As of the 18th of March Pooles cavern has closed to the public due to the COVID-19 virus. This development will obviously limit the scientific activity within the cave system throughout the summer of 2020. BUT this nationwide shutdown will also enforce changes within the cave system which are never normally seen including importantly the exclusion of all human visitors. This gives scientists a unique opportunity to research Pooles cavern in a truly natural state and by doing so characterise the impact of tourism on the cave environment.
Figure 1: A TinyTag download image of one set of temperature loggers over the transition between cave open and closed, downloaded live 24.3.2020.
And because at the British Cave Science Centre we have a number of automated logging devices which can be directly accessed and the data viewed in real time we can see the impacts of cave closure right now. By heading to http://bcra.org.uk/data/all_readings/ you can directly monitor how the cave climate is reacting to closure, under "natural" conditions.
So whilst the COVID-19 outbreak is having devastating wider impacts it may actually provide a unique opportunity to better understand human impact in a delicate natural system and hopefully in the future, help us better support and protect the cave.