Climate crisis is fueling human-wildlife conflicts: Researchers
Shifting environments and behaviors result in interactions that are harmful to both wildlife and humans.
The climate crisis is creating an increase in confrontations that result in injury or death for humans and wildlife, ranging from blue whales crashing with ships to African elephants plundering crops in towns, a new research shows.
Food, water, and healthy habitats are becoming increasingly scarce as a result of the climate crisis, forcing wildlife and human populations into new ranges or previously deserted areas. It is also influencing their behavior. According to a review article sponsored by the University of Washington, this entails an increase in human-wildlife conflicts, as well as damage to personal property and loss of livelihood for people.
The researchers examined 30 years of data and discovered that the number of studies tying climate disruption to war has quadrupled in the last decade compared to the prior two decades. They warn of an "extraordinary width" of afflicted areas.
The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, examined 49 incidents of human-wildlife conflict on every continent except Antarctica, as well as in all five oceans. Conflicts involving all major animal groups - birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates - ranged from 2.5mg mosquitos to 6,000kg African elephants.
Temperature and rainfall fluctuations were the most common causes of conflict, mentioned in more than 80% of case studies. The most prevalent outcome was human injury or death (43% of studies) and wildlife mortality (45% of studies). Conflicts are characterized as direct contact between humans and wildlife that are harmful to one or both.
According to the report, human-wildlife conflicts are already a primary cause of decline and extinction among large mammals, which might induce changes in ecosystems.
“Our systematic review revealed an extraordinary breadth of systems in which climate-driven conflicts are occurring worldwide,” the researchers said.
They also emphasize the importance of anticipating where conflict is likely to occur in the future and devising strategies to reduce it, such as developing early warning systems for wildlife moving into areas prone to drought or mega-fires.