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Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics

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ESEP 20:41-55 (2020)  -  DOI:

Environmental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic from a (marine) ecological perspective

Marta Coll*

Institute of Marine Science (ICM-CSIC), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta, no. 37-49, Barcelona 08003, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The 2019-2020 pandemic of the SARS-CoV-2 virus—the cause of the novel COVID-19 disease—is an exceptional moment in modern human history. The abrupt and intense cessation of human activities in the first months of the pandemic, when large parts of the global human population were in lockdown, had noticeable effects on the environment that can serve to identify key learning experiences to foster a deep reflection on the human relationship with nature, and their interdependence. There are precious lessons to be learned. A global, tangible threat was needed to trigger a global lockdown, where different societies adopted different strategies and management measures to adapt or transform their activities. Humanity is still coming to terms with how to relaunch the economy while preventing further outbreaks. Here, I summarize the immediate positive and negative effects that the pandemic has had on the natural environment, with emphasis on marine ecosystems. I reflect on key lessons learned from this unprecedented situation so far. The essential role that the oceans play in maintaining the functioning of natural systems and key socio-economic activities is exceptionally relevant, and I discuss key not-to-miss opportunities to add the ‘Blue Recovery’ to the international agenda under the new ‘Build Back Better’ or ‘Healthy Recovery’ context after the acute phase of COVID-19. Achieving sustainable use of the ocean is one of the grand challenges of the new decade, and marine ecologists must play a more proactive role.

KEY WORDS: Marine ecology · COVID-19 · Environmental crisis · Climate change ·Biodiversity loss · Socio-ecological system · Transformation · Sustainable Development Goals

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Cite this article as: Coll M (2020) Environmental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic from a (marine) ecological perspective. Ethics Sci Environ Polit 20:41-55.

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