World news – Human activity forces animals to move 70% further in order to survive

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February 1, 2021

from the University of Sydney

For the first time, scientists have calculated the global impact of human activity on animal movement, uncovering widespread impacts that threaten the survival and biodiversity of species.

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While activities like logging and urbanization have been shown to have a huge impact on wildlife, study by scientists at the University of Sydney and Deakin University in Australia shows that episodic events like hunting, military activities and recreation are still happening can cause major changes in animal behavior.

« It is important that we understand the extent of the impact humans have on other animal species, » said lead author Dr. Tim Doherty, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Sydney. « The consequences of altered animal movements can be profound, leading to decreased animal fitness, lower chances of survival, decreased reproductive rates, genetic isolation and even local extinction. »

The study points to a global restructuring of animal movements caused by human disturbance and potentially has profound effects on animal populations, species and ecosystem processes.

« Movement is critical to animal survival but can be disrupted by human disturbance, » said Dr. Doherty. « Animals use behavioral mechanisms to adapt to human activities, for example by fleeing or avoiding people, traveling further to find food or mates, or finding new shelters to avoid people or predators. » / p> In some cases, human activity forced a decrease in animal movement. The study found that due to improved access to food in human locations, the ability to move out of an altered habitat, or the restriction of movement by physical barriers, was limited.

« Aside from the direct effects on animal species, there are also Impact, « said Dr. Doherty. « The movement of animals is linked to important ecological processes such as pollination, seed distribution and soil turnover, so that disrupted animal movements can have negative effects on all ecosystems. »

Dr. Doherty, who started this research at Deakin University before moving to the University of Sydney, said the results had important policy implications for animal biodiversity management.

« In marine environments and landscapes created by humans If the influence remains relatively unaffected, it is important that the habitat change is avoided, « said Dr. Doherty from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the Faculty of Science.

« This could include strengthening and supporting existing protected areas and securing additional wilderness areas for legal protection. »

The study states that it may It is easier to reduce the impact of episodic disturbance by carefully managing certain activities such as hunting and tourism in wilderness areas, especially during the animal breeding seasons.

« If habitat change is inevitable, we recommend that a knowledge of the behavior is known animal movement affects landscaping and management to ensure animal movement is assured, « said Dr. Doherty.

He said that reducing the negative impact of human activity on animal movement will be critical to maintaining biodiversity in an increasingly human-dominated world.

« More research is needed to better understand the impact of habitat change on animal movement in rapidly developing parts of the world, « said Dr. Doherty.

The research has compiled and analyzed 208 separate studies in 167 animal species over 39 years to assess how human disturbances affect animal movement. In more than a third of the cases, animals were forced to undergo changes that increased their movement by more than 50 percent.

The species treated in the study range from the 0.05 gram sleepy orange butterfly to the great white shark, which weighs over 2,000 kilograms . 37 bird species, 77 mammal species, 17 reptile species, 11 amphibian species, 13 fish species and 12 arthropod species (insect species) were recorded.

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