Nature healed during COVID lockdowns? Not so much...

Nature healed during COVID lockdowns? Not so much...

Remember those heart-warming stories of wildlife reclaiming deserted cities during the COVID-19 lockdowns? Turns out, the reality might be a bit more nuanced.

A new study published in Nature throws a bucket of cold water on the idea of a global ecological renaissance. Researchers at the University of British Columbia analysed data from camera traps deployed across 21 countries, mostly in Europe and North America. Their findings paint a more complex picture than the "nature is healing" memes might suggest.

While some areas did see an increase in mammal activity, it wasn't a uniform trend. Notably, the study found:

  • Animals adapted, not thrived: In human-modified habitats like parks, some animals actually became more active with reduced human presence. However, this activity often shifted to nighttime, suggesting these creatures were still wary of humans even when less visible.
  • Predators took advantage: Carnivores, particularly sensitive to human activity, became bolder during lockdowns. For example, black-tailed deer populations in a Vancouver park increased, likely due to a temporary decline in their predator, the cougar. This highlights the delicate balance between predator and prey.
  • No global shift: Overall, the study found no significant change in mammal activity globally. This suggests the hopeful narrative of nature bouncing back during lockdowns may have been a bit over-enthusiastic.


Studies debunk 'nature is healing' narrative from 2020 lockdowns


So, what does this mean for our relationship with wildlife? The researchers propose:

  • Strategic activity management: Limiting human activity at night or in less-developed areas could create crucial space for wildlife to perform essential behaviours like predation, keeping ecosystems healthy.
  • Focus on coexistence: The study reinforces the ongoing challenge of human-wildlife coexistence, especially as wild areas face mounting pressure from recreation, tourism, and resource extraction. Finding ways to share our increasingly crowded planet is critical for both our well-being and theirs.

The lockdowns may have led to more wildlife sightings, but it was likely because we were simply paying more attention from our homes, not because nature had undergone a dramatic transformation. The research underscores the need for a more nuanced understanding of our impact on wildlife and the importance of finding ways to live alongside them in a sustainable way.


You’ve come this far…
Why not venture a little further into A.S.S. - our exclusive Australian Space Society. 

And keep thrusting Australia into the deep unknown…


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