Around the world, Earth’s natural environments are being destroyed at a truly shocking scale. It means places animals need to shelter and breed, such as tree hollows, rock crevices, and reefs, are disappearing.
The only long-term way to protect these animals is to stop destroying their homes. But political resistance, financial interests and other factors often work to prevent this. So scientists must get creative to try and hold off extinction in the short term.
One way they do this is to create artificial habitat structures. Our new research, released today, examines how ingenious, high-tech innovation is making some structures more effective.
But artificial habitats are not a silver bullet. Some can harm animals, and they can be used by developers to distract from the damage their projects cause.
The doors opened only for microchipped possums as they came close, and most possums were trained to use them in about 11 days. Such technology may help to keep predators and other animals out of nest boxes provided for threatened species.
In New Zealand, small, native lizards hide from predatory house mice in the crevices of rock piles. Researchers used video game software to visualise these 3D spaces and create “Goldilocks” rock piles – those with crevices big enough to let lizards in, but small enough to exclude mice.
3D printing to create artificial habitats is also becoming increasingly common.
Scientists have used a combination of computer simulation, augmented reality and 3D-printing to create artificial owl nests that resemble termite mounds in trees.
And researchers and designers have created 3D-printed rock pools and reefs to provide habitat for sea life. https://www.youtube.com/embed/BMCfiLnncg8?wmode=transparent&start=0 A 3D-printed, modular artificial reef structure designed by Alex Goad.
It’s not all good news
Collaboration between scientists and engineers has enabled amazing new homes for wildlife, but there’s still lots of room for improvement.
In some instances, artificial habitats may be detrimental to an animal’s health. For example, they may get too hot or be placed in areas with little food or lots of predators.
Such actions are the root cause of species decline.
We strongly encourage further collaboration between scientists and engineers to improve artificial habitat structures and help animal conservation. But as we help with one hand, we must stop destroying with the other.