Human disturbance causes widespread disruption of animal movement

Abstract

Disturbance and habitat modification by humans can alter animal movement, leading to negative impacts on fitness, survival and population viability. However, the ubiquity and nature of these impacts across diverse taxa has not been quantified. We compiled 208 studies on 167 species from terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems across the globe to assess how human disturbance influences animal movement. We show that disturbance by humans has widespread impacts on the movements of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and arthropods. More than two-thirds of 719 cases represented a change in movement of 20% or more, with increases in movement averaging 70% and decreases −37%. Disturbance from human activities, such as recreation and hunting, had stronger impacts on animal movement than habitat modification, such as logging and agriculture. Our results point to a global restructuring of animal movement and emphasize the need to reduce the negative impacts of humans on animal movement.

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Fig. 1: The global extent and magnitude of the impacts of disturbance on animal movement.
Fig. 2: Effects of disturbance on animal movement distances and home range size according to taxonomic groups.
Fig. 3: Effects of body mass on animal movement distances (MD) and home range size (HR) in response to disturbance.
Fig. 4: Effects of different disturbance types on animal movement distances and home range size according to taxonomic groups.

Data availability

Data is available at Figshare https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.12768350.

Code availability

Code is available at Figshare https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.12768350.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the following people for providing additional information about their studies: L. Amo, J. Beasley, K. Borkin, H. Ling Chen, T. Crist, S. Dale, C. Dussault, C. Gómez Posada, T. Gehring, N. Haddad, C. Huveneers, C. Lanctôt, K. Mabry, L. Powell, A. Trochet, C. Vangestel, K. VerCauteren and D. Zeller. We acknowledge the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nations as the traditional custodians of the land on which this review was conducted. We acknowledge the technical assistance of H. Lydecker from the Sydney Informatics Hub, a Core Research Facility of the University of Sydney, and the use of the University of Sydney’s high performance computing cluster, Artemis. T.S.D. was supported by an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from Deakin University and a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council.

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Authors

Contributions

T.S.D. conceived the study, collated and analysed the data, and led the writing of the manuscript. G.C.H. and D.A.D. helped write the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tim S. Doherty.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Ecology & Evolution thanks Laura Prugh and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Database collation summary.

PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) diagram detailing the procedure for identifying and including relevant publications.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Funnel plots for the movement distance data (left) and home range data (right).

The white area bordered by dashed lines represents the region of 95% pseudo confidence intervals where 95% of studies are expected to fall in the absence of bias and heterogeneity.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Definition of disturbance types.

Full reference details for study ID numbers can be found in the data file at Figshare.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Modelling results to estimate (a) the mean effects of disturbance on each movement type and (b) the mean positive and negative effects.

Posterior means (‘estimate’) and 95% credible intervals are presented for weighted and unweighted analyses of movement distance and home range size.

Extended Data Fig. 5 Modelling results for the effect of taxonomic group on animal movement responses to disturbance.

Posterior means (‘estimate’) and 95% credible intervals are presented for weighted and unweighted analyses of movement distance and home range size. – indicates that insufficient data was available to fit that particular model.

Extended Data Fig. 6 Modelling results for the effect of trophic level on animal movement responses to disturbance.

Posterior means (‘estimate’) and 95% credible intervals are presented for weighted and unweighted analyses of movement distance and home range size.

Extended Data Fig. 7 Effects of disturbance on animal movement distances and home range size according to trophic level (herbivore, omnivore or carnivore).

Positive effects represent increased movement in response to disturbance, and the opposite for negative effects. Symbols represent posterior means and coloured bands represent 95%, 80% and 50% credible intervals.

Extended Data Fig. 8 Modelling results for the effect of body mass on animal movement responses to disturbance.

Posterior means (‘estimate’) and 95% credible intervals are presented for weighted and unweighted analyses of movement distance and home range size. Sample size for each model is given in parentheses below taxonomic group. – indicates that insufficient data was available to fit that particular model.

Extended Data Fig. 9 Modelling results for the effect of (a) broad disturbance type (human activities or habitat modification) and (b) individual disturbance type on animal movement responses to disturbance.

Posterior means (‘estimate’) and 95% credible intervals are presented for weighted and unweighted analyses of movement distance and home range size. The analysis of individual disturbance types was restricted to combinations of taxonomic group and disturbance that had a minimum of 10 effect sizes from a minimum of three studies (combined). – indicates that insufficient data was available to fit that particular model.

Extended Data Fig. 10 Modelling results for the effect of geographic region on animal movement responses to disturbance.

Posterior means (‘estimate’) and 95% credible intervals are presented for unweighted analyses of movement distance and home range size.

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Doherty, T.S., Hays, G.C. & Driscoll, D.A. Human disturbance causes widespread disruption of animal movement. Nat Ecol Evol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-01380-1

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