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Moving in the Anthropocene: Global reductions in terrestrial mammalian movements

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Science  26 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6374, pp. 466-469
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9712

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Restrictions on roaming

Until the past century or so, the movement of wild animals was relatively unrestricted, and their travels contributed substantially to ecological processes. As humans have increasingly altered natural habitats, natural animal movements have been restricted. Tucker et al. examined GPS locations for more than 50 species. In general, animal movements were shorter in areas with high human impact, likely owing to changed behaviors and physical limitations. Besides affecting the species themselves, such changes could have wider effects by limiting the movement of nutrients and altering ecological interactions.

Science, this issue p. 466

Abstract

Animal movement is fundamental for ecosystem functioning and species survival, yet the effects of the anthropogenic footprint on animal movements have not been estimated across species. Using a unique GPS-tracking database of 803 individuals across 57 species, we found that movements of mammals in areas with a comparatively high human footprint were on average one-half to one-third the extent of their movements in areas with a low human footprint. We attribute this reduction to behavioral changes of individual animals and to the exclusion of species with long-range movements from areas with higher human impact. Global loss of vagility alters a key ecological trait of animals that affects not only population persistence but also ecosystem processes such as predator-prey interactions, nutrient cycling, and disease transmission.

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