The rate of destruction of the world's tropical forests is likely to have gathered pace last year, green groups warned, as the pandemic weakened environmental regulations, cut funding for protection work and forced city migrants back to rural areas.

In 2019, tropical rainforests disappeared at a rate of one football pitch every six seconds, according to monitoring service Global Forest Watch (GFW), despite more awareness of the key role of carbon-storing forests in slowing climate change.

The tracking platform, which uses satellite imagery and is run by the U.S.-based think tank World Resources Institute (WRI), is due to release its deforestation numbers for 2020 — when the COVID-19 pandemic struck — in the next three months.