Why it matters: Traffic can wreak havoc on wildlife.
Numerous studies have shown that roads can change the behavior of wildlife. However, it has been difficult to separate the effects of permanent changes to the landscape, such as deforestation for highway construction, from the effects of everyday human activities, such as rush hour traffic.
During the early weeks and months of the pandemic, cars disappeared, but of course roads remained, allowing scientists to figure out the effects of traffic. The new findings reinforce findings from smaller, localized, pandemic-era studies, and provide further evidence that many wild animals change their behavior—and rapidly—when cars disappear. .
In some ways, this is good news, suggesting that temporarily restricting traffic in critical habitats during certain breeding and migration seasons, for example, may be beneficial to animals. Dr Tucker said. “This shows that animals still have the flexibility and ability to adapt their behavior according to us,” she said.
Background: Scientists have been investigating a “human dormant period.”
The sudden global decline in human migration with the arrival of COVID-19 is sometimes referred to as the ‘human rest period’. Scientists around the world used it as an opportunity to learn more about how humans affect the natural world and what happens when humans are gone.
The new research is the result of the COVID-19 Biologging Initiative, which began in 2020. After the shutdown began, scientists who were already tracking wildlife movements in their own research projects began working together to compile the data to learn more. Movement of animals during a pandemic. Christian Lutz, a behavioral ecologist at the University of St. He said he contributed to more than 1 billion location records for animals. search line.
In a new Science study, researchers compared terrestrial mammal movements during the first lockdown, which began from February 1 to April 28, 2020, with those during the same period in 2019. bottom. The researchers identified some general trends, but they also recorded considerable variability, finding stronger effects in some species and regions than others. increase.
What’s next: More data coming soon.
Researchers are interested in investigating what happened after lockdowns were eased and whether wild mammals reverted to their previous patterns of behavior as humans returned to normal activities.
Biologging efforts are ongoing, and further results on movement in both birds and mammals should be ready to be published soon, Dr. Lutz said in an email. “I am very happy to share these discoveries after a three-year journey,” he said. “And we are already thinking about next steps to investigate human-wildlife interactions.”