Wildlife scientists examine the great ‘human pause’

Bio-logging gadgets are trackers fitted to creatures, like this Alpine ibex, of which record their own movements

A UK-led group has introduced an motivation to track creatures before, in the course of and after lockdown.

The researchers’ purpose is to research what they have got called the “anthropause” – the global–scale, temporary slow down in individual activity, that is likely to possess a profound effect on other varieties.

Measuring that effect, they say, will certainly reveal ways we can “share our increasingly crowded planet”.

They outline this particular mission within a paper within the diary Scientific Reports.

All more than the globe, some creatures have been monitored throughout lockdown

They describe “urgent steps” to permit scientists to understand as much as possible through the unexpected absence of people in many scenery – which includes ensuring that scientists have access plus permission to undertake their function, and can get access to information about individual movement, along with animal-tracking information.

Prof Christian Rutz from the University associated with St Andrews is leader of the International Bio-logging Society.

He remarked that bio–loggers – small monitoring devices suited to animals to be able to record their own movements along with other behaviour – have been collecting information in habitats all over the world throughout the pandemic.

Tracking whales could also reveal the impact that the “anthropause” has had on ocean wildlife

“There is a really valuable research opportunity here, one that’s been brought about by the most tragic circumstances, but it’s one we think we can’t afford to miss,” he told BBC News.

Usually, studies which try to examine the impact of human presence and activity on wild animals are limited to comparing protected habitats to unprotected areas, or studying landscapes in the wake of a natural disaster.

Disasters like the one in Chernobyl can become tragic “natural experiments”

“But during lockdown we have this replicated around the globe – in different localities and for habitats where some species have been fitted with tracking devices the whole time,” said Prof Rutz.

There have been many accounts on social media of wildlife apparently making the most of our absence – moving freely through surprisingly urban settings. In some places though, the lack of human activity appears to have been detrimental – increases in poaching driven by poverty, and the absence of ecotourism.

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Chernobyl’s post–human landscape

“No one’s saying that humans should stay in lockdown permanently,” added Prof Rutz.

“But what if we see major impacts of our changes in road use, for example? We could use that to make small changes to our transport network that could have major benefits.”

Prof Jim Smith from the University of Portsmouth has been part of what might be considered the first anthropause study – a long-term investigation into the changes within the abandoned landscape around the damaged Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Chernobyl’s wolves returned in the wake of the abandonment of the Exclusion Zone

“Just a few years after the evacuation of the Exclusion Zone, Belarussian and Ukrainian researchers found species associated with humans – like pigeons and rats – were disappearing, but wild animals – wild boar, deer and wolf – were multiplying,” he said.

“Still abandoned more than 30 years later, the zone has become an iconic example of accidental rewilding.”

“At great economic and human cost, Covid and Chernobyl forced us to push the pause button on our environmental damage,” Prof Smith continued.

“Stopping some of those impacts altogether will be hard, but will be helped by what we can learn from these extreme events.”

Prof Rutz and his team pointed out in their paper: “Scientific knowledge gained during this devastating crisis will allow us to develop innovative strategies for sharing space on this increasingly crowded planet, with benefits for both wildlife and humans.”

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The BBC’s Victoria Gill looks at the animals species enjoying lockdown

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