Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

The great animal takeover – Recent lockdowns may shed light on the impact of humans on wildlife

The spread of Covid-19 has forced many cities to restrict social gatherings and encourage citizens to stay home. In a new study, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, researchers have termed this unusual disruption of human movement “anthropause”. This is a unique opportunity to explore the effects of humans on wildlife.

Perhaps not surprisingly, some animals seem to be emboldened by the reduction of human interactions and are more frequently seen, or even seen for the first time, in urban areas. This increase in animal presence is not only occurring in the cities, but also in the world’s oceans as vessel traffic has declined.

Image of hikers in Temescal Canyon by Karen Foshay.

The picture may not be so rosy though for animals that rely on food that humans provide such as rats, gulls, and monkeys. Moreover, social distancing humans have started to enjoy outdoor activities more than is typical resulting in increased human traffic in parks and wilderness areas, which may disrupt the local wildlife. With the economic downturn worldwide, some animals are also at risk of exploitation and human predation.

Have you seen any interesting animals in your neighborhood during the anthropause?

Sources: C Rutz, M-C Loretto, AE Bates, SC Davidson, CM Duarte, W Jetz, M Johnson, A Kato, R Kays, T Mueller, RB Primack, Y Ropert-Coudert, MA Tucker, M Wikelski, F Cagnacci. COVID-19 lockdown allows researchers to quantify the effects of human activity on wildlife. Nature Ecology & Evolution. 2020

Categories: Stress, Urbanization

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