Emerging threats linking tropical deforestation and the COVID-19 pandemic
Tropical deforestation drivers are complex and can change rapidly in periods of profound societal transformation, such as those during a pandemic. Evidence suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred illegal, opportunistic forest clearing in tropical countries, threatening forest ecosystems and their resident human communities. A total of 9583 km2 of deforestation alerts from Global Land Analysis & Discovery (GLAD) were detected across the global tropics during the first month following the implementation of confinement measures of local governments to reduce COVID-19 spread, which is nearly double that of 2019 (4732 km2).
The study presents a conceptual framework linking tropical deforestation and the current pandemic. Zoonotic diseases, public health, economy, agriculture, and forests may all be reciprocally linked in complex positive and negative feedback loops with overarching consequences. We highlight the emerging threats to nature and society resulting from this complex reciprocal interplay and possible policy interventions that could minimize these threats.