Impact of Human Population Growth on the Ecosystem

For a long time, human population growth has been a key issue of concern with some countries imposing strict population control measures. A man entirely depends on the ecosystem for his survival; he derives resources from it. However, when the population size is not properly checked, the rate at which resources are exploited may exceed the rate at which they replace, and this may eventually produce unpleasant consequences. This paper analyses the current world human population size and the observed trend of human population growth. It further examines some of the ways in which the human population has impacted the ecosystem. This article also forecasts the potential impacts that the population growth may have on the ecosystem if it is not checked in the future.

The world human population as of 12th December 2010 is approximately 6,887,301,615 persons (United States Census Bureau, 2010). The human population growth rate has been declining. This can be due to several factors some of which include economic reasons, increased awareness and use of family planning methods, warfare, diseases, and famine among other reasons. The tough economic conditions experienced today have forced many couples to opt for smaller families, which they can adequately support. Currently, economic resources are very scarce for instance agriculturally productive lands have been highly fragmented to less productive units due to high population size, job opportunities have also become limited. As a result, many couples prefer smaller families. Much as the growth rate is showing a decline, the population size, however, will still be on the rise with an estimated 77 million people every year.

The increase in the world’s human population has profoundly led to environmental degradation in the ecosystem. Environmental degradation level has undoubtedly heightened in the recent past due to population rise. The amount of pollutants released into the environment is directly proportional to the size of the population in the ecosystem (Hassan et. al, 2005, p. 422). The increased levels of pollution have lead to the loss of biodiversity since the increased toxic levels have led to the elimination of less tolerable species. Similarly, it has seriously affected the quality of life of the surviving species.

Rapid human population growth in the recent past has also contributed to global warming; a gradual increase in surface temperatures of the earth, vegetation plays a vital role in regulating the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. With the growing population, much land under vegetation has been cleared for settlement and agriculture resulting in high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This has led to global warming since carbon dioxide absorbs and retains solar radiation close to the earth’s surface.

When population growth is not properly checked, even more, adverse effects will befall man in the future. One possible future impact will be an increase in mortality rates brought about by an increase in disease incidence and epidemics. With the earth’s surface temperatures increasing due to global warming, conditions will become favorable for disease-causing vectors which were originally restricted to marginal areas (Srivastava, 2007 p.13). Disease vectors are most common in the tropics, but with global warming, even temperate and Polar Regions will become suitable for them. Other than the increase in mortality rates, there will also be a decrease in agricultural production due to an increase in cases of pests and diseases.

Amongst other effects, there will be a lot of ecological imbalances in the ecosystem due to the loss of biodiversity. Overexploitation of resources in the environment will lead to the mass extinction of plant and animal species. This will significantly affect the quality of life of the existing species. All organisms interrelate in an ecosystem, and when some species become extinct, the lives of the remaining organisms will also be affected. Though the loss of biodiversity can be seen currently, with increased environmental degradation it will be more pronounced.

The quality of life of organisms in any ecosystem is directly dependent on the quality of that ecosystem. It is imperative that the populations be regulated and maintained at levels that are not detrimental to the ecosystem. Some of the emerging issues in the contemporary world are pollution and global warming. From the above discussion, it is evident that these problems can be solved by regulating population sizes.

References

Hassan, R. M., Scholes, R., & Neville, A. (2005). Ecosystems and human well-being: current state and trends: Findings of the Condition and Trends Working Group of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Washington D.C.:Island Press.

Srivastava. (2007). Global Warming. New Delhi: APH Publishing.

United States Census Bureau. (2010). U.S & World population clocks. Web.