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Trump’s Mexican border wall could have a detrimental effect on wildlife

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It is feared that Donald Trump’s wall along the United States-Mexico border will have a devastating effect on the wildlife currently residing in the area.

 Donald Trump

Image Credit: Gage Skidmore on Flickr

In the two and a half years Trump has been in power, his social and political policies have already had detrimental effects. Less talked about, but as important, are the environmental impacts the President - who doesn't believe in climate change - is having on the world. 

The US President has called for a 1000-mile wall along the 1954-mile border between the USA and Mexico, which would cut across environments and ecosystems home to a significant amount of wildlife. This is on top of reinforcing the 654 miles of barriers that already exist.

Despite the high environmental (and financial) costs, construction is still planned to go ahead.

To construct the wall, Customs and Border Protection are allowed to waive environmental protection laws and regulations, such as the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act, due to the REAL ID Act. This Act was passed by Congress in 2005 and permits Homeland Security to waive any laws in the name of national security.

The construction of the wall, as proposed, would “threaten some of the continent’s most biologically diverse regions”, according to an article featured in journal, Bioscience.

These regions feature luscious grasslands, marshes and deserts – home to over “1,500 species of flora and fauna”, of which, 62 are listed as either endangered or vulnerable.

What are the likely effects of the extended border wall?

First of all, this barrier would hinder the movement of certain species, limiting their ability to roam in search of water, food, mates, or new homes due to the spread of disease or wildfire. Animal populations would become isolated, be subject to a smaller gene pool, and inevitably reduce in size.

According to National Geographic, the Bioscience article outlined that the wall “could disconnect a third of 346 native wildlife species from 50 percent or more of their range that lies south of the border”.

 

Mexican Gray Wolf

Image Credit: Jon W. Iwanski on Flickr

The already-small population of endangered species, such as the Mexican grey wolf, which is “the most endangered subspecies of wolf in the world”, are particularly at risk. Being stranded on either side of the wall, away from other groups of the same species, would be detrimental to their survival.

The Independent recently quoted research scientist Aaron D Flesch, of the University of Arizona, who said, “for a critter that’s nearly extinct in the US, you need to promote connectivity, not curtail it”.

It isn’t only animals on the ground that would be affected; some low-flying birds such as Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, which flies below five feet off the ground, are in danger, as they would be unable to pass over the wall.

Quino Checkerspot Butterfly on a wild hyacinth

Image Credit: Andrew Fisher on Wikipedia

Additionally, some experts worry that low-flying insects such as the Quino Checkerspot Butterfly and local bee species, will be negatively affected. These pollinators are already under a lot of stress from habitat loss, and the construction of the wall would just add to this.

David L Wagner, a professor at the University of Connecticut, believes that the majority of insects are, in fact, able to fly over the wall, but what we need to worry about is light pollution. Lighting used in construction would likely disturb nocturnal critters like moths – as Wagner says, “you’re pulling at the fabric of these ecosystems”.

Both limits on animal migration and any effects on pollinating insects will subsequently affect plants. For example, seeds of mesquite trees, which are endemic to the region in question, “germinate best after they have passed through the digestive systems of javelinas and coyotes”, meaning that any limitation on where these animals can travel will ultimately have a knock-on effect on dispersal of seeds and subsequent tree growth.

Wildlife conservation areas

As it stands, the wall is planned to cut through seven wildlife conservation zones in Texas, such as the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Big Bend National Park. It will also cut through the 100-acre National Butterfly Center, in Mission, Texas, placing over two-thirds of it on Mexico’s side. This will undoubtedly cause disruption for the species protected here.

However, following strong objection from officials, the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, which is 2,100 acres big and is a vital location for migratory birds, will be protected from wall construction.

Trump and the environment

The lack of environmental consideration concerning the wall may not be surprising, as Trump’s antipathy towards climate change is recognised by many, having publicly called “climate change a hoax invented by China” .

A recent U.S. government report also emphasised the government’s view that there is little that can be done to stop rising temperatures, so greenhouse gases may as well continue being released into the atmosphere.

This attitude towards environmental issues by one of the most powerful figures in the world is concerning and could prove detrimental to the future if his mentality does not change.

 

Sign the petition to stop Trump from building the wall.

Lead Image: Don Faulkner on Flickr




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