In the latest publication on the potential impacts of a border wall on plants and animals, conservation biologists say that border walls threaten to harm endangered Texas plants and animals and cause trouble for the region’s growing ecotourism industry.
In the latest publication on the potential impacts of a border wall on plants and animals, conservation biologists, led by a pair of scientists from the University of Texas at Austin, say that border walls threaten to harm endangered Texas plants and animals and cause trouble for the region’s growing ecotourism industry.
In a letter publishing Monday in Frontiers of Ecology and the Environment, Norma Fowler and Tim Keitt, both professors in the Department of Integrative Biology, examine what would happen if more of Texas’ roughly 1,200 miles of border with Mexico were to be walled off, contributing to habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation and ecosystem damage. Other states have shorter borders than Texas has and more barriers already in place; in Texas, there are walls along only about 100 miles of the border with Mexico. Congress just exempted the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge from the new fencing project, but many miles of new barriers are set to be built on other federal lands, most of which are part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
“Up to now, the wall has either gone through cities or deserts. This is the Rio Grande we’re talking about here. It’s totally different,” Fowler said. “We have high biodiversity because of the river and because Texas extends so far south. I and other Texas biologists are very concerned about the impact this will have on our rich natural heritage.”
UT says that based on a scientific literature review of fourteen other publications, including some that looked at effects of existing walls and fences on the border, the authors outlined several concerns about the proposed wall, including habitat destruction and degradation caused by the construction of the wall and the roads on either side of the wall. Of particular concern is damage to Tamaulipan thornscrub, a once abundant and now increasingly rare ecosystem in South Texas. Many South Texas organisms depend on this ecosystem, but it’s slowly disappearing as cities, farms and ranches displace the thornscrub. The living things that depend on it would lose access to some of the last remaining patches in Texas if the wall were built, Fowler said.