How Does Air Pollution Affect Biodiversity?

Aside from humans, every other living thing is biodiversity. These include animals, plants, invertebrates, and microorganisms. So, when you cough because the smoke in an area is choking you, the living things in the area are also experiencing the consequences of air pollution in their own way.

Pollution is among the biggest threats to the environment. Our environmental impact has been unfavorable to the ecosystem, even if it has made our lives easier.

Statistics about the effects of our activities on the planet are alarming, and this article will show you how air pollution affects biodiversity.

How Does Air Pollution Affect Biodiversity?

Air pollution is a health and environmental concern. It is characterized by any non-natural and toxic substances that hang in the air and threaten the health of living organisms that breathe it.

It can be in the form of gases like ammonia, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide. Regardless, biodiversity, especially birds, is at the receiving end of our bad practices, and here are some direct and indirect ways air pollution affects it:

1. Respiratory challenges

Toxic gases are more common in industrial areas. However, that doesn’t make it right. The birds and other creatures that reside in high altitudes often experience breathing problems due to the sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, and other toxic gases suspended in the atmosphere.

The respiratory system of birds puts them more at risk of air pollution because they inhale and exhale carbon dioxide in a single breath. This means they inhale toxic pollutants in larger quantities than you can imagine.

These creatures live in the atmosphere, constantly exposing them to toxic fumes.

2. Extinction

According to reliable sources, altering the quantities of gas mixtures in the atmosphere caused by physical, chemical, and biological factors ultimately causes extinction.

Forest fires are a known cause of air pollution. So, when they happen, the respiratory function of birds is not just affected, but these creatures also lose their homes. The continual struggle for survival will eventually become draining and gradually deplete numbers.

3. Disease infection

Birds, again, are susceptible to airborne diseases, even those that affect man. This means parasites, fungi, and bacteria released into the air will easily find their way into a bird’s system and wreak havoc.

Unfortunately, birds aren’t the only aspects of biodiversity affected by air pollution.

We also have:

4. Climate change

The long-term effect of air pollution is climate change. And it’s no joke.

Initially, the climate was only affected by changes in the solar cycle. However, mass industrial production began in the 1800s, and since then, the ozone layer has been in trouble.

This is because our industrial activities entail burning coal, oil, and gas. Fossil fuels are also a danger to the environment. Subsequent greenhouse gas emissions surround the ozone layer and trap the sun’s heat.

Climate change affects biodiversity because they cannot adapt as fast as humans. And those that can travel fast are trying to get out of the heat. This causes displacement from homes and stress that causes depletion in numbers.

5. Loss of habitat

A loss of habitat is inevitable for some victims of air pollution. For instance, eutrophication is the accumulation of nutrients in the water. It is caused by air pollution, but it displaces the natural inhabitants of the water.

This is because of algae, water blossoms, or other microorganisms that block light and oxygen from penetrating the affected area.

6. Acid rain

Acid rain happens by combining two toxic substances, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, with moisture in the atmosphere. This causes many problems for humans and biodiversity.

For instance, studies have revealed that the continuous intake of acid rain into fish gills led to a mucus buildup. This makes breathing more challenging and may eventually lead to suffocation.

Additionally, this toxic rain also affects the microorganisms in the soil. Studies have also revealed lower microbial activities in soil that have been exposed to acid rain.

How Does Air Pollution Affect the Environment?

Oxygen is an indispensable resource for living things, and air pollution affects everything. For instance, haze is caused by particulate matter from smoke, road dust, and other gaseous pollutants that grow in size as humidity increases. Haze muffles sounds and distorts images and colors.

Another way air pollution affects the environment is when the pollutant particles fall back into the earth. They will reach everywhere, disrupting the natural balance in the soil surfaces and water bodies.

The effects of air pollution on the soil are depletion in microbial activities and a reduction in farm produce or even the death of the crops. In worse cases, it kills young trees.

But that’s not all that happens when air pollution gets out of hand in the environment.

Dead zones and extinction go almost hand in hand. The former is where the overabundance of natural and unnatural materials causes a depletion of oxygen, sunlight, and the other factors needed for life to thrive there.

The spread of algae blooms causes dead zones, areas inhabitable for biodiversity. Again, while they flee and search for suitable habitats, their chances of survival reduce. This leads to extinction. 

The affected waters are always murky and dead, as the name suggests.

Harmful Effects of Pollution on Marine Life

Fish don’t ask for too much. They only need unadulterated food, a clean environment, and untainted oxygen to survive.

And anything unnatural and abundant in their habitat will disturb the balance and probably send them packing. It can affect their lives directly or indirectly.

Water pollution affects fish directly by killing them and indirectly by altering the natural makeup of their habitat, eliminating their food source or chain, and causing an overgrowth of algae blooms or plants that deplete the resources in the area.

The effects of pollution on marine life include:

1. Oxygen depletion

The breath of life flows through every living organism. We all depend on oxygen to survive, and this is untainted oxygen.

However, when materials like nitrogen and phosphorus build up in large quantities in our water bodies, they become pollutants. This excessive supply of nutrients results in an overgrowth of algae blooms.

And when they die, the biodegradation process makes the oxygen level in the water too low for aquatic creatures to thrive, depriving them of their natural habitat.

Additionally, fish that feed on these toxic algae blooms will likely die from the toxicity.

2. Death by pesticides

Synthetic pesticides also find their way into marine habitats, killing the thriving life when they’re in large quantities. Even when there’s just a little weed or insect killer in the water, it still causes an increase in fish mortality.

How do our water bodies become contaminated with these substances? Well, it is often through rainfall; when the water washes the remnants of these substances from where they were applied. Or, spray drifts may also dispel these harmful chemicals into our water bodies.

Furthermore, when fossil fuels are burnt, it causes the release of harmful substances into the atmosphere. They get stuck there, mix with the water, and fall back on earth as rain.

When there are heavy metals in the water, it is almost a guarantee that the fish will be affected. This is often their sense of smell, which affects their ability to find food.

3. It destroys their food source

Waterborne insects and other invertebrates are what aquatic creatures like fish feed on. However, these insects are susceptible to pesticide poisoning even at low concentrations.

So, what happens when they die? Well, the food chain also begins to reduce because these creatures depend on each other.

But again, that’s not the only way fish and other marine creatures can be affected by the consumption of pesticides by these invertebrates. Instead, even when animals on the higher levels of the food chain eat anything that has either died of or ingested these toxic substances, they also become victims.

4. It destroys their home

Marine life can also lose its natural habitat thanks to an overgrowth of toxic substances like algae blooms. When the water bodies become unsuitable for fish and other aquatic creatures, they prepare to relocate. And this displacement doesn’t favor every fish that tries migration.

How is Pollution a Threat to Wildlife?

Wildlife is a large part of biodiversity. And pollution plays a significant disruptive role in its existence.

Since non-domestic animals cannot take care of themselves, and neither can we care for them, the least we can do is provide an environment safe for habitation.

However, the reverse is the opposite, and we have put these poor creatures in harm’s way. They consume some of these harmful substances thinking they’re food.

Often, it kills them by suffocation, such as when plastics and other non-biodegradable materials are consumed. In other cases, the toxic substances in the water and some parts of the soil will get into their systems one way or the other, poisoning them.

Let’s also consider the displacement of natural habitats. Wildfires, volcanic eruptions, and the radioactive decay of rocks are potential dangers that have cost wildlife their homes in the past. Sadly, not every creature was built to survive the migration, so many die on the way.

This leads to a reduction in species.

Another problem of air pollution is the occurrence of acid rain. This happens during the combustion of fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. The greenhouse effect, smog, and acidification also occur when burning fuels don’t have adequate energy to burn correctly.

The depleting ozone layer will also affect animals. In fact, it is much harder for them to adapt to these changes for obvious reasons.

Wildlife is used to climate changes over time, but the problem is the natural disaster’s speed. It leaves barely enough room for preparation to migrate.

How Does Air Pollution Affect Birds?

Birds are perhaps the biggest victims of air pollution among biodiversity. This is because they live in the atmosphere and spend most of their time there.

If you recall, birds have a unique respiratory function. They can inhale and exhale carbon dioxide in a single breath, making them more susceptible to damaged lungs.

The poisonous substances in the atmosphere may also deprive birds of their natural habitat, especially caused by forest fires or wildfires.

Finally, birds are more prone to airborne diseases because of their respiratory functions. Even those that plague humans may be as effective on birds.

How Does Air Pollution Affect Crops?

Air pollution is equally as unfavorable for the soil. There are many ways it affects crops, including by poisoning the earth.

When acid rain falls, the soil receives the air pollutants. If there are heavy metals, they take an immediate effect on the earth. They do this by disturbing the normal function of the root system, thereby interfering with its ability to absorb nutrients. 

Ozone is another pollutant that affects crops adversely. During the exchange of gases, it enters the crops and damages them, often changing their color and stunting the overall growth.

Does Air Pollution Affect Water Quality?

Yes, air pollution affects the quality of water. This is especially through acid rain. When the air is polluted, the precipitation will also be influenced because it comes from the atmosphere.


There’s no sphere of biodiversity that air pollution doesn’t affect. And if we fail to curb our excesses, we’re endangering life as we know it.

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.