Urbanization is one of the biggest factors that
disrupt the distribution of species. One of the most noticeable inhibitors to
natural species distribution is the increased land allocation to urban
expansion. A personal example that comes to mind was the development of yet
another neighborhood community on my street. In my sweet hometown of Saratoga
Springs, New York, I was lucky enough to grow up on the only farm in town.
Surrounding the 100 acre plot of land on all sides are neighborhoods of housing
piled on top of one another. One of our neighbors had a sufficient amount of
land in their backyard that was recently sold to developers, who in a span of
two years created dozens of houses on what was once a field full of wildlife.
Before this instance, there has been plenty of issues of people finding deer,
fishers, woodchucks in their backyards, plus the rare event of finding a moose (that
was mistaken for one of our horses) in the road. It sounds like I live in a
very rural area, but Saratoga Springs has a population of 27,000 people in 27
square miles (a nice, simple conversion to average 1,000 people in a square
mile, if not more in the densely populated areas closer to the city center). It
is extremely sad to see the continuous changes brought on upon by habitat loss
and fragmentation in developing infrastructure.
The creation of
barriers for animal and plant migration changes typical movement patterns. On
the other hand, this limitation of space and resources could increase
diversification by catalyzing the need to adapt to new breeding and feeding
habits, under the assumption it doesn’t cause extinction first. This would
typically be the case with endemic species as they are more vulnerable to
alterations. The invasion of humans displaces wild animals into close quarters
with humans and domesticated pets, which can then lead to the exchange of
diseases. One terrifying reality is the black plague being caused by fleas on
rodents; if those that are infected come in to contact with pets and humans,
there is a 10% chance of a full-blown outbreak. Emerging infectious diseases
from zoonoses and massive epidemics are highly likely when environments are
compromised and megacities are created. Human population growth is increasing
at an exponential rate; in 2014 more than half the world’s people lived in
urban areas, a share expected to reach two-thirds by 2050, when cities will
have swollen by another 2.5 billion people (United Nations Development
Programme, 2016). Human interference not only disturbs natural wildlife
diversity, it impacts human health.
The health of humans goes hand in hand with conservation
as biodiversity is the foundation to securing our overall well-being. Even
though the connection not always apparent or overlooked, there are many
dependency factors. Human health is contingent on ecological productions of
food, fresh water and fuel sources. A great example of this was the destruction
of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, environment and ecosystem in its entirety post
Hurricane Maria. There will be severe conflictions and a long road to recovery
in search of restoring some balance to the island. If people focus on improving
their surroundings, that coincides with their personal health. A basic health
indicator is water quality for consumption and sanitation on social and
economic prosperity. Lacking essentials can be a serious public health issue
that integrates both environmental and human well-being dimensions.
Prioritizing conservation and sustainability policies are often simultaneously
implemented in response to economic strife’s, but not always translated over
with its original intent.
Often times, I believe many of the things that we all
know are healthy for us end up being the most time consuming and unappealing.
For example, getting in to the habit of going to the gym early in the morning
or spending the time prepping meals can seem taxing, even when everyone is
aware of the benefits. Humans have the tendency to find the shortest route to
their goal. To continue with this example, fasting or dieting to lose weight.
However, short cuts are not sustainable. The parallels drawn with this example
can be found in policies, or lack thereof, promoting biodiversity conservation.
Humans are creatures of habit; it is difficult to rapidly change routines and
expect immediate results. If humans can deviate time and resources to overall
improvement to themselves and their environment, healthier living will be
achieved over time.
ecosystem, everything is connected, and if one element is off balance, then the
entire system which humans rely on heavily on will collapse. If conservation is
not of the upmost importance now, it will have long term repercussions on the
sustainability on future generations. Biodiversity contains a series of checks
and balances; reconciliation of previous harmful choices mankind has chosen
will be a long process. Unfortunately, us as humans cannot change the past and
will have to work with our current situation. Small steps or investments
towards choosing sustainable lifestyles not only as individuals but for our environment,
an impact, a ripple effect, of positive influences will be seen. I am hoping
that issues pertaining to conservation will be more notably recognized to the
public through the media instead of the current repetitive and unproductive new
stories that are constantly broadcasted. This will translate to a call to action
for the public to stop being passive and get involved on a serious level. Awareness
and education to all levels of society on conservation concerns can be a first step
toward healthy living for humans and the species of plants and animals we share
the world with.