- As the coronavirus continues to spread around the world, more than a third of the planet’s population is under some form of lockdown, with many under order to stay at home and avoid social gatherings.
- This lockdown has led to a profound impact on the global economy.
- But fewer humans outside has also allowed the natural world to convalesce, with drops in pollution and a resurgence of wildlife.
- From cleaner beaches to less air pollution, here are 15 photos, videos, and charts that show how the world’s condition is improving while humans stay indoors.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take hold of the world, many governments have imposed strict lockdown and social-distancing measures to curb the spread of the disease.
As of April 22, more than a third of the planet’s population was under some form of restriction, with many under order to stay at home and avoid social gatherings.
Limiting social gathering has led to declines industries like travel and hospitality, which has stunted the global economy. But fewer humans outside has also allowed the natural world to convalesce.
Changes to pollution and air quality, as well as a resurgence of wildlife, have all been observed in the months since the new coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China, late last year.
From cleaner beaches to less air pollution, here are 15 photos, videos, and charts that show how the world’s condition is improving while people stay indoors.
Air pollution in China has decreased, and satellite photos have captured the dramatic drop in recent weeks.
The novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, late last year, and it began to spread to other parts of China and the world in the subsequent months.
Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province, introduced lockdown measures earlier than other cities, and by January 29 all cities in Hubei were under quarantine. But the virus spread quickly to other parts of mainland China, leading other Chinese cities to introduce curfews and other lockdown measures.
NASA and European Space Agency pollution-monitoring satellites detected “significant decreases” in air pollution over parts of China in February compared with the month before.
While there is often a decline in air pollution around the Lunar New Year celebrations, NASA said this year there was more of a decrease than usual.
“This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” Fei Liu, an air-quality researcher at NASA, said in the report.
“I am not surprised because many cities nationwide have taken measures to minimise spread of the virus,” Liu added.
Still, some experts have warned that air pollution may bounce back as China begins to lift its lockdown restrictions and ramp up production to compensate for the previous losses.
Satellite photos also captured a drop in air pollution in Italy.
Italy has been one of the countries hardest-hit by COVID-19. Several provinces introduced lockdown measures in late February. A nationwide lockdown was put in place March 9.
Data taken from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite between January and March indicate a decline of air pollution, specifically nitrogen dioxide concentrations, over Italy.
According to the European Space Agency, the reduction in gases was particularly visible in Northern Italy, which imposed lockdown measures in February, before the rest of the country followed.
Scientists said the pollution decrease was due to efforts to stop the coronavirus’ spread.
“Although there could be slight variations in the data due to cloud cover and changing weather, we are very confident that the reduction in concentrations that we can see, coincides with the lockdown in Italy causing less traffic and industrial activities,” Claus Zehner, ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, said in an April 13 report.
And major decreased concentrations of nitrogen dioxide were observed throughout Europe in recent weeks.
Data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite reported by the European Space Agency indicated that drops in concentrations of nitrogen dioxide were observed across major European cities in recent weeks.
Nitrogen dioxide is a gas produced by power plants, cars, and other industrial facilities. It is found in the Earth’s atmosphere and causes changes in weather patterns as well as adverse health impacts on humans.
From March 13 to April 13, Madrid, Milan, and Rome saw decreases of about 45% in their nitrogen-dioxide concentrations from the year prior. Paris also saw a dramatic drop of 54% in those months, compared with the same frame in 2019.
Spain, Italy, and France all imposed coronavirus lockdown measures in recent weeks, which the European Space Agency says coincides with the drop in air pollution.
“Averaging data over longer periods of time allows us to see clearer changes in concentrations owing to human activity,” Henk Eskes, from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, wrote in an April 16 report.
The Earth is rumbling less, and scientists may now be able to detect smaller earthquake aftershocks.
— Seismologie.be (@Seismologie_be) April 6, 2020
Data from the Royal Observatory of Belgium detected lower anthropogenic noise, or sounds produced by humans, since lockdown measures were put in place.
Since the lockdown measures were put in place, vibrations caused by human activity have fallen by about one-third, according to Nature.com, allowing the observatory’s equipment to better detect waves with frequencies that would have been difficult to discern before the lockdown.
Andy Frassetto, a seismologist at the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology in Washington, DC, told Nature.com that if lockdowns continued, detectors might be able to better pick up locations of earthquake aftershocks.
“You’ll get a signal with less noise on top, allowing you to squeeze a little more information out of those events,” Frassetto said.
In March, photos emerged of the canals of Venice so clear that fish were visible under the surface.
In the weeks following the Italian lockdown, the canals of Venice saw a major improvement in water clarity. Photos taken last month showed seaweed on the canals’ bottoms, while photos of the nearby island of Burano showed fish and swans in the water.
The office of Mayor Luigi Brugnaro told CNN that Venice’s water looked clearer because of “less traffic on the canals, allowing the sediment to stay at the bottom.”
Animals are returning to their habitats and other areas usually highly trafficked by humans. Bears have been spotted in greater frequency at Yosemite National Park in California since lockdown measures closed major tourist sites.
Yosemite National Park is home to about 300-500 black bears. Though there hasn't been an increase in their population since the park closure, bears have been seen more frequently than usual. Check out this bear caught on camera yesterday, climbing a tree next to ranger housing! pic.twitter.com/9rXxIOMRbR
— Yosemite National Park (@YosemiteNPS) April 14, 2020
California has seen a growing number of coronavirus cases, and Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a mandatory statewide stay-at-home order on March 19.
About 95% of Yosemite National Park is designated wilderness. The park also sees about 4 million visitors a year, particularly at the start of spring when bears come out of hibernation, which makes it difficult for the bears to forage for food.
But since Yosemite closed to visitors on March 20, the park’s 300 to 500 black bears have been spotted “more frequently than usual,” the park tweeted on April 14. Bobcats have also been spotted in empty administrative buildings, and coyotes have been able to pass through quiet roads and walkways without human distraction, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“The bear population has quadrupled,” Dane Peterson, a park employee, told the Times.
Wild mountain goats returned to the small town of Llandudno, Wales.
On March 31, the small town of Llandudno was overrun by Great Orme goats, which were initially brought to the area in the 19th century to create a cashmere wool industry.
The goats usually roam the hillsides overlooking the town and rarely venture into the street. But as humans were stuck in their homes, the goats entered into the town to trim hedges and see the sights before returning to the hillside.
In Ebbw Vale, Wales, sheep were spotted at a local McDonald’s.
Facebook user Andrew Thomas spotted sheep at his local McDonald’s in Ebbw Vale, a town of about 18,550 located in Wales, on April 18.
“I saw the sheep and took a pic to put on Facebook as a joke after everyone has been posting [about] cravings and withdrawals for McDonald’s food,” Thomas told CNN.
Rare turtles returned to empty beaches in Phuket, Thailand.
Thailand implemented state of emergency measures on March 9, closing schools and businesses. A curfew was put in place on April 3.
Thailand’s popular beaches have been void of humans due to lockdown measures, allowing large numbers of rare leatherback turtles to build nests on the empty sands.
Kongkiat Kittiwatanawong, the director of the Phuket Marine Biological Centre, told Reuters that the 11 turtle nests authorities found since November 2019 were the highest number they had seen in 20 years.
“This is a very good sign for us because many areas for spawning have been destroyed by humans,” he told Reuters.
“If we compare to the year before, we didn’t have this many spawn, because turtles have a high risk of getting killed by fishing gear and humans disturbing the beach,” he added.
In Israel, wild boars roamed through residential streets in the northern city of Haifa.
While the boars are an increasingly common sight in the valleys around Haifa, dozens of boars descended on the city last week as people remained indoors.
“The problem is that they have lost their instinctive fear of humans,” a municipal official said, according to Ynet. “Even pets have got used to them.”
While some have linked increased sightings of the boars to the coronavirus lockdown, one city official said the influx was due to their mating patterns.
“The boars, which are divided into two main groups, have now expanded due to the season,” local attorney Avital Ben-Nun told Ynet.
In East London, deer roamed free as people stayed inside due to lockdown orders.
Deer have been sighted in East London in the suburban area of Harold Hill. Facebook user Phillippe Edmond posted a photo to the site in late March of a herd of deer sunbathing on someone’s front porch.
According to The Daily Mail, the deer are believed to have come from nearby Dagnam Park.
In Adelaide, Australia, a kangaroo was spotted hopping through the city centre.
Protective Security Officers tracked a suspect wearing a grey fur coat hopping through the heart of the #adelaide CBD this morning. He was last seen on foot heading into the West Parklands ????????????#animaltakeover #whatsthatskip #kangaroo #cityslicker pic.twitter.com/JPyVXIYQRw
— South Australia Police (@SAPoliceNews) April 19, 2020
South Australia Police captured CCTV footage of a kangaroo hopping through the barren streets of Adelaide’s city centre on April 19.
Police said officers “tracked a suspect wearing a grey fur coat” hopping through the city’s main streets.
In India, the Himalayas were visible for the first time in decades.
What nature really is and how we screwed it up.
This is Dhauladhar mountain range of Himachal, visible after 30 yrs, from Jalandhar (Punjab) after pollution drops to its lowest level. This is approx. 200 km away straight. #Lockdown21 #MotherNature #Global healing. pic.twitter.com/cvZqbWd6MR
— Diksha Walia (@Deewalia) April 3, 2020
On March 24, India imposed a nationwide lockdown for 21 days to curb the spread of the coronavirus within its borders.
Residents in the northern Indian state of Punjab say that in recent weeks the lack of human-made air pollution had allowed them to see the Himalayas for the first time in decades.
While it is unclear exactly when the region last saw the Himalayas, residents have said it had been at least three decades.
One theory as to the coronavirus’ origin posits that it originated in live animals and transferred to people at a live-animal market. China temporarily banned the trade and consumption of wild animals in response.
Photo from Douban of a menu at #Wuhan Huanan Seafood Market. Don't know when it was taken, but they sell all kinds of wild animals incl. live wolf pups & palm civets. 2nd photo taken after outbreak discovered shows this storefront (3rd left) covering word “野 (wild)” in its name. pic.twitter.com/HiQlzX4XBX
— Muyi Xiao (@muyixiao) January 21, 2020
After discovering that coronavirus infections were first reported from the vicinity of a wet market, or a place that traditionally sells dead and live animals along with other produce and goods for consumption, China banned the trade of live animals at food markets.
The Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan was shuttered on January 1. But before its closing, the market was selling an array of unusual animals for food, including young wolves and civet cats, which experts believe could play a part in the spread of disease.
On February 24, China comprehensively prohibited the trafficking and consumption of wildlife. The industry is valued at $US7.1 billion and employs 1 million people, Nature.com reported.
There have also been heightened calls to ban wet markets overall.
And without humans, typically busy beaches have become cleaner and the water clearer.
These pics are NOT the Carribean or the Bahamas. This is Miami. It’s been only 2 1/2 weeks since they closed the beaches here & while our beaches are always beautiful, this week the color & clarity of the water DAZZLED. It legit took my breath away. This should give us all pause pic.twitter.com/L3330vUliE
— Louis Aguirre (@LOUISAGUIRRE) April 5, 2020
Beaches and other heavily visited areas have reportedly become less polluted.
Louis Aguirre, a news anchor at WPLG Local 10 News Miami, posted photos of Miami beaches showing empty beaches. He said the colour and clarity of the water “dazzled.”
“It legit took my breath away,” he wrote on Twitter.
Other residents in Florida reported that since local authorities issued orders to close beaches last month, the waters had become clearer.
Mike Ruiz told WPLG that waters had become clearer than he had ever observed while filming marketing videos in the area.
“I felt like I was in a movie,” Ruiz said. “The ocean was crystal clear, neon blue; you could see right through the bottom of the ocean. I’ve never seen the water that blue in the years that we’ve been filming in South Florida.”
Seth Bloomgarden, the chairman of the Miami Surfrider Foundation, told WPLG that while volunteers had not been able to test the water quality to verify whether it had become cleaner under lockdown, he is confident the coronavirus lockdown has had a profound impact on the environment.
“I think the universe has given us an opportunity to hit the pause button, and see all the harm that we’ve actually been doing to the environment and how to get it right,” Bloomgarden told WPLG.
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