The United Kingdom (UK) has always been one of the countries at the forefront of industrialisation and development. It is one of the nations with the best economy in the world. However, industrialisation comes at a cost. Several animals which are native to the UK have now become endangered and the biggest reason is development. This is because with development comes two major threats to wildlife population: pollution and overexploitation and depletion of natural resources.
One clear effect of industrialisation is pollution. Factories, cars, machines and other products of industrialisation contribute to the pollution of the air, land and water.
In the 1960s to the 1980s, the otter almost became extinct when waterways became polluted in Wales. The primary culprits were the insecticides dieldrin and aldrin, which contained organochlorine chemicals (OCs). These potent insecticides where heavily used by farmers since the 1950s. Unfortunately, the OCs in these pest controllers entered Welsh rivers, making them uninhabitable. This resulted in a loss of habitat for otters and eventually, led to a decline in their population.
The decreasing number of otters in the UK prompted the creation of legislations to protect them. Stringent rules and regulations were implemented to control the sources of pollution, including banning these toxic chemicals. Stiff fines and penalties were imposed on those who violated them. Fortunately, these efforts have been successful with more recent reports indicating that otters have returned in the UK. Nowadays, you can see otters at Gilfach Farms In Wales, Portrack Marsh and Cricklepit Mill, among others.
Overexploitation And Depletion Of Natural Resources
With progress also comes overexploitation of natural resources. While some people are working towards conserving natural resources, others are more concerned about making sure that they turn in a profit, even at the expense of overharvesting natural resources. The population of several types of fish in Britain are currently decreasing at a critical rate due to overfishing. Additionally, some are caught before reaching the reproductive age. This act prevents these sea animals from replenishing their population.
Because of the overall lack of care for natural resources, massive loss and degradation of animal habitats happen. This is the primary threat to the wildlife population. Studies show that habitat loss and degradation has already resulted in more than 80% of threatened mammals, birds and amphibians.
How exactly has industrialisation caused habitat loss and degradation? In the UK, areas serving as homes to different animal species have been converted to agricultural land. This is primarily due to the increasing population in the country. Several hectares of land were converted to agricultural lands to ensure that the supply of food is sufficient for everyone in the UK.
Another cause of habitat loss is commercial forestry. Changes were implemented years ago in commercial forestry to plant some non-native trees with high timber yields. However, these trees are not sufficient habitats for animals. As a result, tree living animals like birds are driven out of their homes and forced to look for other habitats.
So far, the biggest culprit for habitat loss and degradation are the national development initiatives. Logging, quarrying and mining destroys thousands of natural animal habitats even in just a short period of time. Furthermore, the building of roads, bridges and houses is also exacerbating the problem. Every year, several hectares of land are paved or converted for government infrastructure projects.
Climate Change and Global Warming
Another underestimated threat to wildlife population is climate change. The effects of climate change to humans is well-known but not how its hurting other species living on the planet.
Climate change is partly because of the increase in carbon dioxide emissions brought about by human activities. It is believed that climate has changed several times in Earth’s history. However, currently, studies show that human activities are making these changes happen at a significantly faster rate as compared to how it was before.
Experts say that the effect of climate change on biodiversity is becoming more noticeable. The forecast is that an estimated 1 million species are expected to become endangered or extinct in the next 50 years.
Several marine animals are now affected because of the changing acidity of the ocean which is also brought about by excess carbon dioxide and global warming. Even the famed Great Barrier Reef in Australia has been majorly affected. It is predicted that it would lose 95% of its corals by 2050. The acidification of the ocean is also expected to affect native UK marine animals. This may result in animal migration or, worse, endangerment or extinction.
It is undeniable that if nothing is done about global warming and climate change, more animals are going to lose their homes. Moreover, as these phenomena bring about changes in the length and timing of the seasons, animal breeding and migration seasons are also going to be affected. It’s is also going impact the availability of food. These things are inevitable; seabirds like the Kittiwakes and Artic Terns have been affected. In 2008, these Kittiwakes and Arctic Terns experienced a very bad breeding season. If such condition regularly happens, these bird species are at risk of becoming endangered.
Overall, it seems that, apart from the effects of development, lack of awareness is also a major reason why more animals are now becoming endangered. Many people fail to value our natural resources and our animals. Many do not fully grasp that a shift in ecological balance has serious repercussions for people and species on the planet. Hence, it is important that more people learn about how to take care of the environment as every action taken whether positive or negative results in effects or ripples that could last several years. Every small good deed that we do every day can result in the saving of thousands of species of animals in the future.
Image Attribution: Photograph by Bernard Landgraf (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Image Resource: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFischotter%2C_Lutra_Lutra.JPG
Image Attribution: Photograph by David Wright [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Image Resource: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHarvesting_Potatoes_near_Barton_Hill_Farm_-_geograph.org.uk_-_2122214.jpg
Image Attribution: Photograph by Yathin S Krishnappa (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Image Resource: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ARissa_tridactyla_(Vard%C3%B8%2C_2012).jpg