By: Cassi Kirkland
When we think of invasive species in conservation biology, we often think of animals and plants that take over an ecosystem. Asian Carp are a major invasive species in the Great Lakes, where they outcompete many other fish and grow to large sizes. The same competition occurs in the plant world, where dandelions outcompete other grasses and take over entire fields. If we define an invasive species as one that is introduced to an area and outcompetes other life, does that make humans an invasive species too?
As we develop technology and resources, our human population grows exponentially. Using 2010 Census data and recent national population estimates, the global human population is over 7 billion people. The land and consumption habits required to sustain such enormous populations of people are causing extinction rates approaching a mass extinction event. Scientists predict that over half of the world’s terrestrial plants and animals are in danger of becoming extinct by the end of this century. At this point, 50% of the entire Earth’s land surface area has been converted to human use, and we consume over half the world’s freshwater.
And this isn’t the first time humans have caused the extinction of a large number of species. Data strongly correlates with the theory that humans caused the extinction of over 33 species of large mammals after they entered North America, and similar extinction patterns occurred all over the world.
Is there a way to lessen our negative impact on the world? Can we coexist with the diverse life on Earth, or will we continue to drastically change every ecosystem we inhabit? The way we, and future generations, answer these questions will determine the fate the amazing animal and plant life threatened by our destructive habits.
(Picture from: http://thecomicnews.com)
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