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2021 in review: Covid raged on — but nature provided hope

© Thomas Muller

Nature saw its ups and downs in 2021, and Conservation News was there for it all. This month, we are revisiting some of the most significant stories of the past year. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic raged on, many were left asking the same question: How do we prevent future disease outbreaks? According to scientists, the key is to protect nature. 

In 2021, Conservation News covered how nature has helped communities stay afloat during the pandemic — and why conservation is critical for public health. Here are some of our most-read stories of the year. 

Dr. Neil Vora, an epidemiologist with Conservation International, has devoted his career to chasing infectious diseases — from Ebola-stricken villages in West Africa to the streets of New York City as the coronavirus pandemic tore through its communities. What he learned: Humanity’s continued assault on the environment could unleash another pandemic — and soon.

Read more here

As governments map their road to recovery from COVID-19, protecting nature will be critical to preventing the spread of future zoonotic disease outbreaks, experts say. However, in an effort to restart their economies and create jobs, many countries around the world have either shrunk or eliminated areas set aside to protect nature — some to drill for fossil fuels, others for urban development, according to Conservation International research

Read more here.

The pandemic took lives — and livelihoods. But in the Alto Mayo Protected Forest, where the Amazon rainforest meets the Andes, funds from carbon credits provided a lifeline for conservation — and the coffee-farming families who live in the forest. Conservation News spoke to one coffee farmer about how his community’s cooperative was able to decrease deforestation and achieve record sales, sparing them from much of the economic devastation that gripped Peru’s cities and towns.

Read more here.

Even as the coronavirus spread across Africa, local governments and communities in the Chyulu Hills of Southeast Kenya generated enough revenue to hire additional rangers to crack down on poaching — and made a number of other investments in their own long-term food security, health and well-being. How? By protecting and restoring forests. 

Read more here.

As deforestation in the Amazon rises, so does the risk of wildlife-to-human disease transmission, according to a Conservation International study. We spoke to Conservation International scientist Lee Hannah, the study’s lead author, about the links between infectious disease outbreaks and nature — and how we can prevent the next pandemic from emerging out of the world’s largest rainforest. 

Read more here.

 

Kiley Price is the staff writer and news editor at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates. Donate to Conservation International.

Cover image: Tree saplings at a nursery in the Alto Mayo Protected Forest, Peru (© Thomas Muller)