Friday, February 21, 2014

Loss of Biodiversity due to Human Population Growth

A growing concern for many environmentalists is the increased risk for threatened/endangered species to become extinct due to human population growth and density. As the world population continues to exponentially increase, more and more pressures are being exerted on our natural environment. With more people in the world, more land is needed to feed, house, and provide energy for them. As these basic human needs increase, ecosystems and habitats worldwide are taking a hit. Population growth rates are especially high in developing countries such as Africa and Northern regions of SouthAmerica. In these areas, ecosystems that once flourished are now being turned into agricultural lands in order to feed the mouths of a growing population. In these areas of the world that are quickly developing, many species are becoming threatened and/or endangered.

As the world gains more knowledge on the effects of population growth, conservation efforts are struggling to keep up. Although the amount of protected land worldwide has increased, we are still seeing a decline in overall species diversity. This is because human population growth causes more problems than just taking up space. Along with this exponential growth comes over-exploitation, pollution, invasive species, and climate change. These issues only cause the loss of species diversity to increase at alarming rates. The Millennium Development Goals aim to one day not only stop increasing extinction rates, but also reverse them. The goals for 2010 were not met, sadly, but new goals remain in effect for 2015.

                             An extinct Western Black Rhino, last seen 2006

Human life is nevertheless linked with species diversity and if we do not make efforts to halt our negative impacts, we too might face extinction. More specifically, it is birds and mammals that will feel our impact first due to reasons such as overuse of resources, fragmented habitats, and habitat destruction. 1 out of 8 bird species are threatened to extinction along with 1 out of 4 mammal species. This loss of diversity will not only affect the ecosystems they inhabit, but also human life. It is very dangerous to mess with food chains within ecosystems as everything is linked and if one species disappears, this could have large negative impacts on the remaining species in that ecosystem.

As nations continue to grow, there is an estimated 10.8% increase in species threatened to extinction by 2050. This number will only continue to rise if conservation efforts are not taken seriously. Even with conservation efforts, if human population is not kept in check, species diversity will continue to decrease. As most countries continue to increase in population size, a handful are moving in the opposite direction. Some 21 countries showing a decrease in population growth will begin to see a decrease in species threatened. We can only hope to follow in these countries’ footsteps and put a cap on population growth in order to protect the environment we came from.

Not only does increasing population growth and density negatively affect flora and fauna, but life expectancy does too. This would be considered an indirect effect on the loss of species diversity. As quality of life increases, we use more resources, which we obtain from the natural environment. Quality of life and life expectancy can be directly correlated in this instance. A longer human lifespan means more time spent on the planet and therefore a larger carbon/ecological footprint, which directly affects/harms our ecosystems.

One way to help our ecosystem is to cut back on the number of children born. This means that countries whose populations are increasing at alarming rates need to implement family planning systems that make obtaining contraceptives easy. By educating and empowering women, they will better be able to determine if the time is right for childbearing. Reducing our population growth rate is the main step in attempting to conserve our natural environment. By doing so, many other problems caused by population growth/density will start to alleviate, such as pollution, deforestation, over-exploitation, and climate change. When we start to learn of our impact on the environment, the solution to help fix it seems very simple.         

1 comment:

  1. Early in the semester we talked about the debate about increasing access to family planning in the Philippines, especially for rural areas and the poor. In that case study, we saw a direct connection between the need to feed large families and fishing practices (see Blast Fishing!). The law that was passed and signed in 2013 "requires the government to subsidize birth control for the poor," but it has been challenged in court:,0,5872746.story#ixzz2u9HO6AoC
    And for rural Africa, where we will also discuss some examples of pressures on wildlife is some perspective on how health-care workers are educating and providing access to family planning options in rural Kenya (despite a relative lack of infrastructure and cultural challenges...from 2012):