Human activity is forcing animals around the world to move in order to hunt, forage, and survive, according to a study on more than 160 species across six continents.
The study found that hunting and recreation have greater impact than other destructive activities, such as urbanization and logging.
These have a profound impact on the animals, like reducing their ability to feed and breed, according to the study published earlier this month in the Nature Ecology and Evolution journal.
Dr. Tim Doherty, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Sydney, studies about 12,000 research articles from academic journals around the world. He said that animals move an average of 70% further to avoid hunters, roads, campers, and other human activities.
“In Australia, an average person’s commute is about 16km, so 70% is like travelling an extra 11km,” Doherty told The Guardian. “If animals aren’t moving around in a natural way, then there’s potential for broader impacts.”
The animals that mostly moved included the Madagascan lemurs, brushtailed possums, moose, Texas tortoises, mountain lions, flightless rail birds, and reindeer in Canada.
The lemurs in Madagascar moved from their home ranger by more than half due to logging in their habitat. Sweden’s moose moved 33 times faster in the hour after being disturbed by cross-country skiers, while Canada’s reindeer move in response to activities from petroleum exploration.
“Even a small change in movement can have big impacts on an individual, and when these costs accumulate across an entire population, reproductive rates and population viability may be compromised,” the research said.
A study published last year found that wilderness places were disappearing on a massive scale.
“Most of the Earth’s surface has been disturbed by humans, but there are some places that haven’t and they should be protected,” said Doherty. “We need some places on Earth where animals can be left to do their thing.”
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