The impacts of social distancing on the Lowcountry’s environment and wildlife


CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)— As people across the globe stay home to stop the spread of the new Coronavirus— the natural environment is benefiting.

According to scientists, the air has cleaned up and wildlife is thriving in ways before not possible.

From India to Argentina—around the globe when social distancing and quarantine increase, pollution decreases.

Air quality also improving in the Lowcountry over the past few weeks as stay-at-home orders went into effect across the state.

Storm Teams 2’s David Dickson explains why.

“Nitrogen Dioxide is just one of the many air pollutants we see when fossil fuels are burned and because less cars are out on the road, less of that is being shown in the atmosphere. NASA is really showing a dramatic decrease in that NO2 concentration really throughout the entire united states, but even here in the Lowcountry.”


According to the Department of Natural Resources, the Lowcountry’s wildlife is also bouncing back now that humans have stepped back.

Erin Weeks, SC DNR & Science Writer, says wild animals often feel threatened around humans.

She goes on to say, “Unfortunately, they view us and our pets as predators”.

While beach closures have been difficult for many of us, scientists say the reduced traffic at the shore has proven beneficial for the creatures who inhabit the coast.

“When we’re around on the beaches, it’s often difficult for them to safely feed, to safely rest and to lay their eggs comfortably”.

Erin Weeks, SC DNR & Science Writer

The Department of Natural Resources says certain birds are stopping by beaches they typically wouldn’t.

“We’ve received some really interesting reports about things like large flocks of shore birds on beaches that are ordinarily really busy with humans— places like Folly Beach.”

Erin Weeks, SC DNR & Science Writer

Over the past couple of months, shorebird nesting has expanded and increased.

“We have also had some reports from our biologists about species, like the American Oyster Catcher…and our biologists have seen them nesting outside of areas where they normally nest. These are unusual areas where ordinarily they’d feel too disturbed to lay their eggs”.

Erin Weeks, SC DNR & Science Writer

Sea turtle nesting season kicks off the first week of May.

However, DNR says it’s too soon to tell how this period of reduced human activity on Lowcountry beaches will impact it.

“It is possible that on some of the beaches in South Carolina, in the Charleston area, where we still have some restrictions on access, that we could possibly see some benefits for nesting females as they come ashore at night to lay eggs.. and those would be from things like reduced lighting on our beaches”.

Erin Weeks, SC DNR & Science Writer

The closures, social distancing, and staying-at-home won’t last forever.

As we move forward, the question is…

Will things go back to the way they were? Or will the positive impacts on the Lowcountry’s environment and wildlife last?

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