8 Positives for Spain’s Environment from COVID-19

Spring flowers in hills

Springtime in the undisturbed hills around Grazalema

Wild animals patrolling city parks and abandoned streets have certainly been one of the more entertaining elements in the media during this pandemic. These images may well become one of the most enduring too. However, the temporary confinement and travel restrictions throughout Spain have had a wide range of positive effects for nature, which we hope will have some lasting knock-on effects. In this blog, we explain 8 Positives for Spain’s environment from times of COVID-19

Curious by nature

Spain has been no exception to this phenomenon and its deserted cities & towns have been just waiting to be investigated by local wildlife. Dolphins playfully scoping out Cadiz port, mountain goats strolling around Madrid’s villages, wild deer inspecting Segovia’s aqueduct, wild boar wandering Malaga & Barcelona, inquisitive sharks perusing bays on the Costa Brava and even brown bears in the Asturian town of Cangas del Narcea are just some of the more well documented cases. How many other explorations have gone undetected, is anyone’s guess!

Wild Boar on a Malaga residential street

An action shot of wild boar running up a residential street in Malaga

Much like ourselves when it comes to exploring the globe, these creatures are by nature very inquisitive. Given the chance, they will continue to investigate deep into unknown territories while staying aware of any possible threats. ‘While the cats are away, the mice will play’ goes the old saying, never truer than during these past few months. You only have to look at the proximity of many Spanish cities such Granada, Madrid & Barcelona to wild, mountainous and often protected landscapes to realise how easy it is for them to wander into town.

Balcony bird-watching

Bird-watching from a balcony or window during lockdown has grown in popularity with quieter cities and more time to observe our surroundings. So much so that the term Coronabirding has emerged. Many new-comers have taken to photographing and identifying up to 50 different species in a day in cities like Madrid, Seville or Valencia.  It is easy to presume that many birds have arrived thanks to the lull in human activity. In reality, the vast majority of species have always been around us, but we just haven’t taken the time to notice them, as Sergio Moreno reports in El Mundo. Nevertheless, the month of April coincides with a large migration from Africa to Northern Europe, so there are more than usual! More interest can only mean more support for preserving these species in both rural and urban habitats. Long may it continue!

A soaring Griffon Vulture

A Griffon Vulture in full flight

A peaceful breeding season

Andalucia’s buoyant population of Griffon Vultures, the largest bird found in Spain with a wingspan of up to 2.60 metres and many other birds of prey will be revelling in the lack of disruption and interference in their source of food from hikers, mountaineers, hunting parties and aircraft. This should lead to a more successful breeding season, according to Deli Saavedra, director of Rewilding Europe. Similarly, in Doñana National Park, the peace & quiet of zero visitors after a total lockdown and a year without pilgrimages to El Rocio, will have a similar positive effect. The vast wetland reserve, the most bio-diverse natural area in western Europe is habitat to around 300 migratory species, including most importantly well over 100 which breed their young here. There’s greater hope that that many endangered species such as the Imperial Eagle, Marbled Duck or the Red-knobbed Coot will successfully raise this season’s chicks to boost their numbers.

Cleaner air

Air pollution in major Spanish urban areas, in particular the levels of nitrogen dioxide & carbon dioxide have dropped drastically by 55% on average directly due to the travel restrictions. Madrid heads the list of European capitals with the greatest drop in nitrogen dioxide levels according to the European Environment Agency. This period is being labelled as the greatest drop in pollution that Europe has ever seen and has served to outline the issue of air quality even more than before. We can all appreciate cleaner air and clearer skies although the long-term effects will be down to innovation and investment in more energy efficient and environmentally friendly habits. The World Economic Forum has set out steps that the private sector can focus on.

Wild flowers and bee

Wild flowers in bloom attracting bees

Save the bees!

Directly or indirectly, 70% of the products that we consume are dependent on bees! The organisation Plantlife has discovered that a drastic change in the location and density of wild flowers is helping to save our declining bee population! If we combine the fact that Spain has had one of its most spectacular Springs (the Spanish Meteorological Office says the first half of Spring 2020 has been 80% more rainy than average) with the fact that Spain applied the strictest confinement measures of any country in Europe, you only need to imagine how the Spanish wildflowers have been able to thrive in the countryside, but also in all of the cities and towns as well! This extended blanket of colours has galvanised the bee population into a frenzy of pollinating activity!! Bearing in mind that last year the Earthwatch Institute declared bees as the most important beings on Earth, this is a VERY positive Covid side effect!
Barbecued sardines in Malaga

Grilled Sardine ‘Espetos’ on the beach in Malaga

A breather for Málaga’s sardines!

Experts have been telling us for years that maritime traffic and overfishing on a global level are placing a real strain on the ocean’s ecosystem. However, the timing of confinement couldn’t have been better for one of Andalucia’s favourite fishy friends, the sardine! Confinement meant that the demand for sardines plummeted, coinciding with their breeding season. Tourism this summer on Andalucia’s coastlines will only just be creeping back into view, meaning the demand for “espetos” (grilled sardine skewers) and other tapas with sardines will remain far lower than normal, just as many of the fish reach maturity. Jesus Bellido, from the “Aula del Mar” (a marine conservation and education project in Málaga) is convinced that confinement will offer commercial fish species such as the sardine a much needed breather, leading to a notable recovery in their numbers!

Farm to table?

As silence enveloped the countryside for the past 70 days, animals have begun re-conquering what was formerly theirs. As the days have gone on, rabbits, boar, deer and more have freely wandered into farms and fields of crops to enjoy their excellent kilometre zero products! Product such as grapes in the Axarquia region, grown for raisins, have see a tenfold increase in loss of fruit to wild animals! However, it appears their enjoyment has been short lived, as the Spanish government have been pressured into allowing hunting to resume to allow these farmers to protect their produce.

A puppy isn’t just for confinement!

The Royal Spanish Canine Society says that during the strict confinement period, the demand for puppies doubled! Undoubtedly, some puppy purchases & adoptions were influenced by the fact that dog owners were allowed to walk their pets during the strict lockdown. But many other families decided to add a four-legged friend to the family as a way to unite the family during tough times.
Pets at work

Tiza, hard at work in the Tailormade Andalucia office!!

The human population has unconsciously gifted Mother Nature a time out! It’s almost as if she has been allowed to catch her breath before mankind cranks up the rhythm again. After witnessing how many environmental positives have come out of this situation and hearing how many people have used the confinement period to reflect on life, priorities and topics such as global warming, we hope and pray that many of us will decide to consciously protect and support our environment in the post-Covid era.
Posted in Outdoors, Spain.

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