Unveiling Nature’s Resilience: Exploring Vegetation Dynamics during the COVID-19 Era in Jharkhand, India, with the Google Earth Engine

In Climate
Peer-reviewed Article
cover image

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic
has presented unprecedented challenges to global health and economic stability. Intriguingly, the
necessary lockdown measures, while disruptive to human society, inadvertently led to environmental
rejuvenation, particularly noticeable in decreased air pollution and improved vegetation health.
This study investigates the lockdown’s impact on vegetation health in Jharkhand, India, employing
the Google Earth Engine for cloud-based data analysis. MODIS-NDVI data were analyzed using
spatio-temporal NDVI analyses and time-series models. These analyses revealed a notable increase
in maximum vegetation greenery of 19% from April 2019 to 2020, with subsequent increases of
13% and 3% observed in March and May of the same year, respectively. A longer-term analysis
from 2000 to 2020 displayed an overall 16.7% rise in vegetation greenness. While the maximum
value remained relatively constant, it demonstrated a slight increment during the dry season. The
Landsat data Mann–Kendall trend test reinforced these findings, displaying a significant shift from a
negative NDVI trend (1984–2019) to a positive 17.7% trend (1984–2021) in Jharkhand’s north-west
region. The precipitation (using NASA power and Merra2 data) and NDVI correlation were also
studied during the pre- and lockdown periods. Maximum precipitation (350–400 mm) was observed
in June, while July typically experienced around 300 mm precipitation, covering nearly 85% of
Jharkhand. Interestingly, August 2020 saw up to 550 mm precipitation, primarily in Jharkhand’s
southern region, compared to 400 mm in the same month in 2019. Peak changes in NDVI value
during this period ranged between 0.6–0.76 and 0.76–1, observed throughout the state. Although
the decrease in air pollution led to improved vegetation health, these benefits began to diminish
post-lockdown. This observation underscores the need for immediate attention and intervention
from scientists and researchers. Understanding lockdown-induced environmental changes and their
impact on vegetation health can facilitate the development of proactive environmental management
strategies, paving the way towards a sustainable and resilient future.

Saurabh Kumar
Suraj Kumar