Wildlife Experts Use Cell Coverage Maps to Determine Human Encroachment
Conservation experts have noted that wildlife and towers do not mix. In fact cell coverage maps act as an accurate rendering of areas that are either pristine for wild animals (i.e., areas of zero coverage) and where humans are encroaching on those areas, by establishing cell tower outposts.
A study called “The Human Footprint Index” noted: “We may be able to distinguish areas free from cell phone coverage, and, therefore, from human influence.” Locating these areas with no cell towers and no roads could allow governments to set them aside for conservation before any further degradation occurs. The study found the more threatened the species, Jaguars for instance, the fewer towers nearby.
Recently published in Biological Conservation, the report looked at the distributions of 45 medium and large mammal species in the Brazilian Atlantic forest and compared that data to the distribution of cell towers in the region, according to The Revelator.
The survey showed with more than 18,000 animal observations (in-person sightings to tracks and camera traps), only 18 percent occurred in areas with any kind of cell phone coverage. That number dropped to only four percent for the endangered Jaguar.
The study showed that many sites the Human Footprint Index rank as hospitable to wildlife, determined by being “roadless,” have high levels of cell coverage, indicating higher human activity than expected. The authors of the report said, “this is the first study demonstrating that cell phone coverage can be used as a simpler, modern and unprecedented tool to assess human influence.”
“This paper provides a valuable contribution to the field of conservation biology,” Carleton University conservation biologist Richard Schuster told The Revelator.