5 Overpopulation Effects Explained

Overpopulation effects include; resource depletion, conflict, environmental degradation, economic recession, and high extinction risk.

This article discusses overpopulation effects, as follows;


1). Resource Depletion (as one of the Overpopulation Effects)

Resource depletion is one of the effects of overpopulation.

Overpopulation causes resource depletion by increasing the demand and rate of consumption, of resources, to excessively high and unsustainable levels [1].

Lack of sustainability in demand and consumption implies that resources will be consumed much faster than they are replenished.

This is especially a problem for non-renewable resources that take very long periods to form naturally, and occur in limited amount. It may however also affect renewable resources like biomass.

Overpopulation reduces both the quantity and quality of resources.

Quantity of resources is reduced because of overexploitation in all sectors of the economy and for all areas of need, including industrial manufacturing, electricity generation and agriculture.

The quality of resources itself is reduced because of the degrading effect of overpopulation and resource depletion on the ecosystem.

An example of resource depletion as an effect of overpopulation may be observed in deforestation.

An excessively-large regional population places forests at risk of overexploitation for biofuel [2].

Although such exploitation involves renewable energy and materials, overexploitation can still deplete available resources, in this case leading to deforestation, which often leads to other negative environmental impacts like climate change, poor air quality, erosion and desertification.

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Resource depletion from overpopulation may affect all kinds of resources, including raw materials, water, air, soil, and energy resources.

The depletion of essential resources like water and air is most influential, due to the need for such resources by organisms, in order to survive.

Land resource depletion can lead to displacement of a large proportion of the population.

Overpopulation Effects: Land Resource Depletion (Credit: DFID - UK Department for International Development 2011 .CC BY 2.0.)
Overpopulation Effects: Land Resource Depletion (Credit: DFID – UK Department for International Development 2011 .CC BY 2.0.)

Chronic cases of resource depletion may extend to or facilitate other overpopulation effects like environmental degradation and economic recession, and may pose a threat to survival in the overpopulated area.

2). Conflict

Overpopulation can cause conflict by leading to lack of essential resources and unhealthy competition for these scarce resources.

The essential resources made scarce by overpopulation, that are most likely to cause conflict of various forms include land and water.

Generally, the risk of such outcomes is highest in areas that are governed by or prone to harsh conditions like drought and desertification.

Aside lack of resources, overpopulation also fuels conflict by promoting low literacy levels, economic recession and unemployment.

3). Environmental Degradation (as one of the Overpopulation Effects)

Overpopulation can cause environmental degradation by increasing the rate of unsustainable human activities like fossil fuel combustion, waste production and resource depletion, in a given area.

Increase in population density generally implies that the demand for electricity, water, air, and material resources will increase.

As these resources are consumed, their byproducts and waste are released into the environment in the form of greenhouse emissions, toxins, organic biomass and inorganic matter.

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These materials released can facilitate environmental pollution, global warming, and flooding.

The risk of natural disasters like tsunamis, is also increased by overpopulation [3].

Overpopulation Effects: Environmental Degradation (Credit: Jonathan McIntosh 2004 .CC BY 2.0.)
Overpopulation Effects: Environmental Degradation (Credit: Jonathan McIntosh 2004 .CC BY 2.0.)

4). Economic Recession

Overpopulation affects the economy by making both resources needed for economic development, and employment opportunities for the population, to become scarce.

Resource depletion (which is linked to overpopulation) directly facilitates economic recession, by reducing the availability of resources which are required by industries.

An excessively-large population implies that jobs would likely be inadequate to cover the entire working-age fraction of the population. This leads to both unemployment and low minimum wage, due to the presence of vast amount of labor resources for employers to make use of.

Inflation may result from the increased demand for goods and services, and the scarcity caused by overpopulation.

Other attributes of economic recession including food insecurity, poverty and hunger; may all be associated with overpopulation.

5). High Extinction Risk (as one of the Overpopulation Effects)

Overpopulation affects extinction rates by contributing to their increase.

Overpopulation can cause animal extinction by facilitating the destruction of habitats, degradation of the environment, and lack of food among other essential resources required for survival.

As a result of overpopulation, natural ecosystems like grasslands and forests are encroached upon, and converted for human purposes like residence and agriculture.

These changes can cause many species to be endangered, at least locally.

Aside human overpopulation, extinction can also be facilitated by animal overpopulation, which leads to increase in the rate of unhealthy competition.

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Overpopulation effects are;

1. Resource Depletion

2. Conflict

3. Environmental Degradation

4. Economic Recession

5. High Extinction Risk


1). Aliyev, Z. H. (2018). “Natural Resource Use Dilemma: A Review of Effects of Population Growth on Natural Resources in Kenya.” International Journal of Environmental Sciences & Natural Resources, Juniper Publishers Inc., vol. 13(4), pages 98-101, July. Available at: https://doi.org/10.19080/IJESNR.2018.13.555867. (Accessed 21 November 2022).

2). Chakravarty, S.; Ghosh, S. K.; Suresh, C. P.; Dey, A. N.; Shukla, G. (2012). “Deforestation: Causes, Effects and Control Strategies.” Global Perspectives on Sustainable Forest Management. Available at: https://doi.org/10.5772/33342. (Accessed 21 November 2022).

3). Kaushik, G.; Patil, S. S.; Singhal, P.; Chel, A. L. (2019). “Overpopulation and Its Association With Natural Disasters: A Case Study of Indian Tsunami, 2004.” Emergency and Disaster Management (pp.1397-1409). Available at: https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-5225-6195-8.ch065. (Accessed 21 November 2022).

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