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For birds, the trail less travelled makes all the difference

Cara J

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The presence of humans on trails — not the trails themselves — cause the most disturbance to forest birds, according to recent research. In a study published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, a research team looked at the effects on bird species of both forest trails and the amount of human recreation on those trails. They wanted to see if it was the trails themselves or the people on them that were disturbing the birds the most. “While looking at articles investigating trail or road effects on birds, contradicting results have been found, and we thought that the effect of a trail might heavily depend on the human use intensity,” said Yves Bötsch, a postdoctoral researcher at the Swiss Ornithological Institute and lead author of the study. To conduct the study, the team assumed that birds farther away from trails were less affected by the trail itself and by humans on the trail. They surveyed breeding birds at two different distances from trails, recording every bird they heard or saw. To look at the effects of different human trail use, they looked at four different forests in Switzerland and France, which all had trails for recreation. Two had higher [...]

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