Human activity, contrary to expectations, has increased the number of animal species

(ORDO NEWS) — Previously, scientists believed that the intensive development of the continent by humans and the importation of invasive species inevitably leads to a reduction in biodiversity.

However, comparing the number of species of large mammals that lived in Stone Age and modern Europe, the researchers made an unexpected conclusion for themselves: the presence of man only benefited the biodiversity of the most developed of all continents.

In recent years, our understanding of the impact of humans and invasive species on biodiversity has been constantly changing.

While on some continents, such as Australia, the presence of introduced predators does lead to the extinction of rare species of mammals, the assessment of the impact of human activity in other parts of the Earth is far from being so unambiguous.

So, for example, despite numerous statements about the “sixth mass extinction” initiated by man , many prominent biologists and paleontologists refuse to consider it as such, because the rate of extinction of taxa, say, during the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction, and now are incomparable.

And now, having studied the biodiversity in Europe of the Stone Age and what we are seeing today, researchers from the University of York (Canada) have generally come to a seemingly paradoxical conclusion: on the most developed continent of the Earth, the presence of man has only led to an increase in the diversity of mammals.

Despite deforestation and hunting of large mammals over the past eight thousand years, the efforts of conservationists and the importation of invasive species have increased the diversity of mammals, or at least kept it at Stone Age levels.

In fact, despite constant pressure from humans, only two large mammals have completely died out in the past: the aurochs, the wild ancestor of cows (extinct in the 17th century) and the European wild ass, a subspecies of the kulan (extinct 2,500 years ago).

On the other hand, there were significantly more “newcomers”: from domestic animals, including synanthropic rats and mice, to American minks, spotted deer and raccoon dogs purposefully introduced by people.

In addition, those primordially European species that people could not completely exterminate, recently, thanks to the efforts of conservationists, have been intensively increasing in numbers and expanding their range, so that, once in a European national park, it is quite possible to imagine yourself in the place of Robin Hood hunting royal deer.

Of course, in different parts of Europe the situation is very different: if in the UK there is little left of the former diversity of large mammals, then in Eastern Europe there are many relatively untouched corners where moose and bears can live peacefully away from humans.

Also, the findings can in no way be regarded as a call to reduce efforts to protect wildlife: only the ongoing work to restore European ecosystems can preserve the current diversity of fauna and give hope to other continents of the Earth that the presence of man is not always evil.


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