Thursday, November 17, 2011

Arctic Predators

Human development and economical advancements seem to be pressing concerns for the conservation community. I looked into the effect of oil fields in Alaska and how the infringement on habitats has been affecting the species that live there.

Many species such as gulls, ravens and arctic foxes inhabit the areas in Alaska which are being turned into American oilfields. These oilfields have had a strange effect on the populations that coexist. It's been noted that raven populations have increased in oilfield areas because they are now able to nest in the building towers. Foxes are supplied with fresh roadkill on the crossing roads and use the buildings for shelter to house their young.

Despite the beneficial habitat for the ravens and foxes, there are many ground nesting birds greatly affected by the influx of predators. Their eggs and hatchlings get preyed upon by voracious small predators such as the arctic foxes, and ground squirrels. The new buildings and oilfields don't provide protection for the ground nesting birds but instead attract an almost detrimental amount of predators.

This question this raises is, do the benefits of creating new habitats for a select number of species out way the costs of destroying the ground nesting birds? Is it worth it to expand the American oil industry, yielding large economic benefits, while still negatively affecting those species of birds. Can a price really be put on a species even though the ground nesting birds may not have the largest impact on human life?

I guess these what plagues the minds of conservation biologists is do policy makers consider these costs and benefits when formulating decisions?

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