Raptor research during the COVID-19 pandemic provides invaluable opportunities for conservation biology

Petra Sumasgutner*, Ralph Buij, Christopher J.W. McClure, Phil Shaw, Cheryl R. Dykstra, Nishant Kumar, Christian Rutz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Research is underway to examine how a wide range of animal species have responded to reduced levels of human activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this perspective article, we argue that raptors (i.e., the orders Accipitriformes, Cariamiformes, Cathartiformes, Falconiformes, and Strigiformes) are particularly well-suited for investigating potential ‘anthropause’ effects: they are sensitive to environmental perturbation, affected by various human activities, and include many locally and globally threatened species. Lockdowns likely alter extrinsic factors that normally limit raptor populations. These environmental changes are in turn expected to influence – mediated by behavioral and physiological responses – the intrinsic (demographic) factors that ultimately determine raptor population levels and distributions. Using this population-limitation framework, we identify a range of research opportunities and conservation challenges that have arisen during the pandemic, related to changes in human disturbance, light and noise pollution, collision risk, road-kill availability, supplementary feeding, and persecution levels. Importantly, raptors attract intense research interest, with many professional and amateur researchers running long-term monitoring programs, often incorporating community-science components, advanced tracking technology and field-methodological approaches that allow flexible timing, enabling continued data collection before, during, and after COVID-19 lockdowns. To facilitate and coordinate global collaboration, we are hereby launching the ‘Global Anthropause Raptor Research Network’ (GARRN). We invite the international raptor research community to join this inclusive and diverse group, to tackle ambitious analyses across geographic regions, ecosystems, species, and gradients of lockdown perturbation. Under the most tragic of circumstances, the COVID-19 anthropause has afforded an invaluable opportunity to significantly boost global raptor conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109149
JournalBiological Conservation
Volume260
Early online date28 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Anthropause
  • Before-after-control-impact (BACI)
  • Birds of prey
  • Human disturbance
  • Human-wildlife interactions
  • Lockdown
  • Natural experiment

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