A grassland paved over to build a boulevard, a forest felled to construct a McMansion, a river dammed up to power a factory—there's no denying that some of the most beautiful natural places are destroyed to provide for humans.
What used to be under the dirty cracked pavement you're walking on? What animals once lived there? What trees once towered there?
Click through this gallery to visit some once-majestic natural habitats.
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Mojave Desert—Southwest, U.S.
Roughly half of the Mojave desert is still an untouched habitat. And while the remaining half hasn’t yet been heavily affected by human activity, habitat loss is creeping into the region due to the “urbanization and suburbanization from Los Angeles and Las Vegas [and] the increasing demand for landfill space.” And let's not forget that the California Desert Protection Act has been effective in preserving much of the existing habitat, as lower elevation valleys are largely in private hands and lack protection.
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British Columbia’s grasslands developed about 8,000 years ago, but they've been no match for housing developments. "Ranches have been sold for small holdings, golf courses, and resort developments. The original grassland has been covered over with buildings, tarmac, and all the needs of human settlements," according to the Grassland Conservation Council. In the south Okanagan, a whopping 60 percent of the already-small area of the Antelope-brush ecosystem has been destroyed by agriculture, vineyards, urban development and highway development.
Photo: Chris Harris/Getty Images
Pine Forests—North Carolina
Going Native, a website created by North Carolina State University, has observed that from 1982 to 1997, the state lost over one million acres of its forest area to land conversion related to population growth and urbanization. "Researchers predict an additional loss of 5.5 million forested acres in North Carolina by 2040." Among the species that could disappear as a result are the pileated woodpecker, black-and-white warbler, scarlet tanager, and wood thrush. Uggh.
Photo: Darlyne A. Murawski/Getty Images
The Everglades National Park is often referred to as the "most threatened park in the U.S." This isn't hyperbole—far from it, actually. "Urban development, industry, and agriculture pressures have destroyed more than half of the original Everglades. Ever-increasing population growth along with industry in south Florida has resulted in large metropolitan areas and rising pressures on the surrounding natural environments. Agriculture, such as sugar cane, rice, and dairy farms, exists on drained land within the Everglades," according to the Florida Musuem of Natural History.
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Despite its reputation as a concrete jungle, 70 percent of Hong Kong is actually composed of countryside. But perhaps not for long. The Asia City Network reported in 2010 that, "The World Wildlife Fund recently found that at least 43 sites throughout the Hong Kong countryside have been exploited and destroyed; some illegally so. Trees have been felled, construction waste dumped, land excavated, ponds filled, and illegal roads built—in short, some beautiful areas of our countryside have been quietly ruined."
Photo: Cavan Images/Getty Images
Hudson River Valley—New York
As far back as 2000, TheNew York Times was reporting that New York's Hudson River Valley had become one of the most endangered historic sites in the country because of increased development by electrical utilities and other industries. They noted that the National Trust for Historic Preservation had added the area to its annual list of most endangered species. The Trust said that, "At least seven—and possibly as many as 12—power plants are being proposed for the valley."