UW, Other Researchers Find Concerns for Animals Tied to Same Habitats
by the University of Wyoming
January 11, 2022
Some wildlife are stuck in their ways. Like humans, wild animals often return to the same places to eat, walk on the same paths to travel and use the same places to raise their young.
A team of researchers led by scientists from the University of Wyoming and the University of Washington has reviewed the scientific literature and found that, while this “consistent” behavior may be beneficial when environmental conditions don’t change very fast, those benefits may not be realized in the ever-changing world dominated by humans. The research was published today (Tuesday) in the scientific journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
Ecologists use the term “site fidelity” to describe the behavior of animals that are stuck in their ways. Site fidelity is the tendency to return to previously visited locations and is common across many species, from fish to birds to mammals and insects. Think salmon returning to their natal streams to spawn, or birds returning year after year to the same nest site — site fidelity is all around us in nature.
As animals become familiar with a place, site fidelity can help them know where to find good food or hiding spots from predators, and can help them move efficiently to and from these resources. However, the authors uncovered an emerging theme in the scientific literature.
“Animals that have strong site fidelity are having a tough time adjusting to the novel landscapes that are showing up around them as a result of humans,” says Jerod Merkle, an assistant professor at the University of Wyoming and the co-lead author of the paper.
Read the Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment paper: https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/fee.2456