The Startling Effects of Quarantine on Nature


Credit to New York Post

Lucia Garay, Editor-in-Chief, Page Editor

With nearly the entire world currently on orders to shelter-in-place, suburban and urban residents in some areas have been forced to remain indoors for more than a month. As the streets empty of the usual traffic, many cities around the world have noticed a surprising trend: air and water pollution is decreasing and animals are beginning to wander into the empty spaces previously occupied by people.


According to an article written in the “Japan Times”, these close encounters with nature are occurring all over the world. In a small town near Barcelona, wild boars are wandering the streets. In Venice, water fowl and fish are finally visible in the canals once bustling with boats and water traffic. In Japan, deer are daring to venture into empty cities. In Chile, a puma ventured into a usually bustling area.


Suburban sprawl has increased rapidly over recent years, pushing wild animals out of their native habitats as space was made for growing populations of people. Now that those people are stuck indoors, those wild animals are emboldened by the lack of foot and motor traffic to wander into developed areas. 


Bold, curious animals like foxes, birds, and monkeys were the first to venture onto the new turf. Domesticated animals like goats, sheep, and cows are also wandering beyond their usual domains. The lack of people is undeniable freeing a space for animals as wildlife reclaims habitat at a surprising speed. Nonessential boating has also been banned, freeing space for whales, dolphins, and seabirds.


In another unexpected development, unmowed lawns and flowers now being spared from being picked by pedestrians have become a haven for bees and other pollinators.

Venice is a unique case as the canals are usually affected by both pollution from boats and the constant movement from motorized boats and large cruise ships. Now fish and other aquatic life are visible. Ducks, swans, and their eggs are safe from pedestrians and their dogs as the unique biosphere of the Venice canals come back to life.


Beyond simply the resurgence of wildlife, the shelter in place order has had a positive impact on air pollution all over the world. According to an article by Jonathan Watts and Niko Kommenda in the Wired, the lack of motorized vehicles and the large scale stoppage of industrial activity like production and airline flights can be considered the “largest-scale experiment ever” of world ride reduction of emissions.


According to NASA, the density of dangerous emissions in China have dropped by 10 to 30 percent. Similarly, emissions in Milan have dropped by 40 percent and the same trends are being observed in Europe.


According to the “Los Angeles Curbed”, the Los Angeles area is currently in the “longest stretch of clean air since 1980” thanks to the lack of car traffic and a pause in factory work.

People’s relationship with nature is affected in many ways. Trapped inside, many find themselves missing wildlife and hoping to soon return to nature.

Even as cities all over the world are confronted with the stark reality of their impact on wildlife, the stories of nature thriving during the quarantine become points of positivity for those confronted by bad news. Nature offers hope in troubled times.