Global COVID-19 lockdown highlights humans as both threats and custodians of the environment.

Amanda E Bates, Richard B Primack, PAN-Environment Working Group, Carlos M. Duarte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


The global lockdown to mitigate COVID-19 pandemic health risks has altered human interactions with nature. Here, we report immediate impacts of changes in human activities on wildlife and environmental threats during the early lockdown months of 2020, based on 877 qualitative reports and 332 quantitative assessments from 89 different studies. Hundreds of reports of unusual species observations from around the world suggest that animals quickly responded to the reductions in human presence. However, negative effects of lockdown on conservation also emerged, as confinement resulted in some park officials being unable to perform conservation, restoration and enforcement tasks, resulting in local increases in illegal activities such as hunting. Overall, there is a complex mixture of positive and negative effects of the pandemic lockdown on nature, all of which have the potential to lead to cascading responses which in turn impact wildlife and nature conservation. While the net effect of the lockdown will need to be assessed over years as data becomes available and persistent effects emerge, immediate responses were detected across the world. Thus initial qualitative and quantitative data arising from this serendipitous global quasi-experimental perturbation highlights the dual role that humans play in threatening and protecting species and ecosystems. Pathways to favorably tilt this delicate balance include reducing impacts and increasing conservation effectiveness.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109175
JournalBiological conservation
StatePublished - May 20 2021

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-11-21
Acknowledgements: The Canada Research Chairs program provided funding for the core writing team. Field research funding was provided by A.G. Leventis Foundation; Agence Nationale de la Recherche, [grant number ANR-18-32–0010CE-01 (JCJC PEPPER)]; Agencia Estatal de Investigaci; Agência Regional para o Desenvolvimento da Investigação Tecnologia e Inovação (ARDITI), [grant number M1420-09-5369-FSE-000002]; Alan Peterson; ArcticNet; Arkadaşlar; Army Corp of Engineers; Artificial Reef Program; Australia's Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), National Collaborative; Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), University of Tasmania; Australian Institute of Marine Science; Australian Research Council, [grant number LP140100222]; Bai Xian Asia Institute; Batubay Özkan; BC Hydro Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program; Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; Bertarelli Foundation; Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science; Bilge Bahar; Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Biology Society of South Australia; Boston University; Burak Över; California State Assembly member Patrick O'Donnell; California State University Council on Ocean Affairs, Science & Technology; California State University Long Beach; Canada Foundation for Innovation (Major Science Initiative Fund and funding to Oceans Network Canada), [grant number MSI 30199 for ONC]; Cape Eleuthera Foundation; Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales; Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique; Charles Darwin Foundation, [grant number 2398]; Colombian Institute for the Development of Science and Technology (COLCIENCIAS), [grant number 811–2018]; Colombian Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, [grant number 0041–2020]; Columbia Basin Trust; Commission for Environmental Cooperation; Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Cultural practices and environmental certification of beaches, Universidad de la Costa, Colombia, [grant number INV.1106–01–002-15, 2020–21]; Department of Conservation New Zealand; Direction de l'Environnement de Polynésie Française; Disney Conservation Fund; DSI-NRF Centre of; Excellence at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology; Ecology Project International; Emin Özgür; Environment and Climate Change Canada; European Community: RTD programme - Species Support to Policies; European Community's Seventh Framework Programme; European Union; European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, [grant number 798091, 794938]; Faruk Eczacıbaşı; Faruk Yalçın Zoo; Field research funding was provided by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology; Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program; Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, [grant numbers FWC-12164, FWC-14026, FWC-19050]; Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional; Fonds québécois de la recherche nature et technologies; Foundation Segré; Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT Portugal); Galapagos National Park Directorate research, [grant number PC-41-20]; Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, [grant number GBMF9881 and GBMF 8072]; Government of Tristan da Cunha; Habitat; Conservation Trust Foundation; Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment; Institute of Biology of the Southern Seas, Sevastopol, Russia; Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt; Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE), Brazil; Israeli Academy of Science's Adams Fellowship; King Family Trust; Labex, CORAIL, France; Liber Ero Fellowship; LIFE (European Union), [grant number LIFE16 NAT/BG/000874]; Mar'a de Maeztu Program for Units of Excellence in R&D; Ministry of Science and Innovation, FEDER, SPASIMM,; Spain, [grant number FIS2016–80067-P (AEI/FEDER, UE)]; MOE-Korea, [grant number 2020002990006]; Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund; Montreal Space for Life; National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Earth and Space Science Fellowship Program; National Geographic Society, [grant numbers NGS-82515R-20]; National Natural Science Fund of China; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; National Parks Board, Singapore; National Science and Technology Major Project of China; National Science Foundation, [grant number DEB-1832016]; Natural Environment Research Council of the UK; Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Alliance COVID-19 grant program, [grant numbers ALLRP 550721–20, RGPIN-2014-06229 (year: 2014), RGPIN-2016-05772 (year: 2016)]; Neiser Foundation; Nekton Foundation; Network of Centre of Excellence of Canada: ArcticNet; North Family Foundation; Ocean Tracking Network; Ömer Külahçıoğlu; Oregon State University; Parks Canada Agency (Lake Louise, Yoho, and Kootenay Field Unit); Pew Charitable Trusts; Porsim Kanaf partnership; President's International Fellowship Initiative for postdoctoral researchers Chinese Academy of Sciences, [grant number 2019 PB0143]; Red Sea Research Center; Regional Government of the Azores, [grant number M3.1a/F/025/2015]; Regione Toscana; Rotary Club of Rhinebeck; Save our Seas Foundation; Science & Technology (CSU COAST); Science City Davos, Naturforschende Gesellschaft Davos; Seha İşmen; Sentinelle Nord program from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund; Servizio Foreste e Fauna (Provincia Autonoma di Trento); Sigrid Rausing Trust; Simon Fraser University; Sitka Foundation; Sivil Toplum Geliştirme Merkezi Derneği; South African National Parks (SANParks); South Australian Department for Environment and Water; Southern California Tuna Club (SCTC); Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge; Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness; Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation; State of California; Sternlicht Family Foundation; Suna Reyent; Sunshine Coast Regional Council; Tarea Vida, CEMZOC, Universidad de Oriente, Cuba, [grant number 10523, 2020]; Teck Coal; The Hamilton Waterfront Trust; The Ian Potter Foundation, Coastwest, Western Australian State NRM; The Red Sea Development Company; The Wanderlust Fund; The Whitley Fund; Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline; Tula Foundation (Hakai Institute); University of Arizona; University of Pisa; US Fish and Wildlife Service; US Geological Survey; Valencian Regional Government; Vermont Center for Ecostudies; Victorian Fisheries Authority; VMRC Fishing License Fund; and Wildlife Warriors Worldwide.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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