People, nature and COVID-19

Soga, M., Evans, M.J., Cox, D.T.C. & Gaston, K.J. 2021. Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on human-nature interactions: pathways, evidence and implications. People and Nature [online early].

1. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the global response have dramatically changed people’s lifestyles in much of the world. These major changes, as well as the associated changes in impacts on the environment, can alter the dynamics of the direct interactions between humans and nature (hereafter human–nature interactions) far beyond those concerned with animals as sources of novel human coronavirus infections. There may be a variety of consequences for both people and nature.

2. Here, we suggest a conceptual framework for understanding how the COVID-19 pandemic might affect the dynamics of human–nature interactions. This highlights three different, but not mutually exclusive, pathways: changes in (a) opportunity, (b) capability and (c) motivation.

3. Through this framework, we also suggest that there are several feedback loops by which changes in human–nature interactions induced by the COVID-19 pandemic can lead to further changes in these interactions such that the impacts of the pandemic could persist over the long term, including after it has ended.

4. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has had the most tragic consequences, can also be viewed as a ‘global natural experiment’ in human–nature interactions that can provide unprecedented mechanistic insights into the complex processes and dynamics of these interactions and into possible strategies to manage them to best effect.