Anti-social behavior has almost become a culture around the united kingdom and we all know the effects this can have socially and politically, but what about the effects biologically? How has it shaped the local ecosystem and hierarchy of life? In this article we’re going to discuss the effects of antisocial behavior on local ecosystems and by extension the effect this will have on a grander scale.
The following question came to our attention after walking close to where we live, a greenbelt piece of land that has been left as a wild area surrounding residential housing, including council estates and a local high school. At first glance there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with the area. That is until you start to walk around and look into longer grasses and bushes. Obscene amounts of litter, fly-tippings and traces of fire plague the landscape and after familiarizing yourself with the area it becomes more than just an eyesore but a reminder of the neglect and attitude of members of our community.
There are many factors here influencing this type of behavior and a large one, particularly around this area is the high school. It would be unfair to target, solely the council estates as the epicenter of environmental degenerates as it could be seen as a biased perspective of the larger picture. It is worrying though to see such neglect surrounding this habitat and makes me question the councils lapse effort in dealing with these situations, granted they’re limited in staff and availability.
This behavior isn’t endemic to this borough but to literally all of them. This is a regional problem that currently has no solution and from a sociopolitical perspective there will probably never be one until governments and councils focus more expenditure on the environment and on more activities for young adults. From observation, it is the youth of the area that are insistent on destroying public property and throwing their rubbish onto the floor, though adults aren’t exempt from this as their habits can be a lot worse, i.e fly tipping.
There appears to be a shared delusion of functionality between all occupants surrounding greenbelts and other green rural landscapes which has to be stopped!
Littering and wildlife adaptation
The accumulation of litter on the O and A horizons (primary layers of soil) are causing a hydrophobic effect, which basically means that the plastics and various other waste debris are depriving the soil of water and nutrients as it is a struggle to pass into necessary layers. In locations where plastics are dumped in heavy succession, for example near a school where children are prone to littering is when it starts to become a problem.
The plastics from bottles, bags and packaging have been estimated to take more than a hundred years to degrade if they aren’t biodegradable and often break down into smaller fragments through processes such as weathering and radiation from the sun known as photodegradation. It is safe to assume that on top of hydrophobic soil layers, roots from the vegetation may be affected by the plastic fragments causing plant life more issues.
Species of flora start to spread out because of the poor soil quality, searching for a better location and often can’t compete with other surrounding plants, causing them to dwindle in numbers. If the plant is an integral part of the ecosystem, it then begins to affect other species of insect, birds and mammals who rely on this delicate balance.
Wildlife such as birds and rodents become entwined in the plastics and ingest it which more often than not kills them or severely injures them, destroying their quality of life.
It goes without saying that this is why it’s important to clean up areas which contain diverse species of both flora and fauna and if you’re in doubt about exactly how many species are in your area, make a note of the different species you see and you might surprise yourself, even in rural areas.
Having investigated the areas that are typical for young adults to congregate and start fires, experiments on the soil have revealed that the damage isn’t irreparable but temporary. We previously thought that the fires may cause erosion due to where they are located and possibly cause hydrophobicity of the soil throughout the entire affected area. Vegetation has grown back slower than expected and there are visible patches of bare land where plants have been unable to grow which hopefully will be temporary. This could be attributed towards the removal of nitrogen in the soil after burning.
Whilst wildlife can adapt around this abuse, it simply shouldn’t have to and its possible that it’s ruining microhabitats affecting the ecosystem on a small scale. It is up to us as individuals to take control of the situation instead of housing the problem or looking over it!
This is an investigation and case study we’re still observing and this article may be updated from time to time.