Effects of Human Activities on the Ecosystem

Effects of Human Activities on the Ecosystem

Effects of Human Activities on the Ecosystem

Introduction

Humans are some of the most ambitious species on the planet. The aggressive nature of humans has resulted in their occupancy of habitats that were naturally considered to belong to other species, in particular, wild animals. The rapid pace of cultural shift from the traditional hunter-gathering lifestyle to more capitalistic and industrialized patterns has impacted the natural ecosystem in varying ways. As humans become more industrialized, they develop manufacturing factories that emit hazardous waste materials into the ecology, thereby posing harm to both land and aquatic species. Furthermore, the continued expansion of human settlements poses a danger to the existence and survival of both plants and animals. Human activities pose threats to ecological systems across different parts of the world.

Impacts of Human Activities on the Ecology

            In the last ten years, ecologists, policymakers, and other researchers have renewed their concerns on the need to understand how human behavior affects the ecological system. Such understanding is an important prerequisite to the developing of necessary interventions to reverse the damages that humans have brought to the environment for more than a century (Maczulak 144).  While the debate on the effects of human activities on the ecosystem is an unending controversy, most researchers agree that the potentially damaging impacts of human activities on the environment have increased phenomenally in the last twenty years. In many ecosystems, hydrological establishments and biospheric procedures, the challenge of demystifying humans from natural influences, have become dauntingly sophisticated and multifaceted. According to Maczulak, people hold divergent views on the degree to which anthropological activities have affected the environmental systems in the past (144). Thus, the controversy of past and present human effects, alongside their interactions with climate variability, form part of an important context through which people explore present ecological trends and changes.

            The adverse effects of human activities are increasingly being felt in different components of the ecology throughout the world. For instance, human behavior has resulted in the extinction and endangering of many species (Maczulak 146). Many types of the earth’s species cannot survive the modern human activities without special protection. Endangered and threatened species have found themselves in susceptible situations since they lack the capability to withstand the impacts of anthropological activities. In addition, such species cannot adapt to the changes in their environments fast enough to sustain their populations. Therefore, human activities affect the existence of wildlife species in varying and often unanticipated ways. Maczulak notes that a significant fraction of humans struggle with low income, low level of education, declining health, and scarcity of natural resources to sustain their families (144). As such, people who live under such deplorable conditions may decide to clear habitats to cultivate their crops or hunt endangered animals due to their ignorance or quest for survival.

            The choices that humans make may be optional and not premised on desperation. From an ethical perspective, the continued demand for aesthetic items such as ornaments may fuel more dangerous forms of the destruction of wildlife. For instance, the continued use of daggers made of rhinoceros horns has driven the rhino population towards extinction. Also, religious activities have impacted the fate of nonhuman species adversely. Some religious groups hold the view that humans are more valuable to the earth than other living things due to their closeness to God. Consequently, their followers might develop the presumption that humans have more rights to the planet than other animals. Conflicts and major wars are waged primarily for religious, political, and economic reasons. As wars continue to be declared over the struggle for natural resources such as water, land, and minerals, the safety of sensitive habitats will not be guaranteed.

            Human activities have conflicted with the interests of animal communities since the onset of humanity. Currently, this conflict is at its peak, especially when it comes to animals that reside in the deserts, forests, wetlands, and oceans. The warfare between modern and traditional social systems has often entailed what can be regarded as an ecological attack. One of the most outright cases of this phenomenon is the ultimate destruction of the great herds of the American bison, which is the foundation of Plains Indian life in the U.S., a problem that coincided with the defeat of the Sioux and Cheyenne in the 1870s (Maczulak 145). The major Plains Indians utilized the American bison to preserves the large number of herds that once covered the western plains. However, the western migration of European settlers resulted in the wiping out of all but a remnant of the American bison population.

            Many areas of living habitations such as the open ocean and air act as free access resources. Therefore, no individual owns them, and they are common properties of all the earth’s species. However, white settlers likely regarded the open plains, bison, and other wildlife as free access resources (Maczulak 146). In modern American society, individuals may be less inclined to safeguard these resources since they are unlikely to be held accountable. The psychological dynamics of free access are founded on the presumption that no one cares if other people dump loads of trash into the ocean because the waste cannot possibly harm anything as gigantic as the ocean. As a result, the natural ecology suffers when millions or thousands of people hold such similar views.

            Endangered aquatic species have been on the rise with the increase in human activities in water bodies. For instance, small cetaceans are considered to be one of the most vulnerable species to extinction. These species are exposed to numerous human threats that have the potential to act in synergistic ways to susceptible populations (Dungan et al. 3). For instance, the baiji species is almost extinct. As global oceanic problems such as overfishing, global warming, and water contamination increase, it is becoming apparent that the effects of human activities on cetacean populations are complex. Moreover, such anthropogenic threats are worsened by the likelihood of cumulative effects on other vulnerable populations. In particular, freshwater-reliant cetaceans are prone to extinction because they tend to occur in isolation from other populations. Their closeness to human societies often implies that they witness more anthropogenic stressors compared to other species. According to Dungan et al., the species comprise approximately 10000 mature individuals and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species categorized them as near-threatened populations due to the habitat degradation and by-catch mortality rates (4). These problems have led to a worrying decline in their abundance over the last six decades.

            Environmental sustainability concerns continue to increase as human activities intensify. Vlek and Steg indicate that as the world witnesses an upsurge in the human population, material consumption intensifies thus leading to the expansion of production technologies (2). Consequently, the quantity and quality of environmental resources keep declining gradually. In 2002, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) expressed concern over the widespread fragmentation of nature and the loss of biodiversity, scarcity of freshwater availability, and over-fishing of oceans and seas (Vlek and Steg 3). Furthermore, the UNEP cautioned humanity on global warming, extreme weather events, and air pollution in urban centers.

The industrialized societies have bleak environmental; their daily survival requirements prevent them from recognizing the long-term environmental values. In a few African nations, poverty levels have increased while life expectancy has declined. As a result, the environment continues to deteriorate. Poverty not only devalues people but also it is detrimental to the local environments. Furthermore, increased bushmeat hunting is likely to exterminate rural wildlife resources from unprotected zones.

The last five decades have seen human activities pose threats to ecological sustainability in varying ways. During this period, human activities have changed the vital global ecosystems rapidly than in any other time in history. For instance, approximately 15 out of 24 ecosystem services evaluated by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment continue to be degraded or utilized in unsustainable ways (Vlek and Steg 6). The problem exposes the ecosystem services to threats of nonlinear changes that generate significant impacts on human well-being. An efficacious group of measures to promote the sustainable management of the ecology needs significant transformations in the institutions. Also, changes should target governance structures, economic policies, and behavioral variables that increase cases of environmental degradation.

Changing human behavioral patterns are likely to have far-reaching consequences in all dimensions of life in the future. There is a widespread focus on the impacts of human activities on biodiversity and specific species (Milner-Gulland 270). For instance, climate change theories often project that major forest resources such as the Amazon rainforest and the Congo forest run the risk of facing significant and rapid die-backs that are below the climate threshold. In addition, there is a threshold PH beyond which marine species can sequester calcium for their exoskeletons from seawater. Also, metapopulation persistence is a threshold procedure that depends on the size, quality, and configuration of habitat patches. These varying processes and occurrences may result in different patterns for the species concerned, with some more linear than others.

Conclusion and Recommendations

            Human activities are increasingly posing threats to the ecosystem. As such, the existence of different forms of life is under threat. Furthermore, human activities have resulted in the pollution of the natural environment, a phenomenon that poses health concerns to both humans and other diverse forms of life (Milner-Gulland 270). Various steps can be taken to deter the continuance of these worrying patterns. For instance, efforts to conserve the ecosystem should utilize predictions in applied sciences to guide decision-making by policy-makers. According to Milner-Gulland, one such approach is the management strategy evaluation that is often applied to offer policymakers insights into the current state of uncertainties and situations in which the possibilities for real-world experimentation can be limited (270). Facts and probabilistic data that are gathered and interpreted using this model can encourage the participation of stakeholders to determine the standards and limits that humans must exercise when utilizing the environment.

            Finally, efforts to protect species should employ a combination of local initiatives by private citizens, commonly referred to as grassroots environmentalism, and far-reaching international legislation. Maczulak argues that global agreements and treaties should provide the best opportunities to influence the loss of biodiversity since they address the whole biomes that cut across the world (147). Furthermore, the type of governments that people select influences the safety of the natural environment. For instance, governments may either support or oppose environmental degradation. A dictatorial leadership may recognize the need to safeguard the environment and give commands and directives to make radical changes (Maczulak 147). Similarly, democratic leadership is open to new ideas on how to safeguard the natural ecosystem from the dangers of human activities. However, the process of giving divergent views might lead to conflicts with people who oppose efforts to protect the natural environment.

Works Cited

Dungan, Sarah Z., et al. “A review of the impacts of anthropogenic activities on the critically

endangered eastern Taiwan Strait Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins(Sousa

chinensis).” Journal of Marine Animals and Their Ecology 4.2 (2011): 3-9.

Maczulak, Anne Elizabeth. Biodiversity: Conserving endangered species. Infobase Publishing,

2010.

Milner-Gulland, E. J. “Interactions between human behavior and ecological

systems.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological

Sciences 367.1586 (2012): 270-278.

Vlek, Charles, and Linda Steg. “Human behavior and environmental sustainability: Problems,

driving forces, and research topics.” Journal of Social Issues 63.1 (2007): 1-19.

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