A study that was recently published in the journal Science, with support from the National Science Foundation, has found that mammals found in areas with human contact are 1.36 times (67%) more active at night. Both carnivores and herbivores of all sizes seemed to be affected. Not only was this pattern of behaviour observed in urban city centres, but rural areas, hiking trails, and hunting grounds also left the same impact. The University of California, Berkeley and Boise State University used data of 62 species across six continents to identify global changes in the timing of activity. GPS and radio collars, trail cameras, and direct observation were all used to collect data.
ScienceDaily writes, “This study represents the first effort to quantify the global effects of human activity on the daily activity patterns of wildlife.” If true, I believe this opens a huge door to new scientific inquiry with respect to animal behavior and its relationship with human disturbance. As animals hide in the safety of the night, what can we do to adapt in response? While human disturbance on our natural environment is widely known to have the obvious ability in erasing habitat, this study proves that our relationship with wildlife is more complex and fragile than we may have thought.
Berkeley PhD candidate and study lead author Kaitlyn Gaynor states, “We hope our findings will open up new avenues for wildlife research in human-dominated landscapes. We still have a lot to learn about the implications of altered activity patterns for the management of wildlife populations, interactions between species, and even human-induced evolution.”
Clearly there are deeper consequences that our presence can have on animal behavior, and exploring these corridors is exciting when trying to better understand the ever-changing relationship between our own activity, and that of the “wild.” Discovering and acknowledging these deeper consequences may make management decisions or urban planning, for instance, more sensitive to new topics of wildlife in unexpected ways.
I look forward to ways in which we can adapt and accommodate the surrounding wildlife that is affected by our disturbances. Scientific studies such as this prove to me once again how exciting conservation science can be, when unraveling important mysteries for the betterment of our planet.
Do you think humans are responsible for changing daily behaviour of animals in becoming nocturnal?
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