Agriculture began up to 12,000 years ago and over time has completely changed the way humans live and how the world is around us (Development). Before agriculture, most people were nomadic and gathered food. Once agriculture and farming became a regular practice, the human race became much more advanced and the population began to grow due to a lot of food being provided in a stable environment. Now, we live almost exclusively off of farming and domesticated animals, and we are able to feed large amounts of people while staying in one place.
Agriculture has a lot of benefits towards humans, but the extreme amount of agriculture today has a lot of negative effects on our environment and reduces biodiversity.
To start positively, agriculture is super important to our lifestyles today and makes it a lot easier to support large, stable populations. It has made it way easier to get food and takes less travelling for hunting and gathering, and has led to our lives are today.
Unfortunately, human populations have grown to be too big, and getting enough food (which we still don't have,) from agriculture requires a lot of land. Not only do humans eat a lot of grasses, they also kill other things that feed on these grasses and also take away from other animals being able to eat these grasses (Human Planet). Also, the high human population requires a lot of land for homes and cities. All this land being plowed and taken takes away a lot of habitats, and decreases biodiversity (Chapter 6).
Extinction rates tend to rise more where human population is especially high. According to the LPI, between 1970 and 2008, the global LPI dropped 31% in temperate areas and 61% in tropical areas (Chapter 9). "Agricultural expansion is responsible for 70 percent of global deforestation, and is the single greatest threat to tropical forests” (Rainforest).
When rainforests are deforested for agricultural purposes, it is especially harmful to biodiversity. Rainforest house a lot of the world's species, and a lot of those species require specific environments that the rainforest provides, and that they won't be able to survive without if it is deforested (Rain)."We do not know the exact rate of extinction, but estimates range from one to 137 species disappearing worldwide per day” (Stork 1996).
Agriculture also affects biodiversity in the actual crops that are being grown. Many pesticides are used to keep insects from eating the crops, but these pesticides reduce a lot of biodiversity and they also go into the creatures that eat the insects, like birds. Some of these pesticides can harm these larger animals and spread throughout the food chain (Impacts). Pesticides and fertilizers can also be washed into rivers and streams because of runoff and can have harmful effects on the aquatic species living there (Impacts). Agriculture is a huge problem for aquatic environments, especially freshwater ecosystems. Sadly, agriculture doesn't just affect the biodiversity of what it directly impacts, but it spreads to other regions and harms other areas. This also is a big concern because we eat animals that eat these insects with pesticides, and this could potentially damage our own health as well.
One possible solution to bring back biodiversity is to switch a lot of organic agriculture instead of the way agriculture is normally done in large amounts. “Organic farming operates without pesticides, herbicides and inorganic fertilizers, and usually with a more diverse crop rotation” (Bengtsson).This way, humans could actually positively impact biodiversity. Organic agriculture typically makes biodiversity greater, especially within insects, birds, and plants (Bengtsson). Organic agriculture would benefit our planet in so many important ways. If we stopped using inorganic fertilizers and pesticides alone, the environment would benefit so greatly. Insect biodiversity would immediately soar, which would lead to more bird biodiversity since they would have more food as well. Obviously, this would spread throughout the entire food chain. This would also improve biodiversity in aquatic environments because there would be no pesticides runoff entering the ecosystems. This could also prevent any inorganic pesticides from affecting us and our food. Organic farming sounds like a perfect plan, but unfortunately, has many flaws and drawbacks. Without the use of herbicides, weeds increase greatly (Bengtsson). A lot of the crops would also be eaten by bugs and other animals. Many think these drawbacks would be worth it for a more sustainable future.
All in all, humans greatly affect biodiversity with agriculture. A lot of land is used which takes away habitats and also gets rid of important resources. Pesticides and herbicides are used that take a lot of biodiversity away, and also affect the predators that eat the insects and plants. Runoff also carries these pesticides and destroys aquatic biodiversity. Humans unfortunately impact biodiversity very poorly because of agriculture, even though agriculture is such a good thing for our species. Hopefully, one day things like inorganic farming will be more prevalent and less biodiversity will be lost before it is too late.