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Ecological impacts of human-induced animal behaviour change.

  • Author(s): Wilson, Margaret W;
  • Ridlon, April D;
  • Gaynor, Kaitlyn M;
  • Gaines, Steven D;
  • Stier, Adrian C;
  • Halpern, Benjamin S
  • et al.

Published Web Location

https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.13571
Abstract

A growing body of literature has documented myriad effects of human activities on animal behaviour, yet the ultimate ecological consequences of these behavioural shifts remain largely uninvestigated. While it is understood that, in the absence of humans, variation in animal behaviour can have cascading effects on species interactions, community structure and ecosystem function, we know little about whether the type or magnitude of human-induced behavioural shifts translate into detectable ecological change. Here we synthesise empirical literature and theory to create a novel framework for examining the range of behaviourally mediated pathways through which human activities may affect different ecosystem functions. We highlight the few empirical studies that show the potential realisation of some of these pathways, but also identify numerous factors that can dampen or prevent ultimate ecosystem consequences. Without a deeper understanding of these pathways, we risk wasting valuable resources on mitigating behavioural effects with little ecological relevance, or conversely mismanaging situations in which behavioural effects do drive ecosystem change. The framework presented here can be used to anticipate the nature and likelihood of ecological outcomes and prioritise management among widespread human-induced behavioural shifts, while also suggesting key priorities for future research linking humans, animal behaviour and ecology.

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