Coastal Habitat Loss & Local Communities

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Coastal areas are under threat due to rapid urbanisation, and the race to protect coastal habitats is running out. Currently, half the world’s population lives within 60 km of the sea, with this number set to keep increasing. Extensive growth leads to land transformation. This causes both habitat destruction and habitat fragmentation.

It is very alarming that the rate of habitat loss is increasing, putting food availability and humanity in danger. The loss of wildlife intensifies climate change due to the increase in emissions. We have had five mass extinctions already, if we do not do something now, we could be contributing to the next mass extinction.

The development has a significant effect on species richness, abundance, genetic variation, and distributions. This affects the entire coastal ecosystem. Damaged or complete loss of coastal areas kills the flora and fauna that the habitat functionally relies on. Destroying these areas has a great impact on the survival and regeneration of species.

Imagine the home you have lived in all your life has been destroyed for a new hotel resort or an access road.

The destruction of coastal protection from mangroves due to habitat loss can affect local communities that are exposed to natural climatic events such as cyclones, flooding, and tsunamis.

Besides, the more trees that are cut down, the more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming and climate change. Climate change causes sea levels to rise, which may affect the incomes of individuals and businesses due to the impact on properties and resources.

The degree to which a local economy benefits from tourism varies on the habitat resources, ownership and investments, and the management of tourism activities. In some areas, information on the benefits and effects of tourism on local economies is currently lacking. Many benefits are given to foreign investors and overseas service providers.

The loss and destruction of habitat for species used in the food and natural products can reduce the food availability and livelihood security for many local communities. Natural habitats that support livelihoods are at risk of collapsing.

Coastal infrastructure is increasing rapidly due to the demand for coastal tourism. It causes loss of productivity of land, and local infrastructure and properties. Harbour and coastal erosion may affect local incomes, due to the loss of rural productive land, which people depend on to feed their families, especially in poorer areas.

Areas, where erosion occurs, can result in a reduction of property value and owners may find it difficult to get insurance or a mortgage if their area may be affected by erosion in the future. Also, people may not be able to afford to repair damaged properties or buy or rent another home.

Coastal development damages coastal wetlands and changes the water quality of different water environments. Local communities are dependent on these areas for commercial fisheries. With this affected, harbour tourism could experience a decrease in tourism expenditure. More alarmingly with changes in water quality, diseases such as cholera and typhoid are more prevalent.

Most infrastructure is funded by residents through rates and taxes. Habitat loss due to tourism has a negative impact, costing the community to protect the land from flooding and/or eroding roads. In developing countries, this puts a strain on the economy.

If the habitat is destroyed, then tourism-related activities such as diving, and snorkelling will be reduced. Many countries rely on such activities to survive, this is usually their only source of income.

Ocean acidification is occurring due to warmer seas. This detrimental process affects plankton communities therefore affecting both local and commercial fisheries. In developing countries over 500 million people depend on fisheries and aquaculture practices to survive.

An increase in ocean acidification could lead to a decline in catches and export earnings, affecting the local economy itself, and localised employment. The Impact on fish stocks therefore will force change in employment and reduction in overall income, resulting in poverty.

We as tourists should be responsible for our travels. Sustainable tourism or ecotourism is important in protecting the economy associated with habitat degradation.

It helps unite conservation, communities, and sustainable travel, to conserve the environment and the well-being of local people. Ecotourism can be used to develop better roads, water supplies, and improve local buildings.

In the Galapagos, tourism accounts for half of the local economy. Improvements to infrastructure are directly attributed to the local market.

The tourism economy is essential for conserving the area, however higher demand for imported goods, fossil fuels, and accidental introduction of invasive species could threaten the land of the Galapagos and its people.

Raja Ampat in Indonesia is an area rich in biodiversity previously destroyed due to dynamite fishing. With an increase in tourism, the demand for local people to provide fish for both their own families and visitors is increasing.

Visitors and residents are now not consuming fish from the nearby coral reef, but from local fishermen that catch from neighbouring villages.

However, they have implemented ecotourism. Many resorts such as the Raja Ampat Biodiversity Eco Resort, use natural, local resources for buildings, and employs local villagers. Also, they are providing them with training in hospitality and employment in the diving industry.

We as humans rely on plants, animals and other organisms affected by coastal habitat loss. Therefore, we must put the effort into protecting and rebuilding what has been lost. We must come up with solutions to preserve both coastal and in-land habitats and support local communities.

Regulations can be put in place that can also benefit human livelihoods. In developing countries especially, awareness and education must be raised, so the future of humanity can be saved.


Written by Darby Bonner

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