The impact of lockdown on local and UK wildlife – what does the future hold?

By Howard Winsten-Korver |

Lockdown has had a big effect on our country – there are more people working from home than ever before, travel has become more local, and everyday life is virtually at a standstill. Birdsong has replaced the sounds of car engines and fewer planes occupy the sky above. Less travel has meant that nature is not being disturbed as much by visitors, and the air pollution across the UK has dramatically reduced since lockdown came into force – allowing British wildlife to flourish. With boredom setting in during this period, many people have been occupying themselves by making their gardens more wildlife friendly. This year has seen a record increase in sales of birdfeed, with companies such as the Seed Co-operative reporting that sales are six times higher than last year.

“Birdsong has replaced the sound of car engines” | Gabriele Agrillo/Unsplash

According to a report by the National Trust, rarer species are being spotted around the country and animals are starting to move out of their usual habitats into areas that they have traditionally stayed away from. Peregrines are nesting in Corfe Castle for the first time in decades, rare bird calls being heard in traditionally busy areas and there have been increased sightings of badgers and otters. Less cars on the road have meant that roadkill has reduced by two thirds – this is particularly good news for hedgehogs (which make up 50% of mammals killed on the roads), especially considering that their numbers in the countryside have halved in the last twenty years. Cornwall is no exception to this trend of protecting wildlife during lockdown – organisations such as ‘Cornwall Wildlife Trust’ are encouraging people to send in their lockdown wildlife photographs. So far, the submissions have included bats, kingfishers and damselflies, as well as caterpillar and spider nests. They are also giving tips on how people can make their gardens more wildlife friendly, such as how to install ponds and how to help garden wildlife during the hot weather.

Many of us have got back in touch with nature over this period…

Cornwall is home to a large variety of habitats; and has unique weather conditions compared to a lot of the UK – this allows for a large diversity of wildlife. For example, the high winds in the moors prevent tree growth, encouraging the growth of shrubs and gorse – providing habitats to certain species of birds such as Dartford Warblers and Yellowhammers. Lizard Point, the most southerly part of the UK, is home to a huge array of marine life, including seals, porpoises and dolphins. Wetlands, which are naturally present in Cornwall, are home to mammals and invertebrates, and they are also important for the environment as they act as ‘carbon sinks’ (removing carbon from the atmosphere). Unfortunately, they have been under threat due to the use of peat for fuel and from pollution damaging the water quality – hopefully lockdown will allow them to start to recover.

“Cornwall is home to a large variety of habitats” | Keith Davey/Unsplash

A cynic may say that the improvements that we have seen won’t last after lockdown – that everyone will go back to their old ways and that the progress we have seen will be lost. However, many of us have got back in touch with nature over this period, and hopefully, as lockdown eases, we will try to be more mindful towards wildlife when going about our day-to-day lives. The National Trust has offered some advice on ensuring that wildlife remains undisturbed after lockdown, with the hopes that people will continue to enjoy nature. They advise to stick to paths and to make sure that dogs are kept under control, and also to avoid approaching animals whenever possible. A survey by the AA reports that 20% of people will consider driving less after lockdown and many will continue to work from home – reducing the number of cars on the roads.

There have been countless negative consequences from COVID-19; this makes it even more important that we hold onto the few positive effects that it has had. Wildlife in the UK has certainly benefitted from the lockdown, and we need to continue the progress that has been made – even after this pandemic is just a memory.

The views expressed in this publication are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Falmouth University, the University of Exeter or Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union.