Has global deforestation accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, questions arose as to whether the pandemic would amplify or pacify tropical deforestation. Early reports warned of increased deforestation rates; however, these studies were limited to a few months in 2020 or to selected regions. To better understand how the pandemic influenced tropical deforestation globally, this study used historical deforestation data (2004–2019) from the Terra-i pantropical land cover change monitoring system to project expected deforestation trends for 2020, which were used to determine whether observed deforestation deviated from expected trajectories after the first COVID-19 cases were reported. Time series analyses were conducted at the regional level for the Americas, Africa and Asia and at the country level for Brazil, Colombia, Peru, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia. Our results suggest that the pandemic did not alter the course of deforestation trends in some countries (e.g., Brazil, Indonesia), while it did in others (e.g., Peru). We posit the importance of monitoring the long-term effects of the pandemic on deforestation trends as countries prioritize economic recovery in the aftermath of the pandemic.