New analysis finds pandemic didn't dampen deforestation - PHYS
This article is giving an introduction to the paper "Has global deforestation accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic?". Analysis of tree cover loss over time was used to determine whether deforestation observed in 2020 deviated from expected trajectories after the first COVID-19 cases were reported; both at the regional level for the Americas, Africa and Asia and at the country level for Brazil, Colombia, Peru, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia.
Despite the massive upheavals in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, deforestation globally proceeded more or less as expected from the trends established over the last 15 years, according to a recent study from researchers at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.
In the paper "Has global deforestation accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic?" published in mid-November 2022, the researchers used historical deforestation data (2004–2019) from the Terra-i pantropical land cover change monitoring system to project expected deforestation trends for 2020.
Analysis of tree cover loss over time was used to determine whether deforestation observed in 2020 deviated from expected trajectories after the first COVID-19 cases were reported; both at the regional level for the Americas, Africa and Asia and at the country level for Brazil, Colombia, Peru, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia.
"It was not particularly surprising to see little change," says Janelle Sylvester, who is the corresponding author of the study and a Research Fellow at the Alliance.
She said that deforestation rates likely did not drastically change for many reasons. For one, it is probable that the complex dynamics driving deforestation before the pandemic persisted unimpacted by the lockdowns.
"For example, illegal deforestation in areas where there was minimal state (governmental) presence before the pandemic would likely continue during lockdowns," she said.
Moreover, she explained that "global-level macroeconomic forces related to changes in demand and supply paired with national economic stimulus packages could have balanced out economic pressures that were being placed on forests."
Louis Reymondin, who co-leads the Digital transformation of the agri-food systems research theme for the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT also said that the finding wasn't surprising, given that deforestation is heavily driven by livestock grazing and that demand for those products continued during the lockdowns in 2020.
"There were changes in food consumption habits, but usually it was towards processed foods and a reliance on industrialized agriculture," he said, "The disruption needed to stop deforestation is about changing consumer behavior, changing the food system… and that's something that countries and governments and scientists are trying to push forward."
Jonathan Céspedes, the lead author of the study, an Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT research assistant during the study and now a 2nd year Phd Student at Institut Polytechnique de Paris says that his task was to evaluate deforestation and COVID-19 data in order to determine possible relationships between both variables.
This thematic summary and Compendium serve to compile the discussions, recommendations and conclusions reached over 4 intensive days of work in thematic ateliers (Streams), plenary, side events and political discussions.
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