5 Ways Border Walls and Fences Affect Wildlife

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Under the Trump administration, one issue that has been at the forefront of public policies has been a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. From long before his inauguration, Trump assured his supporters that he would build a border wall to stop illegal immigration

What hasn't been part of this discussion, however, is how such a border wall would affect wildlife.

The truth is, a border wall, just like any other large, artificial structure, would greatly impact nearby wildlife communities. 

Here are five major ways border walls and fences affect wildlife. 

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The Construction Itself Would Devastate Wild Communities

It's no secret that the construction of a large border wall would take up a lot of resources, including human workers and the physical products necessary to build the wall.

But the construction process also harms wildlife communities from the get-go. 

The area where the wall is proposed, at the U.S.-Mexico border, is an area that is located between two biomes, which are somewhat like ecosystems defined by external factors like the climate, geology, and vegetation. This means that the area hosts many plant and animal species in each biome, with a lot of animal migration back and forth.

The construction of the wall would ruin the delicate habitats in each of these biomes and the area between, devastating the communities. Before the wall was even built, humans trampling through the area along with their machines, digging up soil and cutting down trees would be extremely detrimental to the plant and animal life in the area. 

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Natural Water Flows Would Change, Affecting Habitats and Drinking Water

Constructing a large wall in the middle of two separate ecosystems, let alone animal habitats, won't just affect the habitats directly, it will also change the flow of significant resources to those habitats, like water. 

The building of structures which impact natural flows would mean that the water that used to get to certain animal communities could be diverted. It could also mean that any water that does arrive wouldn't be drinkable (or otherwise could be directly harmful) to the animals. 

Border walls and fences could lead to death within the plant and animal communities for this reason. 

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Migratory Patterns Would Be Forced to Change

When part of your evolutionary code is to move up and down, something like a huge, man-made border wall would greatly affect that. 

Birds aren't the only animals that migrate. Jaguars, ocelots, and gray wolves are just some of the other animals that go back and forth between the U.S. and parts of Central and South America.

Even animals such as low-flying pygmy owls and certain mammals, such as bighorn sheep and black bears, could be affected. 

By some numbers, up to 800 species would be affected by such a large border wall.

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Wildlife Species Wouldn't Be Able to Access Seasonal Resources

Migratory patterns aren't the only reason animals need to move. They also need to be able to travel to access seasonal resources, like food, shelter, and even mates.

Prior to the building of a border wall or fence, animals aren't restricted in their movement to access the resources that mean the most for their survival. 

If animals can't access food, especially, or don't have access to mates to continue to propagate their species, the entire natural ecosystem in that area could be thrown off. 

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Natural Genetic Diversity Would Cease, Leading to Species Depletion

When animal species can't travel freely, it's not just about their access to resources. It’s also about the genetic variation in their populations.

When border walls or fences go up, they force animal communities to move far less than they are evolutionarily disposed to. What this means is that those communities then become small, isolated populations aren't able to travel to other communities can't travel to them. 

A lack of genetic variation in animal species means that they are more susceptible to disease and inbreeding over the long haul. 

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Your Citation
Nowakowski, Anjali. "5 Ways Border Walls and Fences Affect Wildlife." ThoughtCo, Oct. 29, 2020, thoughtco.com/border-walls-wildlife-4152974. Nowakowski, Anjali. (2020, October 29). 5 Ways Border Walls and Fences Affect Wildlife. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/border-walls-wildlife-4152974 Nowakowski, Anjali. "5 Ways Border Walls and Fences Affect Wildlife." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/border-walls-wildlife-4152974 (accessed July 26, 2021).