Humans Change Habitats More Quickly Than Thought

This article was written by Irina Slav and firsr appeared on New Historian A new study from the University of Florida has suggested that human presence, and not just human-driven climate change, can have a drastic effect on biodiversity, at least on islands. In a press release, the authors of the study, ornithology curator Dave Steadman and master’s student Hayley Singleton, explain that a lot of species that lived on Great Abaco island in the Bahamas managed to survive, albeit in some cases barely, until the first humans set foot there, and then apparently succumbed to the effects of this new presence.

The study involved analysis of fossils belonging to almost 100 different species. Of these, 39 are now extinct. Some 17 avian species are believed to have fallen victim to climate change at the end of the last Ice Age, around 10,000 years ago, when temperatures quickly went up and the sea level rose considerably. However, another 22 species, including reptiles, birds, and mammals, managed to adapt to this new environment only to die out after man discovered the island, which happened around a millennium ago.

Steadman says, ““What we see today is just a small snapshot of how species have existed for millions of years. The species that existed on Abaco up until people arrived were survivors. They withstood a variety of environmental changes, but some could not adapt quickly or drastically enough to what happened when people showed up.” He added that the results of the study pose the question of what mechanisms drove these two different kinds of extinction. Perhaps the species that survived the climatic changes were simply not quick enough to adapt to human presence...