We’re all ambassadors for nature!
As half the world’s human population went into lockdown, wild animals seemed to venture closer to us, sometimes even arriving in city centres. Schools of fish were spotted in Venetian canals, ducks promenaded in front of the Comédie-Française in Paris, dolphins played in the Sardinian port of Cagliari, wild boars trotted around downtown Barcelona, and a puma was sighted in Santiago de Chile: all these extraordinary events were captured on video and published online. But does that mean that nature can thrive only while humans are out of the picture?
No, things aren’t really that simple. Most species have adapted their habitats and behaviour to the spaces that humans have shaped for themselves. The fauna that we’ve been surprised to see in urban areas often lives unseen, but close by. One of the reasons some animals venture further when fewer people are moving around is that they are looking for food. Some even go so far as to make their homes in objects that people have temporarily stopped using, like this bird who set up its home in an abandoned car wing mirror! When our lives return to normal, they will move away again.
But don’t let down your guard! We’ll soon be coming out of lockdown, so let’s learn how to make sure we tread softly when we go back to these places. Go steady on the gas when you get back behind the wheel, and make sure you protect the animals which have been using our roads freely for almost two months.
Let’s get back to seeing nature, let’s be curious, but let’s also be discreet. We’re all desperate for a break in the country, a walk in the forest, a trip to the mountains or by the sea; we can’t wait to get moving outside and let off some steam. But here again, why not take some time to observe what’s around you? Especially if you’re in familiar territory. If you know what to look for, there are clues wherever you go. In some cities, noise pollution has decreased so dramatically that birds can communicate more easily, as Dr Elizabeth Derryberry of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, explains in this article. For most of the species that breed in the spring, the pandemic has been a blessing. Wild flora has also made the most of the lockdown by flowering more than usual. Now is a great time to go out and see it, and try to learn more about it.
Observing is good, sharing is better!
Anyone can be an ambassador for nature, through citizen science! The idea behind the concept is that the general public can improve scientists’ knowledge of biodiversity by collecting and sharing observations. Whether you’re a beginner, an enthusiast or an expert, there is a programme to suit you. The OPEN (Observatoires Participatifs des Espèces et de la Nature) citizen science website lists all the initiatives that are taking place in France, but there are others in English-speaking countries too. We’re French here at Fanatura, but we like keeping up with what’s happening elsewhere in world! Here some of our favourites:
- The New York Times published an opinion piece offering readers 7 Tips for Watching Birds During the Spring Lockdown packed with simple advice on getting more than just tweets from your garden visitors.
- The BBC published a piece on how lockdown has encouraged people to get closer to the nature on their doorstep, and how that can have a hugely positive impact on mental health.
- A group of rebellious botanists has been naming flowers and plants in chalk on the streets of town and cities all over Europe. This article from The Guardian gives a great report of what they’ve been up to.
- The Fish Watch Forum for scuba diving enthusiasts has published an inventory of marine fish in Europe and the Mediterranean.
And there are plenty more. Why not tell us about your own experiences, and share some of the best initiatives you’ve heard about?
Translated from French by Ruth Simpson
Did you like this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to hear about our posts.