In a typical spring, breeding seabirds and human seabird watchers flock to the island off Sweden, Storakars.
However, in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic canceled the tourist season and reduced human presence on the island by more than 90%. When people disappeared, white-tailed eagles came in and became much more abundant than usual. Researcher found..
It may seem like a neat parable about how nature recovers when people disappear from the landscape, without the fact that ecosystems are complex. A large number of new eagles repeatedly soared over cliffs, and a protected murre population laid eggs and washed small birds off the shelves.
In the turmoil, some eggs rolled off the cliff. Others were snatched by predators while there were no murderers. Jonas Hentati-Sundberg, a marine ecologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, found that the reproductive performance of murderers was reduced by 26%. “They were panicking and popping out, and they lost their eggs,” he said.
The pandemic was still a global human tragedy. But for ecologists, Unparalleled opportunity To learn more about how people affect nature by documenting what happened when we suddenly left the natural world.
The ever-increasing literature depicts a complex portrait of the slowdown in human activity that has become known as the “pause of mankind.” Some species clearly benefit from our absence, consistent with the early media stories that nature was finally healed without people colliding.However Other seeds had a hard time Without human protection or resources.
“Human beings play this dual role,” said Amanda Bates, a marine conservation scientist at the University of Victoria, Canada. We are “not only a threat to wildlife, but also a manager of our environment,” she said.
Scientists say the study has practical lessons for conservation, suggesting that even the slightest changes in human behavior can bring significant benefits to other species. These changes can be especially important to consider as the human world is rejuvenated and summer travel surges. Possibility to generate “artificial pulse” Of intense activity.
“Many people will want to catch up with vacation trips, work trips and life,” said Christian Lutz. A behavioral ecologist at the University of St Andrews, he introduced the concept of “human pulse” in a recent treatise. (He and Dr. Bates were also part of the team that created the “Pause of Mankind.”)
“Human will travel, should travel, and enjoy nature,” he added. “But I think it’s very subtle to tweak the way we do things that can still have a big impact.”
When the pandemic occurred, many human routines suddenly stopped. On April 5, 2020, the peak of the pandemic blockade, 4.4 billion people, or 57% of the planet, were subject to some sort of movement restriction. Scientists estimate.. Driving decreased by more than 40%, but air traffic decreased by 75%.
These sudden changes have allowed researchers to separate the effects of human migration from many other ways of shaping the lives of other species.
Christopher Wilmers, a wildlife ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said: “But this kind of strip removes everything and says,” Oh, well, what’s the effect of human movement itself? “
A car is trapped in a garage, an airplane is trapped in a hangar, a ship is trapped in a dock, and a human is trapped in a house. air When Water quality Scientists have found that it has improved in several places.Noise pollution has been reduced On the ground When In the sea..Habitat disturbed by humans Began to recover..
In March 2020, Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve, a popular snorkeling destination, was closed and remained closed for nearly nine months. “The pandemic has reset the impact on visitors to zero,” said Ku’ulei Rodgers, a coral reef ecologist at the Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology.
Water transparency without the swimmer kicking up the sediment 56% improvement, Found by Dr. Rogers and her colleagues. In previously snorkeler-thick bodies of water, fish density, biomass, and diversity have increased.
In fact, scientists have discovered that many species have moved to new habitats due to changes in the pandemic blockade. What ecologists sometimes call a “horror landscape”.
Katlingin Gainer, an ecologist at the University of British Columbia, said: Its willingness to survive encourages them to stay away from potential predators, including humans. “We are noisy and novel, similar to their predators — and often their predators,” Dr. Gainer said.
For example, mountain lions living in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California are usually far from the city.However, after the local shelter-in-place order came into effect in 2020, the animals You are more likely to choose a habitat Found by Dr. Wilmers and his colleagues near the edge of the city.
Dr. Wilmers speculated that the mountain lion was reacting to changes in the city’s soundscape. This can usually be filled with human chattering and the barking of passing cars. “But as soon as those voice stimuli are gone, the animals will be like,’Well, I might go see if there’s anything to eat here,'” he said. ..
Just north, in the newly calmed San Francisco, White-crowned Sparrow I started singing more quietlyHowever, researchers have found that the distance they can communicate is “more than doubled.”
Birds also started singing at lower frequencies, resulting in better performance-related shifts and improved ability to protect territories and women. “Their songs were much more’sexy’,” said Elizabeth Delhibury, a behavioral ecologist and study author at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
“And it was overnight,” she added. “This gives us the hope that lowering the noise level in an area can have an immediate positive impact.”
However, the effects of human absence varied by species, location, and time, with subtle differences.
From multiple studies As traffic was eased In the spring of 2020 Number of wild animals that is I was hit by a car and killed I declined.But the number of wildlife and vehicle collisions soon Creeping upA research team reported, even if traffic remained below normal levels.
Joel Abraham, a graduate student studying ecology at Princeton University and author of the study, said: “Animals started using the road, and even when traffic began to rebound, it was difficult for them to stop.”
The blockade seemed to bold some invasive species, Increase daytime activity Italian cottontail rabbits whose rapid expansion can threaten native cottontails While interfering with efforts to control others. For example, a pandemic Delayed long-term project Sort out giant predatory mice from Gough Island, an important habitat for seabirds under threat from the South Atlantic Ocean.
Mice, believed to have arrived with 19th-century sailors, attack and feed live bird chicks, often leaving large open wounds. “I gave them the nickname” Vampire Rats, “” said Stephanie Martin, Environmental Protection Policy Officer in Tristan da Cunha, the archipelago to which Gough Island belongs. Many chicks succumb to their injuries.
Scientists have been set to initiate an ambitious mouse eradication effort when a pandemic occurs, delaying the project by a year.Not one, as vampire mice are still rampant during the breeding season MacGillivray prion chick — An endangered bird that breeds almost exclusively in Goff — has survived. “We have lost all other breeding seasons,” Martin said. “That meant another year without a fledgling.”
This is another example of the dual role of mankind. Mice are only present in Gough because humans took them with them. “But now we absolutely need humans to culling them,” said Dr. Bates.
This kind of impact was summed up all over the world, she said, as local. Maintenance, education When monitoring The program was interrupted or Deprived of funds..spike Wildlife poaching When persecutionAnd illegal logging and mining have been reported in multiple countries.
Economic instability may have caused some of this activity, but experts believe it was also possible due to lack of human protection, such as the reduction of staff in parks and reserves and the absence of tourists.
“We are not completely bad guys,” said Mitra Nikoo, a research assistant at the University of Victoria. “We are actually doing much more than we acknowledge our achievements.”
Researchers continue to monitor wildlife and ecosystems as people resume their normal routines. If an ecosystem that appears to benefit from the disappearance of humanity suffers when people return to the flood, it provides stronger evidence of our impact.
“This reversal of experimental or semi-experimental interventions scientifically enables a truly solid insight into how environmental processes work,” Dr. Rutz said.
Understanding these mechanisms will help professionals design programs and policies that guide our influence more thoughtfully.
“Then, by strengthening our role as a caretaker and continuing to regulate pressure, we can shift the role of humans in the environment to an overwhelmingly positive role,” said a marine ecologist at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. One Carlos Duarte says. In Saudi Arabia.
For example, one research team discovered that in the summer of 2020, vacationers did not travel to Zakynthos, Greece, so there were loggerhead turtles nesting there. Spent more time near the coast In warmer waters that are better suited for female egg development than in the last few years.
Gail Schofield, a conservation ecologist at Queen Mary University, said the results could allow tourists to drive sea turtles into colder waters, slow egg development, and reduce the number of clutches and egg batches. It suggests that. Author of London and Studies.
“It’s a very narrow window of opportunity,” she said.
She admitted that it is impossible to stop all tourism. However, specifying a coastline area as a protected turtle habitat and banning swimming there in early summer could provide an important haven for animals, she said.
When the Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve reopened in December 2020, it set a strict new cap on daily visitors. According to Dr. Rogers, he is currently closed from one day before the pandemic to two days a week.
According to experts, other changes may also be profitable. By building a wildlife crossroads on the highway, you can prevent some animals from being killed on the road.
“No one can say anymore that we can’t change the whole world in a year because we can,” Dr. Bates said. “Hooray.”