Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Rainforest Deforestation More Than Doubled Under Cover of Coronavirus

Popular
Charlie Rogers / Moment / Getty Images

As the COVID-19 virus was spreading around the world, deforestation in the world's rainforests rose at an alarming rate, the German arm of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a study published on Thursday.


The study, which analyzed satellite data of 18 countries compiled by the University of Maryland, found that deforestation rose by 150% this March compared 2017-2019 average for the same calendar month.

Around 6,500 square kilometers (2,510 square miles) of rainforest were felled in March alone — an area seven times the size of Berlin, the WWF said.

"This indicates that we're dealing with a coronavirus effect on the exploding rates of deforestation," Christoph Heinrich, the head of nature conservation with WWF Germany, said in a statement.

Indonesia Forests Hit Hardest

The forests most heavily hit by deforestation in March were in Indonesia, with more than 1,300 square kilometers lost.

The Democratic Republic of Congo saw the second-largest forest loss with 1,000 square kilometers followed by Brazil with 950 square kilometers.

The Brazilian non-profit research institute Imazon told news agency DPA that deforestation was up in April as well. The institute recorded a loss of 529 square kilometers in the Amazon in April, a rise of 171% compared to last year.

Tied to COVID-19

The WWF says there's ample evidence to suggest the boom in rainforest deforestation is being fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With stay-at-home orders and strict lockdowns in place in countries around the world, authorities haven't been able to patrol nature preserves and indigenous territories as often — a situation that criminal organizations and illegal loggers have been using to their advantage.

The virus has also prompted massive job losses in many countries, leaving many newly-unemployed people increasingly desperate for sources of income.

The WWF noted that the legal timber trade is a substantial source of income for several African countries but is virtually on ice amid various coronavirus shutdowns. The broken supply chains have led to concerns that the forests are losing their value and forest conservation efforts are losing their foothold.

Along the Mekong River in southeast Asia, tourists have disappeared and with them a substantial source of income for local merchants selling forest products like honey, nuts or berries. Many have left the cities and returned to their home villages and are cutting down trees for firewood or a source of income.

The WWF said governments providing financial and technological support to locals could help reduce the rise in deforestation.

Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.

Read More Show Less
Long-finned pilot whales are seen during a 1998 stranding in Marion Bay in Tasmania, Australia. Auscape / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

More long-finned pilot whales were found stranded today on beaches in Tasmania, Australia. About 500 whales have become stranded, including at least 380 that have died, the AP reported. It is the largest mass stranding in Australia's recorded history.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A protest in solidarity with the Wetʼsuwetʼen's anti-pipeline struggle, at Canada House in Trafalgar Square on March 1, 2020 in London, England. More than 200 environmental groups had their Facebook accounts suspended days before an online solidarity protest. Ollie Millington / Getty Images

Facebook suspended more than 200 accounts belonging to environmental and Indigenous groups Saturday, casting doubt on the company's stated commitments to addressing the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
The Västra Hamnen neighborhood in Malmö, Sweden, runs on renewable energy. Tomas Ottosson / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

By Harry Kretchmer

By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.

Read More Show Less

Trending

An Extinction Rebellion protester outside the Bank of England on Oct. 14, 2019 in London, England. John Keeble / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less