It isn’t news to anyone that the average life expectancy of the human population is increasing, and has been doing so significantly over the past century. The average life expectancy in England and Wales has risen by 5.22 years in males and 3.06 years in females between 1991 and 2011. With the constant advances in medical science continuing to break new ground, and with health care becoming more and more efficient, this increase is unsurprising.
However, as always, there are repercussions for such advances, and in this case it is our immediate environment and endangered species that could be put at risk.
An extensive study of 100 countries, conducted by the University of California, has found that the number of endangered species of animals and birds is increasing with human longevity. New Zealand, which has one of the highest life expectancies, has the greatest number of invasive and endangered species, whereas countries where the human life expectancy is low, such as those in Africa, have the lowest numbers of endangered and invasive species.
It is not mammals and birds alone which are under pressure; a number of other groups, including amphibians, are also being affected. For example, a number of frog species in New Zealand are becoming endangered. This is a growing concern as these species play a key predatory role within the food chain. They are the target of conservation due to their natural ability to act as biosensors which allow key information about the condition of the environment to be shown.
Whilst the study does not discover the actual reason why life expectancy affects the natural world, it is apparent that it is an umbrella issue under which a number of factors, such as over-farming of resources, pollution, and habitat destruction, are contributing.
It is becoming an uphill struggle to maintain an aging and larger population without disturbing our surroundings, and it poses an ethical issue regarding the morality of our influence on the environment.
It is clear that we need to tackle the erroneous notion that human population changes have no ill effects, and we must recognise that we exist as part of a repercussive ecosystem of cause and effect.