The pandemic moved humanity indoors. Instead of people on busy city streets, wildlife appeared in urban centres, as the anthropause – the moment citizens stopped moving around during lockdown, happened.
In the midst of terrible human suffering, a new reality emerged that indicated something valuable could yet come out of the darkness.
We are doing this work to search for innovative ways of mitigating adverse environmental impact.
Dr Marlee Tucker, a movement ecologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands
Professor Christian Rutz, from the School of Biology at the University of St Andrews, first coined the term anthropause, and in an article published today in the journal Nature Reviews Earth and Environment he explains that it was a time when humanity’s impact on the natural world could be studied. In the same way, what he calls the anthropulse – the return to mass movement, presents the other side of the coin. With access to both sets of information, the Professor says a plan for a sustainable future can be formed.
“The pandemic caused endless suffering but, as scientists, we simply cannot afford to miss the opportunity to assess the environmental consequences of these pauses and pulses in human mobility,” said Professor Richard Primack, a conservation biologist from Boston University.
As half of the world’s human population sheltered at home during COVID, projects, including the COVID-19 Bio-Logging Initiative, were busy gathering data on what it could all mean for the future of the world. The Bio-Logging Initiative, an international research venture Rutz helped launch in May 2020, monitored wildlife movements before, during and after lockdowns using tiny electronic devices attached to animals. The implications of these different scenarios will now help to inform how we move forward with protecting valuable species.
“There are very important lessons we can learn for conservation biology and environmental planning,” added Dr Marlee Tucker, a movement ecologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands.
The scientists are now working on ways to better understand how different human activities affect the natural world. Which includes the movement of people, motorised traffic, and pollution levels. The ultimate goal is to use the information to chart a path to a sustainable future.