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Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, animals have enjoyed the freedom of a quieter world by venturing further into cities and suburbs. While this “anthropause” has made for thrilling YouTube videos, scientists have taken the opportunity to study the effects of human activity across geographic regions, ecosystems, their effect on species.
Researchers have been tracking animal movements and actions and comparing them to concurrent human activity in cities (like traffic) to get a better sense of how animals respond to humans. As Wired explained, “researchers have been trying to solve one of these riddles for decades: Are animals afraid of our built environment—roads, buildings, and other infrastructure—or are they afraid of us?”
Why This Matters: The anthropause has given scientists important data to better understand how wild animals interact with the built environment. This data can be used for better city planning to create spaces and passageways for animals. Humans have always dictated where animals should go in cities, but current circumstances can help animals guide the way in terms of what they need and where they want to go.
Conservationists are concerned that matters will only get worse, as nations slash their environmental budgets in the coming years to recover from the economic toll of the pandemic.
BUT, this newly found access to nature has allowed citizen scientists to also become more engaged with nature. This spring, the annual City Nature Challenge, organized by the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, asked urbanites to document biodiversity in their backyards and neighborhoods by taking photos and uploading them to the iNaturalist app.
Over 40,000 citizen scientists tallied 815,000 wildlife observations. (Researchers from the Los Angeles museum also recently announced that during the lockdown they’d discovered nine new insect species collected via backyard traps, thanks to another citizen science project called BioSCAN).
More on animals: Scientists have been using computational models, cell studies and animal experiments to pinpoint the viral host that kicked off the pandemic.
We know the permafrost in the Arctic is melting fast, but a new study finds that one of the reasons for its rapid decline may be that beavers are actually damming it up — literally. CNN reports that using satellite images scientists have observed that beavers are building dams way farther north than previously observed. […]
The Boston Globe’s David Abel reported on Twitter last week that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is, according to court filings, delaying new protections for critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whales even after a court found the agency in violation of the Endangered Species Act for its failure to take action to protect them.
Why This Matters: There are fewer than 400 North Atlantic Right Whales remaining.
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