Drivers of deforestation
The following are estimates for drivers of deforestation. Please note that this page will be updated as new data and analyses are published and become available.
The causes of deforestation vary from region to region. In Latin America and Southeast Asia a majority of deforestation is today the result of industrial activities, notably cattle ranching in the Amazon and large-scale agriculture and intensive logging in Southeast Asia. Subsistence agriculture, often using slash-and-burn / fallow techniques, is the most important driver of forest loss in Africa.
While net forest loss has remained relatively constant over the past twenty years, there have been two significant shifts since the late 1980s: (1) old-growth forests are being replaced by plantations and degraded, logged-over forests; and (2) forest clearing is increasingly driven by industry rather than subsistence activities.
Controlling deforestation is imperative to addressing climate change. The annual destruction of 13 million hectares of forest accounts for nearly one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, a greater share than all the world's trucks, cars, ships, and airplanes combined.
Estimates based on HK Gibbs (2008):
Drivers of deforestation in Central America
Drivers of deforestation in South America
Drivers of deforestation in Southeast Asia
Drivers of deforestation in Tropical Africa
Estimates from Project Catalyst (2008):
Drivers of deforestation in South America (Neotropics)
Drivers of deforestation in Southeast Asia
Drivers of deforestation in Africa
Continental-level estimations of the importance of deforestation drivers as reported by 46 countries: (a) in terms of overall continental proportions as sum of country data weighted by net forest area change by country (km2/y, FAO, 2010a) for the period 2000–2010 (b) the same data shown in terms of absolute national net forest area change by (km2/y, FAO, 2010a), and (c) for continental estimations of relative importance of degradation drivers (Source: Hosonuma et al., 2012). Caption and image courtesy of Kissinger et al. Click image to enlarge. More information
By Rhett Butler
Recent articles about deforestation
APP boosting timber productivity to support zero deforestation policy
(11/26/2014) Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) appears to have enough plantation fiber to operate existing mills as well as supply a new mill under construction in South Sumatra without having to pulp natural forests, argues a new report that also finds the forestry giant is successfully improving yields to support its zero deforestation commitment.
Chameleon crisis: extinction threatens 36% of world's chameleons
(11/24/2014) Chameleons are an unmistakable family of wonderfully bizarre reptiles. They sport long, shooting tongues; oddly-shaped horns or crests; and a prehensile tail like a monkey's. But, chameleons are most known for their astonishing ability to change the color of their skin. Now, a update of the IUCN Red List finds that this unique group is facing a crisis that could send dozens of chameleons, if not more, to extinction.
Sarawak chief calls state's logging industry 'corrupt'
(11/24/2014) In a surprising statement, Sarawak's new chief minister called the state's logging sector 'corrupt'.
Rising deforestation, fossil fuels use drive Brazil's emissions 8% higher
(11/24/2014) Brazil's carbon emissions jumped 7.8 percent in 2013 due to rising deforestation and fossil fuels use, according to data released by Observatório do Clima (Climate Observatory), an alliance of mostly Brazilian non-profits.
Developing land without approval of local people 'a human rights issue of grave concern,' says new report
(11/20/2014) Throughout the tropics, staggering amounts of land have been designated for natural resource extraction—as much as 40 percent of Peru, 30 percent of Indonesia and 35 percent of Liberia. However, much of this land is already in use; it is being inhabited by local communities and indigenous peoples. And while it is possible to live on and extract resources from the same land, when local communities are not consulted in this exchange, conflict may erupt.
Indonesian government slow to reclaim lands damaged by coal mining
(11/20/2014) Reclamation of over 830,000 hectares of abandoned mines has yet to begin in East Kalimantan, Indonesia--despite a provincial law passed over a year ago mandating the formation of commission to oversee the process.
Conflict-fueled deforestation, poaching in Assam continue despite truce
(11/19/2014) Northeastern India boasts nearly 44 percent of the country’s dense forests, and contains one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. However, the region lost approximately 548,440 hectares of tree cover—more than 3 percent—from 2001 through 2012. Sonitpur, Assam, has been particularly hard hit as people flooded into the area and cleared forest.
Palm oil interest surges in Papua New Guinea
(11/19/2014) As the lands of traditional palm oil powerhouses like Indonesia and Malaysia have become saturated with plantations, companies looking to profit have turned to vast areas of seemingly untouched tropical forest in other parts of the world – places like Papua New Guinea. But, in fact, say advocates of local communities, those forests often support the lives and livelihoods of millions of people who must have their rights taken into account.
Ending deforestation won't stop carbon emissions from land use change
(11/17/2014) Even if the world stopped cutting down forests, carbon dioxide emissions from land use change would still pose a major challenge, according to a new paper in Nature Climate Change. The research finds that eliminating deforestation would mean agriculture would be pushed into non-forest ecosystems and still release significant quantities of carbon dioxide.
Palm oil giant suspends supplier over deforestation allegations
(11/17/2014) Palm oil giant Musim Mas Group has suspended purchases from the PT Pati Sari mill over allegations that the facility is processing fruit illegally grown within a biodiversity hotspot in Sumatra, reports the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which recently published an investigation on the mill's sourcing practices.
Brazilian government silent as deforestation rises in the Amazon
(11/17/2014) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon continues to outpace last year's rate by a significant margin, reveals data released today by Imazon, a Brazilian non-profit. Imazon's analysis of satellite data shows that for the 3-month period ended October 31, 2014, deforestation is running 226 percent of last year's rate. Forest degradation, which often precedes outright clearing, is pacing 691 percent ahead of last year.
UN to promote RSPO-certified palm oil as conservation solution
(11/14/2014) The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has signed an agreement with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to promote eco-certified palm oil as part of the broader effort to conserve biodiversity.
Man plants forest, becomes film star
(11/14/2014) Jadav “Molai” Payeng is a 51-year-old man who lives in India’s north-eastern state of Assam in the village of Aruna Chapori. A member of Assam’s indigenous Mising tribe, Payeng is better known as the “Forest Man" for spending the last 35 years planting a forest bigger than New York City's Central Park.
Surprising reasons to be optimistic about saving forests
(11/14/2014) In the 1990s, the world watched with alarm as vast tracts of tropical rainforest were torn down for timber and croplands, dug up for minerals and energy, and flooded for hydroelectric projects. Conservation groups, governments, philanthropists, and institutions like the World Bank collectively spent billions of dollars on programs to stop the carnage. But as viewed from satellites high above Earth's surface, those efforts barely dented deforestation rates.
One man plants forest larger than Central Park
(11/13/2014) Jadav “Molai” Payeng resides in northeast Assam’s Jorhat district in the village of Aruna Chapori. Here, for the past 35 years, he has worked to plant trees on a sandbar island in the river near his home—and in the process, single-handedly established a forest larger than New York City’s Central Park.
Australia's small rainforest conservation steps overshadowed by broader assault on environment (commentary)
(11/13/2014) On the eve of the World Parks Congress in Sydney, the Australian government has just hosted the 'Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit', a two-day event that brought together political leaders, academics, environmental managers and NGO staff in an effort to devise strategies to conserve endangered forests in the Asia-Pacific region. Here, Bill Laurance, a leading rainforest researcher, takes a critical look at the event.
Reducing deforestation is good for business, argues report
(11/12/2014) Some of the world's largest companies are making progress in disclosing and addressing deforestation risk within their commodity supply chains, but much work is left to be done to shift to more sustainable practices, argues a new report from the Climate Disclosure Project.
Mapping mistake leaves wildlife at risk
(11/12/2014) Scientists have discovered a new, endangered plant species in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in an area that is supposed to be protected as a reserve. However, mapping errors effectively moved the reserve’s boundaries 50 kilometers to the west, opening up the region and its vulnerable wildlife to human disturbance.
Local people are not the enemy: real conservation from the frontlines
(11/12/2014) Saving one of the world's most endangered primates means re-thinking conservation. When Noga Shanee and her colleagues first arrived in Northeastern Peru on a research trip to study the yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda), she was shocked by what she observed.
‘Militarized occupation’: local communities pay the price for palm oil
(11/11/2014) There’s little doubt that the use of palm oil is expanding rapidly throughout the world, and with it the need for millions of hectares of land to grow oil palm trees. The results can be devastating for local communities who depend on the agriculture and forests that these lands support. A recent report catalogs the issues that arise with oil palm expansion.
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