Elevated fires during COVID-19 lockdown and the vulnerability of protected areas

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  • Eklund_etal_2022_NatSust_author_accepted_version

    Accepted author manuscript, 1.15 MB, PDF document

    Embargo ends: 5/11/22

  • Eklund_etal_Supplementary_Information_2022_03_18

    Accepted author manuscript, 2.39 MB, PDF document

    Embargo ends: 5/11/22


  • Johanna Eklund
    University of Helsinki
  • Julia P. G. Jones
  • Matti Räsänen
    University of Helsinki
  • Jonas Geldmann
    University of Copenhagen
  • Ari-Pekka Jokinen
    University of Helsinki
  • Adam Pellegrini
    University of Cambridge
  • Domoina Rakotobe
    University of Antananarivo
  • O. Sarobidy Rakotonarivo
    University of Antananarivo
  • Tuuli Toivonen
    University of Helsinki
  • Andrew Balmford
    University of Cambridge
There is little robust, quantitative information on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the extinction crisis. Focusing on Madagascar, one of the world’s most threatened biodiversity hotspots, we explore whether the cessation of on-site protected-area management activities due to the pandemic were associated with increased burning inside protected areas. We identify monthly excess fire anomalies by comparing observed fires with those predicted on the basis of historical and contemporary fire and weather data for all of Madagascar’s protected areas for every month 2012–2020. Through to 2019, excess fire anomalies in protected areas were few, short in duration and, in some years, coincident with social disruption linked to national elections. By contrast, in 2020, COVID-19 meant on-site management of Madagascar’s protected areas was suspended from March to July. This period was associated with 76–248% more fires than predicted, after which burning returned to normal. At a time when international biodiversity conservation faces unprecedented challenges, our results highlight the importance of on-site management for maintaining protected-area integrity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Sustainability
Early online date5 May 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 May 2022
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