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How are our river ecosystems responding to Covid 19?

The Covid 19 crisis has had a huge and, in too many cases, tragic impact on people’s lives all over the world. It also seems evident that the stringent, large scale lockdowns imposed in many countries have caused a significant positive impact on wildlife.

In England, some of this may be down to the unusually sunny spring weather, and also people noticing it more during lockdown, but there is no doubt that there has been something of a phenomenon, a ‘bounce back’ response, perhaps, to the almost complete removal of human activity and noise for an unprecedented and sustained period.

The birds can hear each other’s calls better and have been singing with delight at their newly found voices. It is likely that some species have been enjoying better breeding success as well. There have been numerous sightings of all kinds of wildlife wandering through urban areas with bravado, curiosity and caution. Trees and plants have been displaying an unusually high abundance of blossom and flowers. The wildlife found in nature reserves, wildlife habitats and vast areas of countryside has benefited from little or no presence of people. Water in lakes and rivers have shown signs of being cleaner. The air has felt fresher and less polluted.

No doubt this phenomenon is currently the subject of much study and research. How have different species fared throughout the pandemic? What have been the positive impacts of cleaner air and water? What other factors apart from lockdown measures have played a role? Many questions which may give more clues about the impact we are having on wildlife generally and on different groups of species. It may also help us to see what lessons we can learn to reduce our impact on wildlife and the environment going forward once we have put Covid 19 behind us.

At Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust we are very keen to hear from you about your stories and records of unusual sightings around rivers and water bodies. You may have been out exercising beside a river or stream during lockdown and perhaps noticed unusual things such as cleaner water, more aquatic plant life, or more fish. You may have noticed more species of birds in and around the water. Or you may have spotted otters or water voles and other species you might not ordinarily see.

Send us an email with your sightings and stories and, if possible, any photos to and we will put a selection on our website (with your permission of course).

You might also consider sharing information with The Earth Project and participate in their citizen science project being coordinated by scientists from universities throughout the UK. It aims to showcase how wildlife has responded during the pandemic. You can find out more and send them your information via the following link:

Swans on the River Stour

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