COVID-19 stopped the world and gave experts a unique opportunity: to understand how human activities impact wildlife. Here's what the search will reveal.
Most countries in the world have experienced a lockdown due to the Covid-19 health emergency. The blocking of human activities allowed scholars to examine the relationship between man and nature. In particular, in research published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, scientists began to examine the impact human activities have on wildlife.
For the group of scholars, led by Christian Rutz, a biologist at the University of St Andrews( UK) and president of the International Bio-Logging Society, this moment, while dramatic, is unique in tracing the influence of modern mobility on wildlife on a global scale. Under this principle, the group of scientists has created the 'COVID-19 Bio-Liative Initiative', an international consortium that will examine the movements, behaviour and stress levels of animals, before, during and after lockdown, using data collected from electronic devices placed on animals (bio-loggers).
The assumptions of research
In the weeks of lockdown, there has been a real "return" to the nature of some areas, typically the prerogative of human activities. At this juncture, the animals have regained their habitats. Consider, for example, the sightings of dolphins in the waters of Trieste or the cougaries that roamed the center of Santiago, Chile. However, for many species, the lockdown has been dramatic to overcome: animals such as rats and seagulls have difficulty finding food without human activities. This principle applies in cities, but also in the most remote areas: many species such as rhinos or birds of prey are at risk of poaching without human protection.
How the study works
"Around the world, biologists involved in the research have equipped animals with miniature tracking devices," said Professor Christian Rutz. These devices are a goldmine of information about animal movement and behavior, which we can now leverage to improve our understanding of human-fauna interactions, with benefits for all." The research team also features Dr Francesca Cagnacci, a researcher at the Edmund Mach Foundation in Trento. The aim of the research work is to better understand the life and movements of wild animals in modern landscapes and the impact that human activities have on these processes.
"No one is asking people to get stuck forever," says Professor Martin Wikelski, director of the Max Planck Institute in Radolfzell, "but we may find that minor changes in our lifestyles and transport networks can potentially have significant benefits for both ecosystems and humans." Thanks to research, it will be possible to identify species that are severely compromised by human activity, but which still have the capacity to respond to changes, as well as others that remain particularly vulnerable. Examining human-fauna interaction will also allow us to understand the critical thresholds beyond which human disorders have harmful effects on animal behaviour, species persistence and ecosystem dynamics."