How Natural Events Change Habitats

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  • 1:09 Earthquakes
  • 1:56 Landslides
  • 2:46 Volcanoes
  • 3:50 Floods
  • 4:56 Secondary Hazards
  • 5:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Lavallo

Danielle has taught computer technology and gifted education classes. She has a master's degree in teaching and learning.

Natural events, like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and floods, can be very powerful and destructive. In this lesson, we will see firsthand how they can change human and wildlife habitats in both damaging and helpful ways.

What Is a Natural Event?

Take a look at these pictures.

Natural events can have a significant effect on our environment
pictures of natural disasters

What do you think caused all of this destruction? Was it one single event or several different events? Although it's difficult to determine the cause of the damage shown, it is all the result of natural events, which can be defined as events in nature that can cause widespread damage to land and property and threaten the lives of humans and wildlife.

Natural events usually happen because of weather created by the energy of the sun or due to the energy inside the earth. These events can happen quickly and often have devastating results.

Some examples of natural events are:

  • Earthquakes
  • Landslides
  • Volcanoes
  • Floods

Natural events can also be very dangerous because they can trigger secondary events, like fires, power outages and other hazardous conditions. In this lesson, we will learn more about natural events and how they can drastically change human and wildlife habitats in both destructive and beneficial ways.


The earth is made up of many layers. The outer layer of earth, called the crust, is made up of tectonic plates. These plates usually fit together like puzzle pieces and are always shifting. The place where plates meet together and move is called a fault. The movement of the plates sometimes causes the earth to shake violently, which is an earthquake.

Earthquakes produce seismic waves that radiate through the earth. These waves cause movement in the earth's surface that can destroy buildings, roads and bridges. Earthquakes can create other equally dangerous events, such as fires, floods, landslides and tsunamis. Although scientists who study earthquakes can detect movements in the earth, it is still difficult to predict when an earthquake might occur.


A landslide is the sudden movement of soil and rocks down a slope. Landslides can be caused by heavy rains, melting snow, the force of gravity and even other natural events. The vibrations created by earthquakes can trigger landslides, and volcanoes can also cause them when dangerous flows of mud mixed with rock, water and lava pour quickly down their steep slopes.

Landslides are powerful events that can tear down trees, bury plants and animals, and damage roadways. They can also cause houses to slide down hillsides or pile deadly amounts of mud, rocks and other sediment on top of them. While some precautions can be taken to reduce the danger of landslides in risk areas, such as steel netting or fences, like most natural events, they are difficult to predict.


Volcanic eruptions are natural events that can also cause devastation and habitat destruction. Volcanic eruptions occur when magma inside the earth reaches the surface. Once the magma reaches earth's surface, it is called lava. Lava is hot enough to burn anything it touches instantly. Lava flow can move quickly and flatten trees and most anything else in its path.

The ash that spews out of volcanoes also makes the air toxic and hazardous to breathe. Ash and lava can bury plants and animals, contaminate water or block water supplies if rivers and streams stop flowing and ruin food sources for many living things.

Volcanic ash can also accumulate on the roofs of buildings, causing them to collapse. Although they can cause massive destruction, volcanic eruptions can also be beneficial to habitats. Fertile volcanic soil is formed from volcanic rock and is good for growing crops and plants. While scientists monitor the activity of volcanoes, it is still difficult to predict when and how they will erupt.

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