Making waves: Lessons learned from the COVID-19 anthropause in the Netherlands on urban aquatic ecosystem services provisioning and management

Margaret Armstrong* (Corresponding author), Hazal Aksu Bahçeci, Ellen van Donk, Asmita Dubey, Thijs Frenken, Berte M. Gebreyohanes Belay, Alena S. Gsell, Tom S. Heuts, Lilith Kramer, Miquel Lürling, Maarten Ouboter, Laura M.S. Seelen, Sven Teurlincx, Nandini Vasantha Raman, Qing Zhan, Lisette N. de Senerpont Domis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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As human mobility decreased in 2020, the interaction between humans and nature changed significantly. On one hand, water clarity improved in the Amsterdam canals because boat traffic was reduced. On the other hand increased use of fishing water and national parks formed potential threats to the aquatic ecosystems. It is important to use these experiences to foster a more eco-centric mindset, building up to handling handling climate change and future pandemics.


The anomalous past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have been a test of human response to global crisis management as typical human activities were significantly altered. The COVID-instigated anthropause has illustrated the influence that humans and the biosphere have on each other, especially given the variety of national mobility interventions that have been implemented globally. These local COVID-19-era restrictions influenced human-ecosystem interactions through changes in accessibility of water systems and changes in ecosystem service demand. Four urban aquatic case studies in the Netherlands demonstrated shifts in human demand during the anthropause. For instance, reduced boat traffic in Amsterdam canals led to improved water clarity. In comparison, ongoing service exploitation from increased recreational fishing, use of bathing waters and national parks visitation are heightening concerns about potential ecosystem degradation. We distilled management lessons from both the case studies as well as from recent literature pertaining to ecological intactness and social relevance. Equally important to the lessons themselves, however, is the pace at which informed management practices are established after the pandemic ends, particularly as many communities currently recognize the importance of aquatic ecosystems and are amenable to their protection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118934
Pages (from-to)118934
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Anthropause
  • Coronavirus
  • Ecosystem service demand
  • Social-ecological systems
  • Urban water systems
  • Water management


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