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!
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.
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 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.
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.
Save the bees!
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!