People are loud, excitable and numerous. Since we have spread to every corner of the planet, we have impacted every corner, and sometimes in unexpected ways. While climate change and habitat destruction are old hats for their environmental impact, there are plenty of other things we do that mess with nature as well.
How Humanity is Disrupting Ecosystems and Wildlife
Guest Post by Emily Folk
Human noise is everywhere. Even places that are supposed to be quiet have become incredibly loud. The ocean, which you always think of as a quiet, serene place filled with dolphin clicks and whale calls, is now filled with the rumble of humans. Marine wildlife is still out making noise, but now they have to compete with shipping routes, seismic surveys, oil extraction and sonar, not to mention military experiments and submarines. Those shipping routes alone have doubled their noise every single decade since the 1960’s. All this sound is wreaking havoc on the ability of underwater dwellers to function and has even contributed to whale beaching events.
Humans have also achieved a “super predator” status. That makes all other animals afraid of us. A wild animal that has just made a kill, perhaps its first kill in weeks, will generally abandon it the second it hears a human voice. Often, the animal will never return to the kill either and leave it to rot. If the animals live in an area with constant noise, they may suffer hearing loss, reducing their ability to react to environmental cues, causing them to suffer some of the same effects humans have under chronic stress conditions.
Habitats aren’t just destroyed for new houses or slash and burn farms in the tropics. It’s a constant factor in every nation. With the human population over 7 billion, we are always eating up space for ourselves. We need food, housing, and leisure activities, and we, like all of those things away from other people. That has a severe impact on wildlife.
In addition to taking up space for agriculture and land clearing, humans also use wilderness areas to extract resources for their own use. Industrial activities like mining, logging, road construction and oil and gas extraction all deplete wilderness areas where wildlife live. Wilderness now covers less than a quarter of Earth’s total land surface. This declining land area – compounded by climate change altering the habitable areas for wildlife – leads to extinction of species and loss of biodiversity on a global scale.
Light pollution is something most people have heard of, but we tend to think of it as the reason you can’t see stars at night when you live in the city. It might be a bit annoying but nothing that’s too damaging to the environment. Except that it is, especially for the animals that use the light of the moon to guide them. One species that has so far been unable to adapt to this light pollution is sea turtles.
All species of sea turtles are affected by light pollution, but loggerhead, leatherback, and green sea turtles have taken the biggest hit. When nesting females come to shore, they come at night, lay their eggs and then head back to the sea.
The baby sea turtles are supposed to follow the light of the moon to find the ocean over the sand. But nearby lights from cities are often confusing and cause them to go the wrong way. They get hit by cars, picked off by predators, fall into storm grates or simply die of exhaustion, further diminishing already endangered species.
This list wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the global impact humans have had on our climate. With climate change, we are impacting every existing ecosystem on the planet – from coral reefs and frozen tundras to expanding deserts and missing monsoons. The impact of climate change isn’t yet fully understood, but the outlook is bleak.
As the world grapples for solutions to these issues, it is vital that every person on the planet strives to increase their own understanding of how their actions affect other species that share this Earth.
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