Ecologist Warns Trump’s Border Wall Could Hurt Endangered Species

It appears as though President Donald Trump may get his wall after all. Last week, the House approved a $1.6 billion spending bill that will fund the construction of a wall along the Mexican border, and yesterday the Department of Homeland Security issued a waiver to expedite border construction projects in the San Diego area. Moreover, speaker of the House Paul Ryan expressed his support in a video tweet saying, “It is time for The Wall.”

Rice University ecologist Scott Egan recently pointed out in an opinion editorial; this wall is also expected to disrupt the ecology that lives near the 1,900 mile-long wall.

“Evolutionary effects from the wall can change the balance of nature along the U.S.-Mexico border, putting wildlife in the area, including more than 100 endangered species, at risk,” wrote Egan. “Some of the larger animals that will be threatened by the border wall are the jaguar, ocelot, jaguarundi, Mexican gray wolf, desert big horn sheep and pronghorn antelope.”

Egan’s editorial piece correlated with a 2016 US Fish and Wildlife Service report that claims a war between the two countries would “potentially impact” over than 100 endangered species and birds, four types of wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries, and numerous protected wetlands. Endangered animals listed in the report also include bald eagles, sea turtles, bats, mice, and the West Indian manatee.

“The ecological effects should be immediate, starting with the construction of the wall and all the building materials, construction vehicles and people involved,” Egan told Gizmodo. “This will be especially harmful in delicate or rare habitats. The ‘long term’ effects, or evolutionary effects, will materialize soon after that.”

Egan argues there are two major negative ecological impacts the US government should be worried about. The first is population bottleneck, where species are literally cut in half. For certain species, a wall will produce two smaller populations, reducing genetic diversity and decreasing the chances of animals ability to adapt to environmental changes. The second deleterious ecological impact would be an increased chance of inbreeding, which makes it more likely for an animal pass on problematic genetic mutations.

Egan is concerned with natural migration routes and future changes caused by climate change.

“There are many animals that naturally migrate across the border each year, such as the black bears in West Texas, or the pronghorn antelope across the Southwest. Interrupting these natural movements could have devastating effects on these species on both sides of the border,” Egan said. “Similarly, the border wall will trap populations that continue to move north in response to a warming and changing planet, potentially killing individual animals and populations or resulting in the future extinction of entire species unable to find habitats south of the border to survive.”

As a result, some animals such as bears and jaguars may have no choice but to move into areas that are currently inhabited by humans. Egan’s said the same thing occurred in the 1970s with the military control was constructed between Pakistan and India.