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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Parks Stewardship Forum

UC Berkeley

A recreation ecology perspective on the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic: Potential parks and protected area impacts relating to visitor spatial use, terrestrial flora and fauna, and management

  • Author(s): Jacobs, Lara A.;
  • Sidder, Susan A.;
  • Baker, Jenna;
  • Bredeweg, Evan M.;
  • Allende, Rosario;
  • D'Antonio, Ashley
  • et al.

Measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 require changes in the ways that people travel, gather, and recreate in outdoor spaces. In 2020, to limit human-to-human transmission of COVID-19, US park and protected area managers at all levels of governance implemented closures and restrictions on the types of activities and facilities available for public use. At the same time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlined suggestions for social distancing, wearing face masks, and limiting travel and group sizes for social gatherings. This thought piece explores potential shifts in park accessibility and human behaviors that may lead to cascading impacts on visitor spatial use, terrestrial flora and fauna, and park management. We discuss potential changes in visitor spatial behavior and possible subsequent ecological impacts on terrestrial flora and fauna. Additionally, we connect these topics with management implications and emphasize adaptive management and continued monitoring to address current and future pandemic-related issues. We provide park managers, researchers, and other professionals with expected social and ecological implications resulting from managerial and behavioral shifts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, we suggest management approaches to address and monitor these impacts. This information can help shape how park managers respond to the ongoing pandemic and future human health issues that impact park visitors and flora and fauna. Finally, we offer suggestions for where prospective researchers can direct their focus, especially in areas where recreation ecology and human disease management intersect.

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