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Long-term ecological research and the COVID-19 anthropause: A window to understanding social-ecological disturbance.

  • Gaiser, Evelyn E1
  • Kominoski, John S1
  • McKnight, Diane M2
  • Bahlai, Christie A3
  • Cheng, Chingwen4
  • Record, Sydne5
  • Wollheim, Wilfred M6
  • Christianson, Kyle R7
  • Downs, Martha R8
  • Hawman, Peter A9
  • Holbrook, Sally J10
  • Kumar, Abhishek11
  • Mishra, Deepak R9
  • Molotch, Noah P7
  • Primack, Richard B12
  • Rassweiler, Andrew13
  • Schmitt, Russell J10
  • Sutter, Lori A14
  • 1 Institute of Environment and Department of Biological Sciences Florida International University Miami Florida USA.
  • 2 Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and Environmental Studies Program University of Colorado Boulder Colorado USA.
  • 3 Department of Biological Sciences Kent State University Kent Ohio USA.
  • 4 The Design School Arizona State University Tempe Arizona USA.
  • 5 Department of Biology Bryn Mawr College Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania USA.
  • 6 Department of Natural Resources and the Environment University of New Hampshire Durham New Hampshire USA.
  • 7 Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research University of Colorado Boulder Colorado USA.
  • 8 National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis University of California Santa Barbara Santa Barbara California USA.
  • 9 Department of Geography University of Georgia Athens Georgia USA. , (Georgia)
  • 10 Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology University of California Santa Barbara Santa Barbara California USA.
  • 11 Department of Environmental Conservation University of Massachusetts Amherst Amherst Massachusetts USA.
  • 12 Department of Biology Boston University Boston Massachusetts USA.
  • 13 Department of Biological Science Florida State University Tallahassee Florida USA.
  • 14 Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources University of Georgia Athens Georgia USA. , (Georgia)
Published Article
Wiley (John Wiley & Sons)
Publication Date
Apr 01, 2022
DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.4019
PMID: 35573027


The period of disrupted human activity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, coined the "anthropause," altered the nature of interactions between humans and ecosystems. It is uncertain how the anthropause has changed ecosystem states, functions, and feedback to human systems through shifts in ecosystem services. Here, we used an existing disturbance framework to propose new investigation pathways for coordinated studies of distributed, long-term social-ecological research to capture effects of the anthropause. Although it is still too early to comprehensively evaluate effects due to pandemic-related delays in data availability and ecological response lags, we detail three case studies that show how long-term data can be used to document and interpret changes in air and water quality and wildlife populations and behavior coinciding with the anthropause. These early findings may guide interpretations of effects of the anthropause as it interacts with other ongoing environmental changes in the future, particularly highlighting the importance of long-term data in separating disturbance impacts from natural variation and long-term trends. Effects of this global disturbance have local to global effects on ecosystems with feedback to social systems that may be detectable at spatial scales captured by nationally to globally distributed research networks. © 2022 The Authors. Ecosphere published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of The Ecological Society of America.

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