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The Effects of Human Population Growth

Dorianna Reimer, Ann Johnson, Ryan Penny, Angie Gagnon & Heather Varaleau

April 8th, 2002

BIOL 411: Conservation Biology

Professor Lisa Poirier

INTRODUCTION

As one may have already deduced from the media, and a variety of other sources,

the central source of the Earth’s environmental problems is humans and our population

growth (Oskamp 2000). The human population has grown to well over six billion

individuals, and continues to grow at an exponential rate. Human impact on the global

biosphere now controls many major facets of ecosystem functioning (Palumbi 2001).

Humanity persists and reproduces as a result of resource manipulation, as with all other

species (Mannion 1998).

How did the human population come to believe that the Earth and its components

were placed here solely for our use and degradation? In the realm of values, our nation

has a particularly strong value of human mastery over nature, which is well illustrated by

the injunction of the book of Genesis (I, 28): “be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the

earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over…every living thing that moveth upon the

earth”. This point of view dominated for decades and often still does. In 1952, John

Locke argued that nature existed primarily for facilitating the comfort and convenience of

humans (Pierotti & Wildcat 2000). Today, many would argue that statements such as

these have no place in current society.

The world and its creatures are slowly crumbling around us. Those who are not

interested in saving the Earth’s species should at least be motivated to save the Earth for

themselves and the rest of the human race. With all of the Earth’s resources depleted

there will be nothing to keep the excessive human population alive. Human population

growth and overconsumption are no longer a problem that can be dealt with later; the

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collapse of the ecosystem may not be far off. As more advances occur in technology and

medicine, the human population continues to increase. Yet, the Earth stays the same size

as our needs grow and, eventually, we must reach equilibrium otherwise we will push

ourselves into our own extinction.

The effects of human population growth are extensive and are currently affecting

every component of the Earth ecosystem. It would be impossible to explore every detail

of this vast topic in a single paper. As such, we will begin with a brief overview of

human population growth, and then proceed to discuss the impacts of large human

population size on waste creation and how waste creation effects natural populations, we

will look at aspects of land destruction, the implications of human population growth for

wild plants, and the effects of human population growth on biodiversity and the Earth’s

species. Finally, we will suggest possible solutions to the problem of human population

growth.

HUMAN POPULATION GROWTH

The human population is increasing at a dramatic rate. The world’s population

reached six billion people in September of 1999 (Bryant, 1999). In 1930 the population

was only two billion, thus it has tripled within a human lifetime (Bryant, 1999). The

population growth rate is exponential, and continues to increase dramatically. To give a

clearer picture of the enormity of human population growth, every second three people

are added to the earth, which is approximately 87 million people, or the entire population

of Mexico, per year (Bryant 1999). Bryant 1999 suggests that by the year 2050 the

population from 1999 will double, this suggests that there will be over twelve billion

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people on the earth. Although the massive human population increase is undebated, such

projections are. Environmental News Network suggested, in 1999, that by 2050 the

population will have reached 9.3 billion people. Although these projections from growth

models give an idea of where our population is headed, they are likely inaccurate.

Feeney (1991) wrote that population projections beyond a few decades were

inaccurate. This statement is supported, as it is already known that population growth is

not constant and it is difficult to predict at what rate population growth will occur. A

projection done in 1972 suggested that our population would be well over seven billion

people by the year 2000 (Ehrlich and Ehrlich, 1995). Although it is now thought we will

reach this number before 2010 the projection was inaccurate. Feeney (1991) suggests

that models can be inaccurate because it is not known when human populations began

their dramatic increase, thus, time scale is very difficult to determine.

The population has not remained constant over time (Wall and Przeworski, 2000).

When and why it began to increase is questionable. Based on mitochondrial DNA and Y

chromosomal testing, Wall and Przeworski (2000) suggest that the increase may have

begun as long as 50 to 100 thousand years ago. This suggestion is based on evidence of

an unexpectedly large number of genetic mutations occurring around this point in time.

Alternatively, they also suggest that the human population began to increase

approximately twelve thousand years ago, around the time when agriculture was being

established.

Bryant (1999), however, suggests that “Especially since 1960, several

developments have dramatically reduced infant and child mortality throughout the world:

the use of DDT to eliminate mosquito-born malaria; childhood immunization programs

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” Birth and death rates are not the only factors in determining population growth.against cholera. 5 . it has been noticed that the greatest increases in population occur in developing nations. Even though there is high infant mortality and a short life expectancy in these nations. human-induced flows of materials are now twice as high as natural flows (Gardner and Sampat 1998). and the use of fertilizers and more effective farming methods. Two important factors that the US Census Bureau includes when determining overall population growth in a given population are life expectancy and infant deaths. HUMAN WASTE PRODUCTION The growing human population exerts an ever-increasing influence on the Earth’s resources. The number of humans that the Earth can sustain is determined by the ability of the planet to provide food. and antibiotics. living space. It has been suggested that this is due to the lack of education of women in these nations. 1999). As well. During the same period. Global. In general. with unknown consequences (Gardner and Sampat 1998). the birth rate still over compensates giving an increase in population size. and many have been released to the environment. diphtheria and other often fatal diseases. Changes in human resource use since the Industrial Revolution have contributed to these changes. at least 100 000 synthetic chemicals have been invented. Focusing on the growth within a specific population is also important. and the lack of contraceptives available to them (Environmental News Net. the “Green Revolution” greatly boosted food output through the cultivation of new disease-resistant rice and other food crops.

which are often used once and then thrown away (Young 1991). has increased the environmental impact of waste creation. recycling of material was common until World War II. smokestack emissions.resource supplies. After the war. composed mostly of mining slurry. 6 . the nature of human use of resources changed. and the potentially toxic nature of it. factory effluent. industrial economies depend on converting large amounts of raw materials into products. Most of the waste is produced by industrial activity. and the economic health of a nation is related to its consumption level (Young 1991). Changes in Patterns of Waste Production Waste creation often outpaces population growth (Young 1991) and is a major component of the problems related to population growth. With the advent of industrial economies in wealthy nations. even in the developed nations. and product trimmings. Industrial economies encourage high levels of resource consumption. with the result that modern industrial economies are not very efficient at recycling (Young 1991). and waste assimilation (Young 1991). planned obsolescence of manufactured products and the creation of new synthetic materials decreased recycling. non-industrial garbage from homes and offices is a much smaller fraction of the total waste produced. In developing countries waste is created in large quantities only by a wealthy minority. The amount of material thrown away by industrial economies. The last service has been affected both by human population growth and changes in human resource use. Waste production is affected by consumption patterns and the level of industrialization and therefore varies across countries and cultures.

Naturally-occurring substances are normally diluted. or creating toxic ash that is deposited in landfills (Chiras 1992). for example. but overwhelms the systems’ capacities as amounts increase (Marowski 1992). which under natural conditions could be handled by natural ecosystems. Materials that have been used can be buried in landfills. because. The use of fossil fuels releases toxic chemicals and large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (Marowski 1992). mining can remove layers of earth above the site and create large-scale pollution from processing ore. decomposed. Waste is handled by burying it. natural chemicals such as 7 . or dumping it in the ocean (or nearby water body or released in the air). and recycled by ecosystems. In addition. both the nature and the amount of waste generated by humans have changed. New synthetic chemicals cannot be broken down by bacteria. which are currently overwhelmed by the amounts created by industrialization and rapid population growth. These new materials can have toxic effects in the environment. burning it. due to factories emitting pollutants from smokestacks. The increasing human population adds non-industrial wastes like sewage. in the United States alone. ranging from the death of organisms to a decrease in reproductive potential (Marowski 1992). 19 000 km of streams and rivers are contaminated by mine waste (Gardner and Sampat 1998). however. but this creates problems with toxic leakage from materials and often results in wasted resources that are replaced by more resource processing and manufacturing. no bacteria have evolved to digest them (Chiras 1992). as it has been throughout history (Gardner and Sampat 1998). The conversion of materials to products creates pollution. Natural ecosystems have innate waste control mechanisms. Extraction of large amounts of raw materials cause damage to habitat through extraction and processing of material.

or as solid waste. caretta populations can have debris in their digestive tracts. and the effects of this enrichment of the environment can result in the alteration of food webs. sea lions have had their jaws tied shut by entanglement in plastic nets or rings. Effects of Waste Various types of waste can have numerous effects on species. and subsequent cascading effects on natural communities (Marowski 1992). Brown pelicans have become enmeshed in fishing line and strangled themselves. Sea turtles have choked on plastic bags that they mistook for jellyfish and swallowed. The effects on turtle populations may be serious. Solid synthetic waste can have negative effects on marine species. McCauley and Bjorndal (1999) examined the effects of nutrient dilution from ingestion of debris on loggerhead sea turtles.carbon dioxide are released into air or water. This is illustrated by some of the following examples. and up to 51% of C. caretta do not increase their food intake to compensate for nutrient dilution. Nutrient dilution occurs as ingested debris displaces food in the gut. decreased growth rate leading to a longer developmental period and 8 . and have subsequently starved. McCauley and Bjorndal (1999) found that C. their diet normally consists of food low in nutrients (medusae and ctenophores). reducing intake of nutrients by the turtles. Broad population-level effects of a decrease in nutrient intake include decreased ability to reach offshore currents. Caretta caretta L. Debris dumped in the ocean causes significant mortality and sublethal effects in many marine species through either ingestion or entanglement (McCauley and Bjorndal 1999). For example.

ranging from 0-10%. depleted energy reserves for growth and reproduction. An examination of the environment found that the local fish and invertebrates had elevated levels of PCBs. Lawrence estuary. 9 . Observers of the pups noted a gradual weakening of the pups. Wilson (2001) described the effects of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) on a re-established colony of harbour seals. which ended in 1979 leaving a population in the low hundreds. This may limit the population’s recovery. Today. Slow population growth has not been linked directly to pollution. which passed up the food chain and accumulated in the seals. in the St. but animals with high concentrations of chemicals in their bodies show reproductive impairment. from 1989 to 1997. with seven of twelve pups dying before one month of age. the seal population at the site had a low yearly birth rate. which is much lower than the normal birth rate of 20-30%.. Synthetic chemicals released into water bodies can also have negative effects on wildlife populations. and necropsies of three pups found elevated levels of PCB’s in the blubber. despite adequate maternal care. and was passed to the seal pups through their mothers’ milk. but the habitat of the estuary has high levels of pollutants. and decreased survivorship (McCauley and Bjorndal 1999). Pollution limits the recovery of this vulnerable population. Over the period of eight years.increased vulnerability to predation. including PCB’s from toxic discharges locally and upstream of the estuary. As well. seal pup mortality was high. in northeast England. The whale population was decimated by hunting. A similar example is the effect of pollution on beluga whales. Phoca vitulina L. whales are not hunted. as described by Hickie et al. The colony returned to a former industrial site that was originally a seal breeding ground. Delphinapterus leucas Pallas. (2000).

The decline has been linked to an arbovirus and a low seal immune response. in the Golan Heights in Israel.. as is usual with many pest species. hen. populations increased between 1993 and 1995 (Yom-Tov et al. and cattle carcasses.immunosuppression. but poisoning had negative repercussions on other species in the area. Mirounga leonina L. can disrupt communities and ecosystems. with subsequent increases in some species populations. by creating so-called pest species. 1995). and tumor formation. Reliance on human-produced sources of food can cause conflict between humans and other organisms. Canis aureus L. The introduction of organic waste by humans can cause problems as well. Immunosuppression due to pollution may play an important role in the decline of populations. a population of southern elephant seals. particularly seal populations.5% per year. The enrichment of the environment by humans.. The increase was due to illegal dumping of carcasses in an area with ranching and poultry farming. Wayland and Hobson (2001) calculated that sewage and pulp and paper mill effluent was a major source of nitrogen in the North Saskatchewan River near Prince Albert. Ranchers controlled jackal populations through poisoning. On Macquarie Island south of Australia. and in the Wapiti River near Grande Prairie. The dumps supported a dense population of jackals. golden jackal. For example. 10 . many of which were the focus of conservation programs (Yom-Tov et al. Additions of substances by human activity can be significant. and 65-70% of the waste was available for predator consumption. which also preyed upon live calves in the area. The dumps contained mostly turkey. Several recent population crashes have been blamed on previously unknown viral infections. is decreasing by 1. Vulnerability to viruses could pose a major threat to endangered seal populations (Marchant 2001). 1995).

and outbreaks of disease (Marowski 1992). and found that trophic enrichment altered the relative and absolute densities of periphyton and macroinvertebrates. especially in low-order streams. Odasz-Albrigtson et al. A general decrease in photosynthetic 11 . this will not necessarily increase abundances at higher levels of the food chain. and an increase in the proportion of tolerant or omnivorous fish species. human-caused increases in nitrogen from treated sewage in coastal waters has been linked to damage or death of fish and shellfish.Alberta. Johnes et al. undoubtedly a significant increase. with repercussions on many other organisms. can have toxic effects on flora and fauna. As well as changes in food webs. This in turn influenced higher trophic levels through decreased drift. comparing nitrogen and phosphorus intakes between 1931 and 1996. (2000) studied the effects of air pollution on plant species along the Russian-Norwegian border. (1996) studied ten British catchment areas. and decrease efficiency in forging due to changes in habitat structure. The release of naturally-occurring substances where they normally are not found . Miltner and Rankin (1998) examined rivers and streams in Ohio. a decrease in the relative abundance of top carnivores and insectivores. with the correlated effects of loss of sensitive fish species (mostly specialized insectivores). In general. Changes in resource availability create bottom-up perturbations of food webs. Miltner and Rankin (1998) found changes in community structure associated with enrichment. changes in food quality. copper and nickel into the atmosphere. large periphyton stands caused a decrease in dissolved oxygen. As well. and determined that the increase in livestock and human populations in the area doubled the areas’ nitrogen and phosphorus loads. algal blooms that decrease dissolved oxygen levels. such as sulphur dioxide.

Migratory journeys would be affected by changing availability of food along routes. Melt would result in a large early pulse of water washing away eggs and larvae. As well. which grows on the underside of the ice. Earlier seasonal melting of ice would affect fish species. air pollutants were found to influence seasonal changes in the cold tolerance of Pinus C. as well as methane and synthetic compounds such as chlorofluorocarbons. Vegetation patterns would shift with changing temperatures. which in turn has been implicated in global warming (Marowski 1992). and causing death in some plants. If such wastes do add to global warming. Global warming often changes habitat dynamics. and forms the primary productive layer of 12 . who time their spawning with the spring melt. Complex mixtures of pollutants are believed to render forests susceptible to natural stresses. The changing patterns of ocean currents would affect the movement and survival of mobile invertebrate larvae. a process that contributes to their decline (Marowski 1992). species. Global Climate Change The release of naturally-occurring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. and decreased water levels later in the season subsequently affecting fish habitat. decreased the amounts of chlorophyll. Less ice in the Arctic Ocean would decrease the space available for algae. For example.efficiency was found. has been implicated in the greenhouse effect. changes in temperature or water supply would affect community interactions in various habitats. Habitat changes would affect most species. as summarized by Marowski (1992). the implications for other species would be severe and widespread. In addition. SO2 damaged stomatal mechanisms. along with alteration of growth due to sublethal SO2 levels.

This affects the rate at which embryos develop. particularly Chironomidae (Diptera). males must be bigger for territorial defense. L. while in turtles (Testudines.the Arctic food web. In addition to habitat changes. females are larger because they need to produce more eggs. Observed changes included a decrease in organism densities. some species may be negatively affected by global warming as a result of their physiology. C. Conclusions 13 . A higher temperature could alter sex ratios in reptile populations.). with a possible decrease in population reproduction rates (Marowski 1992). In many reptile species the sex of offspring depends upon the temperature at which the eggs are incubated. and altered sex ratios for Lepidostoma vernale (Trichoptera). smaller size at maturity for Nemoura tripsinosa (Plecoptera) and H. It was noted that many of these species could disperse to other habitats. Rising ocean levels due to the melting of polar ice would negatively affect corals. early onset of adult insect emergence. Another example comes from a study done by Hogg and Williams (1996) on stream invertebrates. increase in growth rates and precocious breeding in Hyalella azteca (Amphipoda).5 ◦ C. They experimentally increased the temperature in a stream by 2-3. azteca.). human fragmentation and destruction of habitat has and will eliminate this option for many species. however. The sex that benefits from a larger size develops at a higher temperature. Widespread extinctions would likely follow from changes in habitat caused by global warming. In alligators (Crocodylidae. that need to grow in shallow water in order to photosynthesize.

Decreasing consumption levels in developed countries would reduce both resource and energy use. A high standard of living is still possible with reduced consumption. and could possibly slow their population growth. as plastic debris has on sea turtles. However. basics such as food. in 14 . Wastes have been controlled by pollution-reduction devices. and lower overall human impact on the global environment. some materials cannot be recycled. such as an increase in incineration over dumping in landfills. or there may be no market for some recycled products. Waste can also affect habitats. such as habitat loss and resource consumption. such as scrubbers on smokestacks (Chiras 1992) or changes in waste management. like the effects speculated to occur due to global warming. The main focus of efforts to solve the waste problem should be decreasing consumption levels. or toxic effects. As well. as PCB’s have on the harbour seal population. As well. and clothing could be obtained using fewer materials than is currently used by industrial economies (Chiras 1992). shelter. and recycling hazardous materials. recycling uses energy. and are compounded by many other effects of human population growth. in addition to decreasing the worldwide human population. Waste can have mechanical effects on species. an increase in living standards with less waste would forestall environmental degradation in developing countries. The resulting decrease in resource manipulation by humans. industries have been pressured to decrease the amount of waste created by changing equipment and manufacturing processes. Recycling materials can potentially reduce the amount of waste (Young 1991). Human-created wastes alone have the potential to eliminate many species from Earth.

mostly oceans (Brunner 1998). even less of that land is usable. would allow greater resource manipulation by natural ecosystems. Arable Land The amount of land that is available to us is very important. The Earth has a surface area of about 510 million square kilometres. and also land for animals and humans to live on. allowing their growth and restoration. yet it is far from evenly distributed among individuals. Until we can do this. If we do not find a way to stabilize our growth. whether it be the oceans or space. as the human race. We must look at how we are using our land and how we are destroying it before we can learn to properly manage it and use it to its full potential. Proper management of this land is important because everyone needs it. grow food for animals we raise. or we will eventually kill ourselves off. For example. Arable land is important to the human race as it is the land we utilize for our survival. the rest is water. require more and more land as our total population continues to increase. We use it to grow crops. as many land types such as mountains are uninhabitable. of which only 149 million square kilometres is land. Furthermore. LAND DESTRUCTION We. then we must find a new area to settle and populate. not necessarily a positive change. it is where we live and grow our foods. 15 . and often irreversible. Humans have transformed other land types into arable land. we must take care of the land we have at the present time and learn how to preserve it as best as we can.both developed and developing countries.

it is prepared for farming by tilling which causes a greater nutrient release as a result of leaching (Thomas 1994).5 million people and only 647 km2 of land (Girvan 1999). we tend to lose it due to overuse. Thus. the soil is leached of the nutrients it once had. in Canada. while Singapore has about 3. Unfortunately. in which forests are cut down and the land is cleared in order to make open fields for cropland or for animal grazing. there are approximately 3. This is an incredible difference in the density of people that inhabit a country.1 people per km2. Slash-and-burn techniques have large repercussions on soil biota. a problem arises and needed land must be found or created. yet in Singapore there are approximately 5400 people for every km2 (Girvan 1999). as it is a quick process and puts nutrients into the soil. Once the land is used for crops. which plays an important factor in sustaining a forest (Soulé and Orians 2001).Canada has a population of about 31 million people on about 10 million km2 of land. we must then replace that land. and effects such as salinization and toxification (Evans 1998). Techniques such as slash-and-burn have been adopted to extend farmland. as our population grows we need more land to grow more crops for the increased number of mouths that need to be fed. Once the land is cleared. Then. Therefore. and without human help. As we use arable land. can take a very long time to replenish. in addition. some undesirable measures are taken in order to attain this needed land. In efforts to reverse this 16 . Having more fields increases crop yield and consequently increases profits to the farmers. is one method of creating new arable land. Conversion to Agriculture The process of deforestation.

because the land is unable to support them and regenerate fast enough to maintain itself. The river begins 17 . Irrigation has been one solution to obtain enough water to support people’s land. Too many people irrigating from one river can create problems downstream. dairy. personal enjoyment. Often such animals as cattle. There are many reasons why humans raise animals. lands such as wetlands. wetlands. profit-making come into play. leaving bare soil that is eroded by wind and leached by precipitation. Overgrazing can be prevented. farmers load their land with fertilizers that may run off into nearby ecosystems. marshes and bogs act as water filters. Similar to deforestation. therefore. marshes. such as lakes and rivers. require a field in which to graze. Over cultivation can be devastating to the land. unfortunately. there is a dramatic decrease in the water quality downstream. and profit. This damage causes a great deal of concern when there are too many animals on one piece of land. goats. and bogs are filled to create more arable land. and in turn can create a great deal of erosion to the land in the future. When they are filled for farmland. causing further harm. but they also damage the plants’ foliage and root systems with their hooves (Thomas 1994). (Thomas 1994). live. As animals graze. or fibre. they do not only eat the plants.effect and return nutrients to the soil. such as meats. and exercise. Plants die. yet again the issue of growing demands for the animals’ products and. Obtaining water in some areas of the world can be more difficult than in others. or sheep are raised for their products. They are herbivores and. fibre. These ecosystems are extremely complex and little disturbances can cause a cascade of negative effects. Other than being home to a number of habitat specific species. A great deal of land is needed to maintain these animals (Thomas 1994). including for food.

turning productive tropical areas into dry. a process called desertification can take place. airports. once a field is planted. yet it is often the human race that is to blame for this process as it is a result of activities such as deforestation. With an excess of soil erosion taking place. uninhabitable places. A great deal of soil erosion takes place due to activities of the human population. In turn. Urbanization Urbanization is the development of cities or towns. it will take many decades before the surrounding natural communities 18 . the river basin becomes drier and less productive because the lack of water and increased salinity will not allow plants to grow (Thomas 1994).to lose volume due to the increase in the number of channels being diverted and the salinity and alkalinity begin to increase with an increase in the sediment to water ratio (Thomas 1994). but once a building or road is laid down. Urbanization is also a more permanent modification. roads. This of course means further deforestation and clearing of the surrounding land (Gardner 1996). irrigation. this has become a serious problem as such deserts like the Sahara have been growing larger by the year. This leaves less room for the human race to live in. Desertification is the process by which a desert spreads or creeps in non-desert areas due to human activities (Goudie 1990). Downstream. and overgrazing. commercial areas. industry. more soil erosion occurs as there are no plant roots to hold the soil down. and residency (Evans 1998). Lately. Spreading of cities and towns tends to take place on surrounding agricultural land which in turn pushes the agriculture out farther (Evans 1998). it will re-grow if the conditions are right.

re-establish in the area. Solutions 19 . as urban areas continue to grow. landfills have developed into a severe problem as many large metropolitan areas are running out of room to dump their garbage. operations. However. Another serious problem that arises from the increase in human population is landfills. A majority of the world’s population now lives in cities. collections of garbage leachates. and the problem of urbanization will only continue to grow (Evans 1998). Fragmentation has a number of impacts. and coexistences increase due to patchiness. Most areas in North America require certain standards in order to run a landfill site (Tammemagi 1999). Eventually there will be no more space. Gene flow among species may be reduced. so do the landfill sites they use. Disturbances such as fragmentation can only do harm to the land and eventually make it unusable. While usually associated with urbanized areas. covering. roads. or canals. and monitoring of external environmental conditions must be followed in order to remain operational (Tammemagi 1999). Also associated with urbanization is fragmentation. Regulations covering proper siting. the division of large areas of undisturbed land or creation of borders with a number of different objects such as cities. Fragmentation is becoming an increasing threat to our wildlife with the development of more cities and roads in areas that were once untouched by humans. dispersal of animals decreases. novel species may be introduced. and many are approaching a crisis as they have few places left to dump their garbage.

Conservation management needs to be introduced. similar to these are organizations set up to preserve wetlands from being destroyed. Often. do not overstock the land with too many animals. There have been many forest management plans to conserve forests across the world. The human race has already done unimaginable damage to the planet we live on. preventing salinization and toxification of rivers. but in developed countries as well. the problem is greed. It is quite simple. Irrigation is another situation that is similar to overgrazing. Restrictions need to be enforced by governments to ensure that the land we live on is protected for future generations. Replantation programs have been set up to re-establish forests that have been clear-cut. Controlling overgrazing is easy with land management. there are a number of organizations that are set up to preserve them from farmers who slash-and-burn the forests. then problems will be minimized. If everyone was to be given an equal 20 . but many people are only interested in growing as many crops as they can to increase profits. We must take immediate action in order to preserve what we have left and try to reverse some of the effects that have occurred. Then. Necessary steps need to be taken in each given area in order to solve different problems effectively. Management of how much water is taken for irrigation needs to be implemented in some areas in the world. especially in third world countries where the environment isn’t always a priority. and therefore matters such as land management and issues concerning the environment are overlooked. Also. As long as resources are not overexploited. These organizations are funded by people who support their cause and want to conserve the environment. land will not be destroyed and money can be made from that same piece of land as long as desired. As for rainforests.

and therefore a great deal of ethics would come into play. is preventable. The goal is to try and prevent urbanization before it happens. trying to re-establish and conserve land when it comes to urbanization becomes very difficult. but more the animals that live on the land. then the river systems would be much healthier and possible desertification could be avoided. then that land is lost and can be extremely difficult to reclaim. once something is there and built. Fragmentation can sometimes be difficult to battle against. Often. getting rid of fragmentation is not something that is always law-biding. Preventing urbanization can be accomplished by turning a particular ecosystem into protected land such as a sanctuary or a reserve so that it cannot be used. or whichever placed ‘border’ is not possible without consequences. canal. In this case. Claiming land as a reserve helps prevent desertification as that land is not usable by humans and therefore is protected from the degradative effects of humans. therefore. Proper irrigation and planting of shrubbery and other vegetation has successfully reclaimed land that was once lost to desertification. relationships that were lost may form again. road. A continuum is re-established in the particular ecosystem and over time. getting rid of that building. Some have attempted to fix the problems that have been created. Often the actual land is not looked at in this case. So 21 . Where anthropocentric changes have been made.piece of land and they took no more. It is difficult to claim land as a sanctuary or as a reserve as usually a great deal of endangered animals must inhabit the area and a plan of action to help them must be set up. Fragmentation also can be reversed by simply replanting the missing vegetation that was once in that region. Desertification is a process caused by human mismanagement and. Similarly.

the less we need to take from the Earth. Ensuring that recycling becomes an important part of everyone’s daily life will dramatically help decrease the amount of garbage. It is important to preserve the land that we have left and help re-establish the land that has been lost. and ensuring that we keep it healthy is important.urbanization should be planned very carefully to prevent any serious effects to the surrounding environment. WILD PLANTS One very important aspect of life that is impacted by population growth is wild plants. With more recycling. in forms such as deforestation to obtain pulp and paper. This can be achieved with proper management and conservation. those that are uncultivated and growing in there original natural state (Thompson 1993). Where we put our garbage is also a big concern. This can be avoided if everyone is to put in effort to control the amount of waste that they throw out each day and by encouraging others to recycle as much as they possibly can. Landfill management is also important for the future as where we put our trash is something that should not be overlooked. Wild plants are an important area of study for several reasons. Conclusion With a rapidly growing population. We only have one planet. many aspects of how we should use the land that has been given to us should be considered. some countries pay other countries so they may dump their garbage on that other country’s land. Plants are primary 22 .

There is a vast array of anthropocentric alterations presently taking place that are causing mass extinctions of wild plants. soil and water pollution as well as global warming. putting plants at risk. could become extinct (Soule and Orians 2001). two thirds of the worlds 300. but particularly in the destruction of plant habitat via deforestation and agriculture. If the changes are too rapid. In addition. Also. subsequently. thereby causing mass extinctions of wild plant species. they provide ecosystem services. Data from Antarctica has shown a definite correlation between increased greenhouse gases and global warming (Bunce 1994). Delicate wild species are also affected by air. The climatic change is thought to be far more rapid than that of a natural climate change. some plants may be unable to disperse naturally to new habitats and. 000 plant species will disappear by the end of the next century (Belsie 1999). There are countless medicinal wild plants that have become well known and as a result over harvested to extinction. It is estimated that if the present extinction trends continue. The increasing rates of fossil fuel emissions and other gases has been found to be a potential cause of global warming (Bunce 1994). As the Earth’s human population increases. so does our use of fossil fuels. wild plants have important medicinal and agricultural uses. Effects of Human Population Growth Human population growth affects wild plants in many ways. Humans have also introduced several invasive nonnative plants and animals to places that cannot withstand the added competition.producers and they support life on Earth. Approximately 60% of the plant species listed under the 23 .

however. 2000). 3. and subsequently for survival. There are many examples of this. Wild plants are the source of many of our current medicines and unknown medicinal plants could hold cures for currently incurable diseases like cancer. The yew tree.American Endangered Species Act are threatened by invasive species (Soule and Orians 2001). Humans rely on wild plants far more than they often realize.5 billion people rely on plant-based medicine for primary health care and less than 1% of all plant species have been screened for bioactive compounds (Kirby 1999). An invasive introduced species can cause a decline of native species by outcompeting them. Humanly disturbed sites are also usually dominated by introduced species. Importance of Wild Plants Plants and algae are primary producers. Both humans and wildlife are directly dependent on wild plants both for food and shelter. These forest have higher plant species richness that that of a replanted forest. and are important for species diversity and prevention of extinctions. Old stands are also very important for the carbon cycle as they allow more carbon to enter a permanent carbon pool (Schulze et al. or alternating the habitat (Soule and Orians 2001). spreading disease. for example was once exploited for 24 . Medicinal wild plants are invaluable to humans. supporting life on Earth. decreasing potential habitat of wild plants. Today. they are often overharvested once they become well known for their healing properties. An old growth forest is in the oldest stage of forest succession and has not been significantly modified by human activities (Quinby 1998). Maintenance of old growth forest is crucial for wild plants. Taxus brevifolia.

1995). Agriculture is highly dependent on the diverse array of genes contained in wild plants. Each patient's treatment required two or three of the slow-growing trees. Many people fail to realize the importance of wild plants in supporting the world’s food supply.S. 30% of Canadian native plant material is related to crop species at a genetic level. Now U. If wild relatives of crop species become extinct. taxol could be made only from bark stripped off a Pacific yew. 1995). Plant conservationists are joining forces with bird enthusiasts who are far more numerous and better funded (Vines 1996). By the 1970’s that figure fell to about 1 000 (Kirby 1999). killing the tree. Medicinal wild plants like these must be protected before they become rare like the yew tree. T. For example. These campaigners are making a strong case for safeguarding areas that are of special interest for both birds and plants. yews grow unmolested. this leaves farmers at a serious disadvantage because genes cannot be created once they have been lost. yet people are far more inclined to save a “cute and cuddly” animal over a plant. According to Catling and Porebski (1998). But scientists have recently found a way to make taxol from the needles and twigs of a European yew. fifty years ago Chinese farmers used an estimated 10 000 varieties of wheat. Conservation Tactics Why do wild plants get so little attention in comparison to wildlife? Plants are fundamental to nature’s functioning. and humans still benefit (Watson.cancer fighting properties(Watson. 25 . Several years ago. Agricultural technology is able to use beneficial genes of wild plants to make crop plants more resistant to disease and varying environmental conditions. One approach to preserving wild plants in Europe is a joint effort. T.

then cloned (Belsie 1999). All over the world efforts are being made to stockpile plant diversity. This approach is highly anthropocentric but could be easier to implement as money is often the determining factor in the acceptance of a conservation proposal. Seed banks are also important because plants conserved in seed banks are immune to habitat destruction. Another approach to conservation of wild plants in Canada is creating a list of prioritized rare species that are economically valuable (Catling and Porebski 1998). This plant was thought to have become extinct. it will still face extinction as it cannot mate sexually and lacks the genetic 26 . This list would range from plants with little agricultural importance to those with high potential and some with substantial current economic value. There are currently over 700 botanical gardens that maintain seed collections of wild. Seed banks are a great idea but cautions should be taken when educating the public on this matter. ornamental. disease and predation. Seed banks are increasingly becoming popular as a tool for conserving wild plant species. to close relatives of major crops. It cannot be assumed that plant species put aside in seed banks are safe for all time. medicinal and crop-related species (Schoen & Brown 2001). Seed banks provide immediate access to plant samples. Useful plant properties range from firewood and harvestable berries and plants with medicinal properties. Action must still be taken to conserve wild plant species in their natural environment. One example where a seed bank could have proved useful is in the attempt to save the wild coffee plant of Mauritus. protected. allowing researchers to evaluate them for new sources of medicine. nutrition and genes (Schoen and Brown 2001). but a single plant was found. Although a single plant exists.

Even if the more modest of the projections for human population growth are correct. 2001). humans may currently be the world’s most dominant evolutionary force (Palumbi 2001). including: (1) sound scientific information on which to base decisions and policies. (5) promoting sustainable use and training programs for botanists. In an effort to slow extinction rates of plants around the world. (2) an immediate focus on hot spots. High priority should be placed on education of the general public about the importance of wild plant preservation and its role in supporting this beautiful planet. it seems likely that many dozens of threatened or endangered species will. in fact. BIODIVERSITY AND THE EARTH’S SPECIES Changes taking place at a global scale have direct and indirect effects on the health of wildlife species (Deem et al.variation to defend itself against various selection pressures. especially those under pressure from human influences. Had a seed bank contained seeds of this plant there might have been hope of a rehabilitation program. a team of plant experts working with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They have drawn up a list of the conditions to be met to ensure the survival of threatened and important plants. also known as the World Conservation Union are trying to launch an international program to conserve the world's plants and trees (Kirby 1999). (4) reducing the effects of invasive plants (and other species). become extinct before the middle of the 27 . Conclusion Plants support life on Earth. (3) rigorous criteria to identify sites of high plant diversity. In fact.

1999). I will discuss the repercussions of pollution. overconsumption. And. Biodiversity is the summation of all living plants. because genetic diversity is the raw material of evolutionary change. Humans affect biodiversity at the genetic. I will explore the consequences of habitat loss. and underconservation (Oskamp 2000). I will review the effects of exploitation. total loss of species would be expected within the next 200 years (Maurer 1996). This impact on genetic diversity is critical. Furthermore. pollution. In the rapidly changing environments that we are creating. 2000). Forth. without genetic diversity. 2000). including adaptation and speciation (Chapin et al. alteration and fragmentation. In this paper I will discuss five topics. Third. community and ecosystem level (Chapin et al. Alteration. and Fragmentation 28 . country. and species introduction. Second.next century (Feldhamer et al. or the entire Earth (Feldhamer et al. I will introduce you to the emergence and transmission of disease as a result of habitat changes. The human population must cease to grow at its present rate if we are to conserve biological diversity and a working global ecosystem (Maurer 1996) for future generations of both humans and other organisms. There are three main sources of the Earth’s environmental problems: human overpopulation. First. exploitation. 1999). finally. species. both organic and inorganic. at the current rate of human population growth. Fifth I will examine the outcomes of species introductions. species have no chance to change with their environments. I will suggest some solutions to this vast array of tribulations. Habitat Loss. animals and other organisms that characterize a particular region.

Loss of habitat not only minimizes the area available for the resident organism. (Templeton et al. In many regions. Land use has been ranked as the most intensive driver of terrestrial environmental change in the coming century (Sala et al. or some cumulative effect of species richness (Chapin et al. Habitat fragmentation is 29 . and the effects will fundamentally alter the future of evolution of the planet’s biota (Novacek & Cleland 2001). which reduces genetic variation in local populations and prevents the spread of adaptive complexes outside their population of origin. but it creates edges (and subsequent edge effects) not suitable for many organisms to live in. In addition. Many species have been eliminated from areas dominated by human influences (Chapin et al 2000). thereby disrupting adaptive processes both locally and globally within a species. 2000 as cited in Novacek & Cleland 2001). altered land creates new niches and welcomes the invasion of new species and new forces. 2001). 2000). where they become increasingly vulnerable to collapse if exposed to further human impact (Channell & Lomolino 2000 as cited in Chapin et al. Human activities often augment drift and diminish gene flow for many species. 2000). 1999). Deforestation results in displacement and/or death of individuals previously occupying these areas. Biodiversity in a given area can influence the ability of exotic species to invade communities through either the influence of traits of resident species. and may change biogeochemical processes at the perimeter. A number of mammals and many other species are endangered or threatened as a result of deforestation (Feldhamer et al. The current massive degradation of habitat and extinction of species is taking place on a catastrophically short timescale. land conversion forces declining populations toward the edges of their species range.

2001). In addition. Woodroffe & Ginsberg 1998 as cited in Revilla et al 2001). it is important to remember that forests are not the only habitat altered by humans. carnivores (and other large animals) are especially sensitive to edge effects and related human induced mortality (Schonewald-Cox et al. swamps. 1996. Because of their large spatial requirements and low densities. 2001). 1991. have all been usurped by humans for their own use. 2001). prairies. rather. 2001). Unfortunately. Most other habitat types. Speciation is unlikely in these fragmented isolates. extinction may be the fate of many wildlife species located within newly created “artificial islands” (Deem et al. with negative consequences for certain mammal species (Feldhamer et al.one of those activities. Edge effects are a result of fragmentation. including grasslands. functioning to isolate populations of species geographically and to confine them to smaller areas (Deem et al. Roads pose a particularly challenging problem to those interested in forest conservation in developing nations. The processes of deforestation and urbanization are often accompanied by the creation of a large number of roads. marshes. 2001). and adult mortality rate is a key factor in the viability of small populations of carnivores that are either fragmented or at low densities (Gaona et al. 1997 as cited in Revilla et al. and other wetlands. Under extreme fragmentation. because the development of roads and road networks is strongly correlated with economic growth and national wealth and linked to the scale of ecological disturbance and natural resource degradation (Wilkie 30 . Clark et al. 1999) and a great deal of other species as well. adaptive potential is lost as the genetic diversity within local populations is eroded (Templeton et al. Fragmentation of ecosystems can result in human-made “island ecosystems” that have been compared to geographical islands. an extinction rachet is created (Templeton et al.

biomass declines (Laurance et al. roadways are possible barriers to movement by small mammals (Oxely et al. 1999) and a number of other organisms. 2001). 1997 as cited in Wilke et al. This increased proximity may result in increased transmission of diseases between these groups (Deem et al. 2001). 1974: Swihart & Slade 1984 as cited in Feldhamer et al. 2000). 2001). and consequently increases the export of bushmeat from these forests (Wilke et al. in large measure because of human 31 . community structure changes (Malcolm & Ray 2000 as cited in Wilke et al.et al. 2001). 2001). 1992 as cited in Wilke et al. The high level of fragmentation created by roads increases the opportunity for contact among humans. and wildlife (Deem et al. In addition to the problems previously stated. edge habitats predominate. human harvest of animals continues to have a pronounced effect on the functioning of ecosystems (Chapin et al. 2001). 2001). Roads not only increase access to previously isolated natural resources (Wilke et al. Where roads are constructed. Roads are barriers to genetic exchange among populations. 2001). and the rate of species loss skyrockets (Kreuss & Tscharntke 1994 as cited in Wilke et al. and as a result. pest invasion increases. domestic animals. 2000). Exploitation Today. disconnected patches (Forman & Alexander 1998 as cited in Wilke et al. In addition. more than half of terrestrial non-rodent mammals are endangered. they also fragment landscapes into small. the presence of roads provides bushmeat hunters with easier access to once isolated forests. Road building is necessary to sustain many economies because it gains them access to the resources around them. Of endangered mammals.

mammals are killed by trapping. poisoning or hunting because they are agricultural pests. As animal harvesting methods advance. prey populations sometimes explode and deplete their food sources. 2001). more subtle. Some stocks of wild ungulates. in that the healthiest and potentially most disease resistant individuals often are removed from populations already under pressure (Deem et al. animals stand little chance of survival. overharvesting can lead to transformation of the habitat (Deem et al. Removing individuals from populations and transporting their live or dead bodies. What was once natural selection is now leaning in the direction of artificial human selection.hunting pressure (Feldhamer et al. process involves human domestication of wild animals. 2001). including all the pathogens and parasites they carry. In addition. 2000). became extinct. with a variety of events following. 1999). top-level consumers are virtually eradicated (Jackson 1998 as cited in Novacek & Cleland 2001). to new areas has enormous potential for affecting the health of wild and domestic animal populations (Davidson et al. As a result. A final. lopping off each summit of the food pyramid as populations of larger. 2001). When top predators are removed. probably the progenitors of stocks of domestic animals. Marine fisheries respond to human food demand with catches often compromising large species. leading to a cascade of ecological effects (Chapin et al. In the case of trophy hunting. specifically 32 . In some locations. 1992 as cited in Deem et al. many animal. Another important factor of exploitation is disease transportation. competing with humans for their crops and their livestock (Burton & Pearson 1987 as cited in Feldhamer et al. 1999). there is also an effect on the health of the source population. 1999). or nearly extinct because they were interbred with domestic forms over many generations (Feldhamer et al.

Global climate changes can have a cascading effect in the world’s large water bodies. Krill account for about 250 million tons of food for whales. Different types of pollution are currently present everywhere in the world. introduction of toxic wastes. and other purposes would greatly reduce possible instances of animal extinction and help facilitate their rehabilitation. Pollution Pollution comes in many forms. can influence the epidemiology of various infectious diseases (Harvell et al.mammal. There is a large body of evidence that suggests global climate changes and alterations of the biogeochemical cycles may cause widespread transformations of ecosystems (Novacek & Cleland 2001). noise or heat. Animal use and consumption is a common practice in human society. Pollution can be inorganic substances. light. In addition. 1999). 1999). excess or incorrect proportion or distribution of organic substances. such as warming trends and changes in rainfall patterns. oil spills. and synthetic chemicals. Habitat degradation can be a result of acid rain. air and water pollution of numerous sorts are also linked to various noninfectious diseases 33 . fish. Transformations of ecosystems can have substantial effects on the organisms that occupy them. global climate changes. pets. and such organisms constitute one of the ocean’s main staples (Feldhamer et al. and so on (Feldhamer et al 1999). populations have declined because they make good pets (Feldhamer et al. seals. 1999 as cited in Deem et al. and other species annually (Myers 1997 as cited in Feldhamer et al. 1999). Changes in ocean currents could reduce the number of krill and other organisms in the sea. A reduction in wild animal exploitation for use as food. In addition. 2001).

and in somewhat larger amounts by industries. Air and water currents circulate and interact across the globe. Carnivores and other organisms higher on the food chain are more likely to suffer from inorganic pollution. and others that are now just being discovered (Feldhamer et al. The list of pollutants that affect organisms and the environment is almost endless. Introduction of pollutants at one location can yield substantial effects elsewhere. possibly on a global scale. We all do a small part to contribute to this very large problem. 2001). abnormal development. An additional type of inorganic pollutants are chemicals called endocrine disrupters. There are also many other forms of inorganic pollution. 1999). oil is continually being released in small amounts by human communities. Oil spills are detrimental to a plethora of organisms occupying the oceans. because such dangerous chemicals are concentrated as they move through the food chain from producers to top-level consumers (Feldhamer et al. The effects include infertility.(Deem et al. This gradual release of oil also disturbs organisms. Disease The amplified role of diseases as a factor limiting species’ survival can be traced to anthropogenic changes on a global scale that have direct and indirect influences on the 34 . Oil spills are massive events with extensive consequences. 1999). 1999). Another more direct and obvious type of inorganic pollution is oil spills. In addition. their habitats and their resources. Endocrine disrupters are chemicals that mimic hormones or otherwise interfere with normal functioning of the endocrine system within an organism (Feldhamer et al. Nearly everything humans do produces pollutants that affect one or many individuals.

and an increased proximity of humans and their domestic animals to wildlife (Deem et al.health of wildlife species (Deem et al. disease vectors introduced to new geographic locations (Curasson 1943 as cited in Deem et al. 2000. the isolation of populations of species. 2001). The problems that introduce disease typically fall into three categories: disease brought by a subclinical host to a new region (Office International des Epizooties 1987 as cited in Deem et al. Cattle carry diseases such as rinderpest that can be transmitted to some of the wild ungulates. 2001). the ultimate disruption in evolutionary potential (Novacek & Cleland 2001). as cited in Deem et al. 2001). Species Introductions Human mediated introduction of species into new habitats and areas has and will continue to be one of the major drivers of biotic change (Sala et al. Mooney & Cleland 2001 as cited in Novacek & Cleland 2001). 2001). 2001). populations that are under stress (most likely due directly or indirectly to humans) are more susceptible to disease outbreaks that would otherwise run their course without risking extinction of an entire species (Deem et al. In addition. and diseases encountered by translocated animals (naïve to such diseases) after being moved to a new region (Pandey et al. These changes include human population growth. The mobility of people has transported organisms across geographical barriers that long kept biotic regions of the Earth separated. so that many of the ecologically important plant and animal species of 35 . Furthermore. 2001). habitat fragmentation and degradation. greater epidemiological impact of pathogens can make it more likely that small local populations (many currently exist) will go extinct. often decimating local or regional populations (Feldhamer et al. 1999).

species introductions by humans have induced evolution in the species around them (Palumbi 2001) and in some cases they have caused endangerment. 2001). Species that may have been abundant at one time can decline rapidly under sudden unnaturally induced pressures. often to the detriment of the native species. the translocation of new species to a given area can introduce novel pathogens to susceptible hosts. In some cases. Not all changes result in benefits for resident native species. Introduction of species can lead to a cascade of events degrading the surrounding organisms and habitat. 2000). Once organisms are moved from their original environment and introduced to different environments. 2000). The introduction of top predators and competitors can severely harm endemic mammal species (Feldhamer et al.many areas have been introduced in historic time (Foley et al. and it may not accommodate the original organisms from the area. Not all species have the ability to shift their life history strategies and genetic composition at a rate that compensates for the interference created by species introductions. outcompeting and preying on the organisms around them. eradication. Native species are often outcompeted or consumed by organisms introduced from elsewhere (Chapin et al. and extinction. and can be responsible for changes in disease ecology (Wilson 2000 as cited in Deem et al. These changes allow organisms to exploit their new environments to the fullest. A new stable equilibrium may take decades to establish. Species transported by humans have been known to change rapidly to match local selection pressures in their new environments (Thompson 1998 as cited in Palumbi 2001). Furthermore. shifts in ecosystem equilibriums must take place to accommodate these changes. 1994 as cited in Chapin et al. 36 . 1999) and other species at risk.

(2) when habitat modifications result in the possibility of two previously separated species meeting and interbreeding. For those who are not informed about the current problems. 1999). All of the environmental problems with which humans are currently faced have been caused by human behavior. or (3) our own conservation attempts and the introgression of gene pools that can result from such activities (outbreeding depression for example) (Feldhamer et al. the repercussions are extensive. and can all be reversed by human behavior 37 . either accidentally or deliberately. Intervention on the part of the source of these current traumas. namely humans. Whether human introductions are intentional or not. and underconservation. When introductions occur. insertion of exogenous genes into domestic plants and animals (Palumbi 2001). 1999). humans are changing gene complexes at a whole new level. a key step to rehabilitation is education and awareness. overconsumption. This problem can arise in three ways: (1) through the introduction of exotic species. hybridizations may result that can lead to extinction of the species involved (Avise & Hamrick 1996. It is important to educate people about the risks of current human behaviors such as rampant population growth. is required for any possibility of recovery or even maintenance of the biota (Novacek & Cleland 2001). Besides the possible conflicts created by breeding programs and conservation efforts. Rhymer & Simberloff 1996 as cited in Feldhamer et al. A new human mediated mechanism for generating evolutionary novelty has emerged. Solutions It is obvious to most of the human population that something needs to be done in order to slow down the degradation of the Earth and its species.

These evolutionary changes include extinction and the imposed necessity for unprecedented rates of adaptation. In the long run. we must identify the threats to the biota and the entities most vulnerable to these threats. nonetheless. Third. Population growth in itself is not the only problem. the multifaceted roles of our own species (Maurer 1996). The way humans view the world has a large impact on how we treat it. major loss of biodiversity is a virtual certainty (Maurer 1996). that the accumulation of scientific information itself is not the solution to our ecological problems (Maurer 1996). particularly when the rate of population growth reaches zero (Maurer 1996). It is well recognized. Although in many individuals the traditional view of dominance over nature has vanished to a large 38 . we must apply feasible recovery strategies to aspects of the biota that are not filtered out during the transformation. Novacek and Cleland (2001) suggest three steps to recovery. Second. population behavior is key. Because our impact on the biosphere is not likely to decline. Unless human consumption changes drastically during the next century.(Oskamp 2000). As we strive to improve our knowledge of biodiversity and ecological relationships we must also deal with perhaps the most subtle and complex community relationships within those ecosystems. we must use our knowledge about the process of evolution to mitigate the evolutionary changes we impose on the species around us (Palumbi 2001). our society will have to get by with far less resources per person and will also have to reduce the number of people (Oskamp 2000). we must consider the scientific principles or strategies that inform prescriptions to alleviate the threats. Attempts to control population growth will reap large rewards in preserving biodiversity. First.

2001). and macroevolutionary change (Templeton et al. Many Native American groups look at nature from a different perspective. overconsumption. On their own. An integral step to rectifying the current ecological dilemma is to alter this view.e. increased pollution (in a number of forms). Current trends in human activity are detrimental to the biodiversity and maintenance of the world’s biota. pieces of it remain ingrained in our social and cultural structure. Adoption of beliefs such as these would put us one step closer to solving the problem.. and underconservation. the future evolution of the planet’s biota depends significantly on what we do now to minimize loss of species.extent. no greater than any other part (Pierotti and Wildcat 1997b as cited in Pierotti & Wildcat 2000). Once these changes have occurred. we will consume so much energy that there will be none left for other species (Maurer 1996). and habitats 39 . The main factors causing current environmental trauma are human population growth. 2000). populations. If human population growth continues at its current rate. Clearly. animal exploitation. Each of these factors combined leads to habitat alteration. Traditional knowledge is based on the premise that humans should not view themselves as responsible for nature. and it often results in their destruction. we are not stewards of the natural world. speciation. organisms stand almost no chance of survival. The general impact of human activities on genetic diversity disrupts or diminishes the capacity for adaptation. and introduction of alien species and genes to resident populations. but instead we are part of that world. Conclusion Humans do many things that interfere with the natural function of the Earth’s species. they are not amenable to mitigation (Chapin et al. i.

on the pretext that each person would have optimal space for himself if his nearest neighbor were to be just beyond his sight.(Novacek & Cleland 2001). In addition. Some are as ridiculous as genetically decreasing average human height to 0. but there are some emerging solutions. The repercussions are massive. To achieve this. Although at first thought this 40 . The other option to resolve the overpopulation problem would be to have only 2. Human alteration of the global environment has triggered the sixth major extinction event in the history of life and caused widespread changes in the global distribution of organisms (Chapin et al. 1997). This idea was presented by Viau and Wistey in 1997. (2000) said it best: “We are in the midst of one of the largest experiments in the history of the Earth. 2000).64mm. 2000). I think Chapin et al. To reduce our current population to this level we would have to have one child per couple for over twelve generations (Viau and Wistey. 2000).” SOLUTIONS TO POPULATION GROWTH Exponential human population growth appears to be an enormous problem. changes in biodiversity that alter ecosystem function have economic impacts through the provision of ecosystems in goods and services to society (Chapin et al. 1997). one would have to be of the forementioned height so that one could not see beyond the curvature of the earth. aesthetic and spiritual values that are important to society (Chapin et al. which at this point is equally as difficult (Viau and Wistey. Biodiversity and its links to ecosystems have cultural. The current biodiversity crisis has one obvious biotic cause: ourselves (Novacek & Cleland 2001). intellectual.32 million people on the earth.

179 nations endorsed a new “Programme of Action” that called on governments to provide universal access to reproductive health care by 2015 as a global human rights imperative. In developing countries where there is a lack of education for women and provision of contraception. In such developing countries. population growth rates have leveled off. even to the point where the freedom to choose abortion is taken away and such procedures are forced (Bryant. the birth rates are much higher. China for example has had a ‘one child per family policy’ since 1979. “At the U. the population did not decrease to the level desired. as well as access to family planning facilities. This paper did 41 . For example. Education and provision of birth control are becoming increasingly important. In light of these suggestions. proper child care and promotion of women’s worth and dignity (Bryant. this program wants to increase women’s health. education and employment. To enforce this means restricting individuals’ freedom. 1999). Conference on Population in Cairo in 1994. Another part of this program would ensure that men fulfill their responsibilities to ensure healthy pregnancies.N. 96% of global population growth occurs (Environmental News Net. It has been proven that with education and empowerment of women. it truly is impossible to enforce. This program hopes to have greater success than those whose focus is merely on birth control by identifying and working on the contributing social problems that lead to over population. 1999). More realistic suggestions have been made but they work at a much slower rate.suggestion does not seem so unreasonable. Even in a country where enforcement of such a law did occur. it becomes easier to understand the difficulty in regulating human populations.”(Bryant. 1999). 1999).

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