The proposed Mexico border wall can spell disaster for the borderless animals of Arizona's Sonoran desert.
A number of animal species living in the borderlands regularly cross the border of the United States and Mexico. These species are already suffering from tightened security at the border. If President Donald Trump's “big, beautiful wall” goes up as well, it won't bode well for Sonoran pronghorns, jaguars, bighorn sheep, and other species.
These animals roam across the border and back for feeding and mating—two things that are essential to the survival of their species. The wall won't just affect the human beings it means to keep out of the US, it can severely impact the ecology of the borderlands as well.
Much of the borderlands are deserts. When we think of deserts, we may think of hot, desolate areas where living things can't survive, much less thrive. However, various flora and fauna actually thrive in the desert. It's a veritable habitat, and one that deserves to maintain its ecological balance.
An actual Mexico border wall may not be in place yet, but there are already about 1,126 kilometers (700 miles) of fences along the border. This already restricts animals' freedom to move. In fact, back in 2009, there was already a study on how this fence restricted the movement of animals in affected areas.
Generally speaking, walls and fences that restrict movement aren't good for wildlife. Black bear populations, for example, will suffer if the border wall ever goes up. These populations are already quite small, so a wall will divide these populations further into smaller chunks. This will increase the possibility of inbreeding, which in turn increases the possibility of eventual extinction. Genetic variation within a population is important to keep the gene pool healthy and free of too many harmful mutations.
Birds can also suffer from the border wall. Pygmy owls very rarely fly high enough to clear border fences. A continuous wall with no gaps can also negatively impact jaguars, which cross the border to find mates.
Taking away the ability to move freely in the borderlands can have far-reaching consequences for these animals. Animals frequently migrate from one place to another when there's drought, disease, or lack of food in their area. If there is a wall cutting through the borderlands, the animals may not be able to recolonize former habitats or migrate to greener pastures.
Humans and animals aren't the only ones that the border wall will affect. It can affect the entire desert's ecosystem as well. For example, hoofed mammals in the desert break the sun-baked ground as they walk over it. This allows rains, when they eventually come, to seep through to the soil.
At this point, no can say for sure whether or not the Mexico border wall will indeed become a reality. However, many have already spoken up against it, on grounds ranging from humanitarian to environmental. The pronghorn, black bears, jaguars, and pygmy owls unfortunately don't have the ability to protest and protect their habitats. It may be up to human voices to make sure that these concerns reach the right ears.
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