A Solution to Overexploitation

  • Editorials
  • High School
Karen W. ('23)

A major challenge in environmental policy-making is coming up with efficient solutions that can be carried out for the long-term in the environment. Therefore, it is crucial to depend critically on the discount factors of one’s solution as it determines the relative values given to future environmental solutions compared to present ones. 

The exploitation of ecosystems by humans has long-lasting consequences for the future provision of natural resources and ecosystem services. From resource depletion to habitat loss, overexploitation in forests is a major threat to biodiversity due to the detrimental impacts it can have on our environment.

A major effect exploitation has on forests is resource depletion. For one, it can lead to species facing a higher risk of extinction. Currently, about a third of the world's endangered vertebrates are threatened by overexploitation. 

Furthermore, overexploitation of a single species can change the composition of other species within a specific habitat. If one particular species is overexploited, this can cause a shift in species dominance and a decrease in the surviving ability of remaining species. David Michaels, the director of communications at EAZA, quotes: “Once you start removing large predators from the food chain, then you start destabilizing the ecosystem, which could cause a massive ecosystem collapse all of its own.” 

Overexploitation of natural resources such as trees can lead to habitat loss. Organisms that previously lived around those natural resources are displaced, resulting in biodiversity loss.  Keith Manger, the manager of the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership states, “The bottom line is that pretty much all life on Earth, with the exception of the deep sea and hydrothermal vents, depends on plants.” 

So how can we combat the devastating effects of overexploitation? Here are 2 solutions supported by scientific research that can potentially limit overexploitation and ensure a healthy ecosystem.

Smart collars are one of many technological sources aimed at protecting the lives of animals and reducing the number of endangered species. With smart collars, humans can track the movement of animals. The smart collar includes a GPS, magnetometer, and accelerometer. With these three scientific measurement platforms incorporated into the smart collar, we can better understand animals by examining several traits such as their movement and where their habitats are located. Firstly, with a GPS incorporated into the smart collar, we can understand where the habitat of endangered species are located by looking at how long they stay in the same area. This can help decrease the rate of overharvesting in areas where endangered animals are located and decrease habitat loss, which is one of many threats to biodiversity. 

Secondly, an accelerator records a collar’s full range of motion including up and down and back and forth. This data allows us to analyze several features, including how fast animals move, how long their energy can last, how high they can jump, how it kills its prey, and more. This information is crucial as it gives us an accurate database of how animals spend their time during a specific time period. The database can also provide us with the measurements needed to evaluate what habitat might be suitable for an animal with respect to the amount of energy it needs and its rates of survival. This will help to maintain the food chain. By attaining this data, hunters can be informed of the limits when hunting and avoid overharvesting. Hunters can become more mindful of overexploitation, which could potentially decrease the amount of overexploitation as a whole. Terrie Williams asserts that “You can't help wanting to preserve them when you know the intimate details of their lives.” 

Utilizing smart collars can allow us to trace the acts of specific species to help keep them safe from overexploitation and maintain biodiversity with a stable food chain. However, there can be limitations in this solution. One limitation is that there are many difficulties in inserting smart collars to every single endangered species. According to IUCN, as of now there are over 160,000 endangered species worldwide. Evaluating the cost of a single collar (each one including a GPS, magnetometer, and accelerometer) and inserting them into over 160,000 endangered species is not something that can be easily achieved. Thus a possible way to a possible solution for this limitation may be to eliminate inserting smart collars onto endangered species that are not crucial in the food chain. Although the existence of every animal is important, animals that take a crucial role in the food chain such as predators and prey should be of greater priority when assigning smart collars to animals. 

Drones can be a significant part of the solution as they are reasonably cheap and can allow us to cover much more than we could with a ground base survey, and it allows us to insert any instrument of our choice into the drone. Consequences due to overexploitation can increase at a rapid rate, which is why conservation drones can be crucial in saving endangered species. Conservation drones can detect even the smallest changes in animal numbers with a thermal camera and GPS. This avoids the hassle of waiting for a decline in the number of animals and instead allows for a better-timed response to conserve a threatened species. According to GPS tracking accuracy, the accuracy of a GPS is fairly high within a distance of three meters. GPS satellites broadcast their signals in space with a certain accuracy, but what you receive depends on additional factors, including the atmosphere, signal blockage, conditions, and more. But with evolved technology, GPS tracking ensures stronger signals and greater accuracy even in low-accuracy areas. Although this may not solve the actual problem of overexploitation, it still has benefits towards the consequences of overexploitation and maintains biodiversity as we can count the number of animals and identify whether they are endangered or not.

As humans are responsible for overexploitation, it is up to us to stop our destructive acts. A conservation drone can detect human movement with the inserted thermal camera, enabling us to identify people who hunt illegally such as poachers. The drone does this by processing a live video stream and alerting a ranger when a poacher is detected. Although a small rate, this may decrease overexploitation and protect animals living in the forest in order to protect the food chain. This solution implies that with GPS and a thermal camera built-in drones, we will be able to identify humans from their temperatures and whereabouts and stop them from unnecessarily endangering species.

There are several things to keep in mind when utilizing a drone, however, as there are also limitations associated with this solution. When using the drone to identify things that can lead to overexploitation like poachers, the sun can heat objects on the ground such as rocks. If so, there would be many false alarms and the solution would not be flexible nor beneficial. Similar problems can occur with the temperature camera when counting for animals. As animal waste can be the same temperature as the animal itself at times, drones can lead to miscounts. An improvement upon this might be to have a software that can take images from the thermal camera and label the image for us which would save researchers time of going through every picture by hand and labeling if it is animate or not.

An efficient solution to overexploitation in which can be carried out long-term is crucial to maintain biodiversity on the planet we live on today.

As E.O Wilson quotes, “We should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity.


Works cited: 

The Environmental Literacy Council. "Overexploitation - The Environmental Literacy Council." The Environmental Literacy Council. n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2020. <https://enviroliteracy.org/ecosystems/drivers-of-biodiversity-loss/overexploitation/>

N.a. "overexploitation - Google Search." Google.com. n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2020. <https://www.google.com/search?q=overexploitation&oq=overexploitation&aqs=chrome.0.69i59l4j0l2j69i60l2.7633j1j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8>

Fryer, Tim. "Conservation technology: can science save endangered species?." Eandt.theiet.org. 22 May 2018. Web. 22 Sept. 2020. <https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2018/05/conservation-technology-can-science-save-endangered-species/>

Derek Markham. "12 Innovative Ways Technology Is Saving Endangered Species." Treehugger. n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2020. <https://www.treehugger.com/ways-technology-saving-endangered-species-4858581>

Sara Rust. "Fighting Extinction: Researching and Designing Solutions to Protect Endangered Species." Nytimes.com. 19 Oct. 2017. Web. 22 Sept. 2020. <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/learning/lesson-plans/fighting-extinction-researching-and-designing-solutions-to-protect-endangered-species.html>

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