The Biodiversity in Times of COVID-19
The amazing biodiversity of our planet includes many beautiful and varied life forms. From the bioluminescent plankton that recently dyed our beaches neon blue, to the majestic fin whales that visit us during the winter, a myriad of animals and plants enrich our lives and provide many services that sustain the ecosystems we depend on. For example, anchovies. These tiny fish are the main prey for sea lions, mackerel, least tern, and many other animals, and represent the foundation of a web of life that supports the productivity of the northern Gulf of California. Halophytes (salt-loving plants) that cover the channels of the region’s estuaries enrich the soil and provide stability along the coast, protecting against floods and rising sea levels, in addition to providing food for many animals and being efficient carbon dioxide absorbers that mitigate the effects of climate change. Top predators, such as totoaba, great white shark and Sun star, reign at the top of the food web, where they keep populations under control and help maintain a diverse system. Biodiversity also includes genetic differences within species. These are the increasingly varied building blocks that ensure that at least some individuals within a population survive unanticipated changes in the environment.
2020 is the last year of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity. It was established to promote the implementation of a strategic plan on biodiversity and its overall vision of living in harmony with nature. The initiative was designed to put a stop on species mass extinction by humans that has resulted in the loss of around 50% of known species in the last 50 years.
In this context, and as a result of the pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, our lifestyles have radically changed in the past few months. Social isolation and the lockdown that brought much of the global economy to a halt, diminished pollution levels in general and have provided free passage for wildlife to recolonize their original habitats. Several examples are circulating on social media, and there is a general sense of joy and a lot of thought about the resilience of our planet if we give it a break.
However, the urgent need to reactivate our economy can make us abruptly go back to pre-COVID-19 conditions, perhaps causing a greater impact than what was previously assessed. For example, as consumers relegate environmental priorities while trying to stay clear of the coronavirus, the use of single-use plastics is increasing due to the demand for disposable products to avoid the risk of infection. Likewise, industrial emissions may increase.
It is very important, then, to take advantage of these moments of deep introspection to rethink our lifestyles and not give up on our efforts to protect the environment during this “temporary relief”. The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to reinvent our relationship with nature and put it at the center of our decision-making1.
Please join the Intercultural Center for the Study of the Deserts and Oceans (CEDO) and team up with us to continue this global conservation effort by changing our consumer habits, supporting our local economy, taking part in a beach or neighborhood clean-up, participating in outdoor activities, and learning more about our local biodiversity.