In times like these, we should take a cue from nature as it thrives under less of a shadow of human influence. These are 10 ways that nature is beginning to heal during the coronavirus pandemic that may inspire more long lasting changes to anthropogenic activities.
1. Flamingos in Mumbai
This season flamingos have been flocking to Mumbai in numbers unseen for many years. They normally migrate to the city in September to feed until May. In 2019 134,000 total flamingos were counted by the Bombay Natural History Society for the entire feeding season. This year, 125,000 were counted before lockdown began in March. Since then, the flocks have only begun to increase. The society expects the population to far surpass that of last year’s by the end of May due to their increased presence in Mumbai’s wetlands, an area that they normally avoid because of human activities.
2. Noise Pollution
The overall decrease in transportation as of late has caused lower levels of noise pollution on land and in our oceans. This benefits species that communicate through sound by allowing them to better avoid predators and find potential niches or food sources. For example, cruise ships traveling in the migratory paths of wales often interfere with their calls, making it harder for them to survive. Watching whale populations and overall activity during this time may prove enough to change routes of such ships in order to not interfere with these animals' natural processes.
3. Consumption of Wild Animals
The coronavirus outbreak has caused many governments to begin regulating the consumption of wild animals, which benefits the continued survival of such species. Educational campaigns may be the way to put a stop to this for good as seen through the success of China’s major public education campaigns on shark finning. It was so impactful that in the past three years the market for shark fins dropped by 80%. The coronavirus pandemic creates an opening through which similar campaigns can be introduced to put an end to the consumption of other wild animals throughout the world.
4. Ocean and Beach Pollution
The closure of many highly trafficked beaches has caused a reduction in beach trash and ocean pollution on a global scale. There are fewer people leaving garbage on the beach and bringing chemical sunscreens into the ocean, meaning that less harm is being posed to aquatic wildlife. In order to continue this momentum and improve the health of our oceans in the long run we must make caring for our beaches a new norm.
5. Surface Seismic Activity
The Earth has been experiencing less ambient seismic noise as a result of stay at home orders and social distancing. Between less people out and about, fewer cars on the road, and less public transportation, cities like Brussels have seen a 30% to 50% reduction in seismic noise. This allows scientists to better pick up on true seismic events (like smaller earthquakes) that their technology normally would not be able to register.
6. Coyotes in San Francisco
Due to the stay at home order in San Francisco coyotes have been spotted roaming the streets. They are traveling further into the city than usual due to fewer cars on the road. Some have even made headlines after being seen on the Golden Gate Bridge. Although the total population size hasn’t changed, the numbers in the city itself have increased as this has allowed the coyotes access to new food sources.
7. Air Pollution
Smog over cities like Los Angeles and New Delhi is clearing, meaning less air pollutants are being released into the atmosphere. New Delhi has recorded a 60% drop in particulate matter, one of the most dangerous pollutants to human health. Los Angeles has recorded a drop in nitrogen levels, meaning a reduction in compounds that lead to global warming. This benefits humans and other species by putting them at less of a risk for respiratory illnesses but does not put a dent in decreasing global warming. A more lasting cap on emissions has to be put in place to see a true impact in greenhouse gas reduction in our atmosphere.
8. Ganges River Dolphins in India
A rare sighting of a pair of Ganges River dolphins occurred in Meerut, India. This species is registered as an endangered breed of freshwater dolphin and has not been able to populate most regions of the Ganges due to bycatch and hunting. The halting of such activities due to COVID-19 has caused the dolphins to appear in various regions of the river once again. Modifying certain fishing activities in the Ganges in the future could help their total population increase and take the Ganges River dolphin off of the endangered list.
9. Goats in Wales
Herds of Great Orme Kashmiri goats are appearing all over Llandudno, Wales due to the town emptying from lockdown measures. Normally the native goats do not venture into the town due to human activities, but now have been able to expand their territory and find new niches and sources of food.
10. Wildlife of Yosemite
Yosemite national park was closed in March to prevent the spread of coronavirus. There are a few hundred people left in the park, which is a much smaller human presence compared to the 300,000 visitors that traverse the park each month. Coyotes, bobcats, deer, and black bears have been appearing more frequently in the usually human-populated areas. According to park rangers, increases in animal populations have not been recorded, although there have been more sightings as the animals seem to be enjoying the quiet.