Not all wildlife recovered in lockdowns, new research finds

Nicht alle Wildtiere haben sich in Lockdowns erholt, wie neue Forschungsergebnisse zeigen

A robin (Erithacus rubecula) sings in Gennevilliers, France. Credit: Alexis Lours/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

When the COVID pandemic began, it was a global crisis for people – but as people sought shelter, there were numerous reports of wildlife reclaiming what were once human-dominated areas. But biologists are finding that the patterns didn’t repeat themselves around the world.

Last year, a research team led by Nicola Koper, a professor of conservation biology at the University of Manitoba, found that during lockdown, most birds in Canada and the US increased in human-dominated areas such as cities or near roads. However, new research reveals a different story in other parts of the world.

Koper has teamed up with first author Dr. Miya Warrington and other team members joined forces to study bird responses to lockdowns in the UK, published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Surprisingly, this research showed that while some British birds increased their use of spaces shared with humans, many species did not. It seems some of Brits’ favorite lockdown outdoor activities, like visiting parks and hanging out in our backyards, have injured birds that share our spaces.

“While I was happy that people were getting out and enjoying nature, I was also worried that some natural spaces would be flooded by people and we might accidentally ‘smother nature with our love.’ We may have put a little too much human pressure on the very places that bring us joy and comfort,” says lead author Miya Warrington.

Even widespread species like the blackbird, blue tit and robin changed their behavior in response to changes in human activities, Warrington notes. For example, blue tits, robins, and blackbirds were spotted in lower numbers when people spent more time indoors, perhaps because people spent more time in their gardens, making those green spaces less inviting for birds. However, some garden-eater species appear to have benefited from the lockdown, particularly “lively” species like European goldfinches, which may not have minded sharing their backyards with people and their pets (the friendly ones, at least).

“These results are really different from results from our research in North America, where lockdowns have had overwhelmingly positive effects on birds,” says Koper. “And it’s different from what most people have previously assumed – that wildlife has had a chance to recover during lockdown. That only happened in some parts of the world. Wild animals have adapted to humans differently in different parts of the world — and they might need different types of help in different places.”

Our relationship with wildlife is complicated. Our human presence and actions affect nature, even during a lockdown. This means we need to consider how our behavior affects wildlife. But Warrington reminds us, “That’s a good thing, too. Bird behavior has changed very quickly during lockdown. ”

Bird behavior influenced by human activities during COVID-19 lockdowns

More information:
Miyako H. Warrington et al., Behavioral Changes in Birds in Response to Human Activities During the UK COVID-19 Lockdown, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2021.2740

Provided by the University of Manitoba

Citation: Not All Wildlife Recovered In Lockdowns, New Research (2022, 23 Sep) Retrieved 23 Sep 2022 from

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