nature has (slightly) benefited from confinement

Lhave nature has regained its rights “ : The formula that blossomed during imprisonment is misleading. Because the ball remains in men whose evolutionary model does not provide much respite for other species, as shown by the latest global assessment of the “IPCC of biodiversity”, IPBES, in May 2019. And if the videos of wild animals burst into the streets have amused Internet users , we can also read them in a less joyful way: worn out and desperate animals in a universe that is not theirs, herds of elephants crossing a road in Thailand, goats trotting on a turn of children in England, felines jumping over fences in Chile. And if these images said in the hole, how big is our influence?

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Scientists are not surprised by this incoherent outbreak of wildlife. “Animals are very sensitive to disturbances caused by humans. As soon as the pressure drops, the new areas take advantage of the green collars of Paris’ avenues like the cougars of the tropical cities. It is not surprising “, notes Philippe Clergeau, professor at the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) and specialist in urban biodiversity. Thus, under the pressure of a deadly virus, the vice is temporarily loosened. And nature, usually confined … delimited for a few weeks.

“This pressure is exerted in several waysexplains Jean-François Silvain, President of the Foundation for Research on Biodiversity. Roads and railways fragment habitats and prevent wildlife – particularly sensitive to noise pollution – from moving; at night, light pollution disturbs the animals, which also suffer from the influence of intensive farming and hunting. »

Birdsong higher in the city

Usually, many species have learned to adapt to these “genes”. “For example, it has been proven that the song of certain birds is louder in cities where there is more noise and it is present from generation to generation”, says Jérôme Sueur, eco-ecologist at MNHN. “Above all, species hide from humansremembers Jean-François Silvain. With confinement, some have taken on new habits, to find food or nest. So we see them! But these animals were already there. » Near Marseille, the director of the Côte Bleue Marine Park, Frédéric Bachet, has seen the effects “The drastic decline in maritime traffic. Offshore birds have come closer, such as Cory’s Shearwaters and Yelkouan ». Like the whales gliding beneath the water surface of the Calanques, whose images have toured the country.

However, it is difficult to draw solid conclusions from these observations. In addition to the lack of hindsight, there is limited room for maneuver for the researchers – who were also imprisoned. “We asked for exceptions to conduct studies during this very atypical period, but in vain”, Anne Dozières, Director of Vigie-Nature, deplores a participatory scientific system that is crucial to the detailed understanding of changes in biodiversity. Fortunately, the general public responded. “Since March 15, we have had 15,000 new registrations for observation garden birds, she continues. Thus, we will collect five to six times more data during the incarceration period than usual! » If the latter do not compensate for the work of researchers, they nevertheless remain precious (1).

“Life for the animals has become easier! »

Meanwhile, biologists and ecologists rely on their experience to formulate a few hypotheses. “As pollution has fallen, especially sound pollution, we can imagine better survival rates for certain species, especially birds”, notes Jérôme Sueur, at MNHN, who gives a simple illustration: “Outside the confinement, the birds have to sing louder to find a partner, which requires a lot of energy. With this break, they were able to devote this energy to something else, ” like finding food, moreover probably more abundant: less maintained shrubs and grass, it is more flowers, attracts insects, and therefore birds! In public gardens that are also deserted … as they are enclosed.

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“Lot, summarizes the ecologist, life became easier! »“We can expect better reproduction rates this 2020 season”, adds Anne Dozières, at Vigie-Nature. As for the carnage in road traffic – 1.8 million hedgehogs are crushed on average a year in France – they have necessarily fallen.

Hence the fear of some specialists about “setbacks” upon liberation. “The positive effects of confinement can be undone, with harm”, fears Philippe Clergeau, at the museum, and urges e.g. the chickens that could pay the high price for the resumption of traffic as well as the reopening of parks and gardens. Jean-François Silvain, he is concerned about the return of hunters. “The deer that I see near my house in the east of France should rather run fast! At the dawn of darkness they came in large numbers, but will soon regain their avoidance reflexes.” The National Forestry Office (ONF) and the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO), for their part, have asked the French “déconfinés” for the utmost vigilance. (read opposite).

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At Vigie-Nature, Anne Dozières wonders. “This period, when nature reappeared before our eyes or, on the contrary, missed a lot, will it just be a short-lived breath or an opportunity for consciousness? » The director wants to believe in a certain awareness, recalling that waking up to nature through participatory science changes certain practices, such as the use of pesticides in gardens.

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calls for vigilance

National Forestry Office (ONF) and League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) warned of the risk of releasing fauna and flora.

In early May, the LPO encouraged hikers to “double precautions” to avoid “involuntary destruction of wildlife and plants that have invaded certain spaces during confinement”.

ONF invites the French to find their forests“on your toes” to specify it “wildlife has become less violent and more sensitive after these weeks, with almost no human disturbance”.

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