Covid-19 lockdown seems to have made people look a little harder at their surroundings and how they have lived their lives until now. But, what has been the impact of the lockdown on nature?
The mad rush of everyday life came to a sudden halt for many. Nature, which usually sits quietly in the background, has suddenly come to the foreground. In many areas, including my own village, the countryside is busier now than ever. People from surrounding towns have made the journey out and discovered beautiful areas right on their doorstep which they never knew existed.
Parks and other communal green spaces have suddenly become a much needed escape. Nature beauty spots seem to be receiving greater appreciation now. There have been many news headlines hailing the beauty of British countryside and nature, with jubilation that the restrictions on every day life seem to be doing wonders for the environment. The Venice canals are clearer and teaming with life. And CO2 emissions have dropped to their lowest level in 100 years.
I’m now back home from University and finally have the time to re-explore the beautiful countryside and nature around me. But, there is one place I’ve particularly enjoyed to visit and that’s an area of woodland owned and managed by my neighbour. It is home to some fantastic wildlife.
While lots of footpaths are busier than before, these woods sit largely undisturbed. I’ve seen an abundance of creatures and plants. I’ve spotted birds like sparrow hawks, woodpeckers and even a barn owl. I’ve also seen many more deer than normal. And have had the time to appreciate beautiful plant life like bluebells and wild orchids.
Yet, while this all sounds fantastic, does it paint an accurate picture of how nature is really faring under lockdown? What is the real impact of the lockdown on nature in the UK? People seem quick and eager to jump to the conclusion that because humans are to blame for much of the natural world’s destruction, constraining us and keeping us out of nature’s way must be universally beneficial for our fragile ecosystems. But this ignores one very large contributor to the maintenance of a healthy natural world – conservation.
This absence of hikers and tourists in popular travel destinations also means many ground nesting birds are now building their nests on usually well trodden areas. While this again initially sounds fantastic, as Jake Fiennes, conservation manager of the Holkham national nature reserve pointed out, this could actually be an environmental catastrophe in the making. These birds, and many other animals for that matter, are safe for the time being. However, once the restrictions are considerably relaxed and people can travel once again, the impact of lockdown on wildlife could be severe.
Covid-19 lockdown has, in many places, given nature the necessary respite from humans. It allowed it to flourish. Many people only now began to appreciate the natural world right under their noses. But what needs more attention is the crucial conservation work that goes with this. All these beautiful areas and the wildlife in them are maintained and protected by someone.
Britain’s idyllic countryside doesn’t just exist. It’s guarded and nurtured by those of us who live and work there; the farmers, the gamekeepers, the conservation workers and everyone else who does their bit to preserve our beautiful natural landscape. So far, the nature under lockdown is doing well but only time can tell how it will fare once things go back to normal…