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The Anthropause

from The New York Times

Did Nature Heal During the Pandemic ‘Anthropause’?

Covid precautions created a global slowdown in human activity — and an opportunity to learn more about the complex ways we affect other species.

By Emily Anthes

A lone duck savoring its hegemony over the Place de la Concorde in Paris, during coronavirus pandemic lockdowns in the spring of 2020.
A lone duck savoring its hegemony over the Place de la Concorde in Paris, during coronavirus pandemic lockdowns in the spring of 2020. Credit…Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

In a typical spring, breeding seabirds — and human seabird-watchers — flock to Stora Karlsö, an island off the coast of Sweden.

But in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic canceled the tourist season, reducing human presence on the island by more than 90 percent. With people out of the picture, white-tailed eagles moved in, becoming much more abundant than usual, researchers found.

That might seem like a tidy parable about how nature recovers when people disappear from the landscape — if not for the fact that ecosystems are complex. The newly numerous eagles repeatedly soared past the cliffs where a protected population of common murres laid its eggs, flushing the smaller birds from their ledges.

In the commotion, some eggs tumbled from the cliffs; others were snatched by predators while the murres were away. The murres’ breeding performance dropped 26 percent, Jonas Hentati-Sundberg, a marine ecologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, found. “They were flying out in panic, and they lost their eggs,” he said.

The pandemic was, and remains, a global human tragedy. But for ecologists, it has also been an unparalleled opportunity to learn more about how people affect the natural world by documenting what happened when we abruptly stepped back from it.

[ click to continue reading at NYT ]

Posted on July 16, 2022 by Editor

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