The conversion of natural habitat to land used for agriculture and industry is occurring on a global scale, driven by an increasing demand for food, animal products, biofuel, and even cosmetics. Habitat conversion alters the structure and function of ecosystems in many ways, including:
- substantial reduction of biological diversity, and nitrogen and phosphorous deposition from agricultural field runoff.
- local air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from land clearing by burning, which is particularly problematic in tropical and subtropical regions where oil palm cultivation is rapidly increasing.
- soil degradation, causing desertification and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions by eroding soils and releasing stored carbon.
- impacts on water quality and quantity, and exposure to water-borne and vector-borne disease in ways that are inadequately understood.