in many regions, with 400 ocean ‘dead zones’ covering more than 245,000 km2. In France, eutrophication is a leading cause of annual algae blooms in Brittany, the centre of the country’s pig industry; and in the Netherlands, agriculture accounts for 75% of nutrient loadings to inland and coastal waters.
Intensive animal agriculture can also generate high levels of air pollution, including ammonia pollution.
About 80% of ammonia emissions in the USA come from livestock manure. More than 12,000 deaths each year can be attributed to pollution from livestock farms across the USA.
This pollution doesn't just affect humans. Ammonia particularly affects epiphytic lichens, which are a foundation of the ecosystem as they provide habitats for invertebrates, which are then eaten by birds and other animals. Therefore harm to these ecosystem foundations then ripples through the entire ecosystem.