Opinion. We have been in lockdown, but deforestation has not (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA)

Douglas Daly is the B. A. Krukoff Curator of Amazonian Botany, Institute of Systematic Botany at the New York Botanic Garden, and a specialist in tropical tree systematics and the flora of the Amazon region. In this Opinion article, he reflects on how he and other field-based botanists have kept their research moving forward, depending on local experts and digitized specimens. Yet he finds that the ongoing deforestation has not slowed during the pandemic but has instead increased to the rate of “more than half a square mile of deforestation per hour.” Deforestation is of global as well as of regional concern: “Globally, the Amazon’s trees—still in the billions—absorb 2 billion tons of CO2 per year, or 5% of annual emissions, making it a vital buffer against climate change.” Expanded funding sources and training programs are needed to help ensure the long-term protection of these critical environments once the botanists are once again able to get their boots on the ground – and up on the trees. (Summary by Mary Williams @PlantTeaching) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 10.1073/pnas.2018489117