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COVID-19 lockdown allows researchers to quantify the effects of human activity on wildlife

This paper was published in Nature Ecology and Evolution on June 22, 2020.

Authors: Christian Rutz, Matthias-Claudio Loretto, Amanda E. Bates, Sarah C. Davidson, Carlos M. Duarte, Walter Jetz [Yale University and Scientific Chair of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation], Mark Johnson, Akiko Kato, Roland Kays, Thomas Mueller, Richard B. Primack, Yan Ropert-Coudert, Marlee A. Tucker, Martin Wikelski and Francesca Cagnacci

Over the past few months, many countries around the world went into lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19. Brought about by the most tragic circumstances, this period of unusually reduced human mobility — which we suggest be coined ‘anthropause’* — may provide important insights into human–wildlife interactions in the twenty-first century. Anecdotal observations indicate that many animal species are enjoying the newly afforded peace and quiet, while others, surprisingly, seem to have come under increased pressure.

Here, we highlight how the international research community can use these extraordinary circumstances to gain unprecedented mechanistic insight into how human activity affects wildlife. We outline urgent steps different stakeholder groups need to take to ensure this opportunity is not missed, and introduce global collaborative research initiatives that are currently forming to facilitate coordination. Scientific knowledge gained during this devastating crisis will allow us to develop innovative strategies for sharing space on this increasingly crowded planet, with benefits for both wildlife and humans.

*We noticed that people started referring to the lockdown period as the ‘Great Pause’, but felt that a more precise term would be helpful. We propose ‘anthropause’ to refer specifically to a considerable global slowing of modern human activities, notably travel. We are aware that the correct prefix is ‘anthropo-’ (for ‘human’) but opted for the shortened form, which is easier to remember and use, and where the missing ‘po’ is still echoed in the pronunciation of ‘pause’ (pɔːz).

Full paper.

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