Humans have modified planet Earth extensively, with impacts ranging from reduced habitat availability to warming temperatures. Here we provide an overview of how humans have modified the nutritional physiology and ecology of wild organisms, and how nutrition is vital to successful conservation practices.
Over the last century, humans have modified landscapes, generated pollution and provided opportunities for exotic species to invade areas where they did not evolve. In addition, humans now interact with animals in a growing number of ways (e.g. ecotourism). As a result, the quality (i.e. nutrient composition) and quantity (i.e. food abundance) of dietary items consumed by wildlife have, in many cases, changed. We present representative examples of the extent to which vertebrate foraging behaviour, food availability (quantity and quality) and digestive physiology have been modified due to human-induced environmental changes and human activities. We find that these effects can be quite extensive, especially as a result of pollution and human-provisioned food sources (despite good intentions). We also discuss the role of nutrition in conservation practices, from the perspective of both in situ and ex situ conservation. Though we find that the changes in the nutritional ecology and physiology of wildlife due to human alterations are typically negative and largely involve impacts on foraging behaviour and food availability, the extent to which these will affect the fitness of organisms and result in evolutionary changes is not clearly understood, and requires further investigation.