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
Researchers, locals work together to save Ethiopia's 'church forests'
(03/03/2015) Presenting a workshop on ecosystem services to a roomful of priests in Ethiopia may seem like an unlikely scenario for a conservation biologist to end up in, but for Meg Lowman, it’s an essential part of spreading her passion for bottom-up conservation. “Canopy Meg,” as she’s fondly referred to by her colleagues, believes in the power of local communities to be part of the solution, often in ways that are more effective than researchers can make alone.
Jokowi's environmental commitments in Indonesia
(02/26/2015) Last fall Indonesia elected its first president with no ties to the established political order or the military. Joko Widodo's election was widely heralded by reformers who hoped the politician's capable management in his stints as mayor of the town of Solo and metropolis of Jakarta could transform Indonesia's chronically underperforming bureaucracy, potentially ushering in a new era of improved human rights, better environmental stewardship, reduced corruption, and healthier economic growth.
Brazil arrests 'Amazon's biggest destroyer'
(02/25/2015) Authorities in Brazil have arrested a man they claim to be the single biggest deforester in the Amazon, according to a statement issued by IBAMA, Brazil's environmental protection agency.
Rainforest loss increased in the 2000s, concludes new analysis
(02/25/2015) Loss of tropical forests accelerated roughly 60 percent during the 2000s, argues a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The findings contradict previous research suggesting that deforestation slowed since the 1990s. The study is based on a map of 1990 forest cover developed last year by Do-Hyung Kim and colleagues from the University of Maryland. The map, which includes 34 countries that contain 80 percent of the world's tropical forests, enabled the researchers to establish a consistent baseline for tracking forest cover change across regions and countries over time.
Santander Bank cuts off APRIL due to deforestation
(02/24/2015) Banking giant Santander says it will not extend further financing to Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) due to evidence that the Singapore-based pulp and paper company is continuing to destroy rainforests in Indonesia. The move comes after Greenpeace launched a global campaign against the bank.
New Guinea rainforest being leveled for palm oil, revealing gaps in zero deforestation pacts
(02/23/2015) An Indonesian palm oil firm is destroying rainforests in New Guinea despite high profile zero deforestation pledges from its customers, finds research by Greenomics-Indonesia. Landsat imagery acquired and analyzed by Greenomics shows that Austindo Nusantara Jaya Agri (ANJ) is clearing high carbon stock forests in the southern part of West Papua's Bird's Head Peninsula in Indonesian New Guinea.
Chinese banks funding rainforest destruction in Indonesia
(02/18/2015) While Santander Bank has made headlines in recent days for financing an Indonesian forestry giant's ongoing clearance of carbon-dense forests in Sumatra, Chinese banks among the largest funders of the company, reveals analysis conducted by BankTrack.org.
Indonesia to squander fuel savings on biofuel subsidies that may drive deforestation, say groups
(02/17/2015) Instead of wisely investing the windfall generated by cutting petrol subsidies, Indonesia is poised to squander funds by increasing subsidies for biofuel production that could exacerbate social conflict and drive deforestation, warn environmental groups.
'Sustainable' cacao company allegedly defies government's call to halt plantation development
(02/13/2015) A company aiming to be the world’s largest producer of sustainable cacao, the bean used to make chocolate, appears to have ignored orders from the Peruvian government to cease operations for failing to provide justification for having razed what scientists say was more than 2,000 hectares of old-growth Amazonian rainforest.
Banco Santander targeted over deforestation link
(02/11/2015) Greenpeace has opened a new front in its campaign against a controversial Indonesian logging company by targeting one of its major financiers: Banco Santander.
Ranking the best and worst companies in terms of deforestation
(02/11/2015) While a number of high profile companies have adopted policies designed to exclude deforestation from their commodity supply chains, such commitments remain outside the norm, indicating that most companies still lack forest-friendly safeguards, finds a comprehensive survey conducted by the Global Canopy Programme. The assessment ranks 250 companies, 50 jurisdictions, 150 banks and investors, and 50 'powerbrokers' by the extent and scope of their souring policies for six 'forest risk commodities': soy palm oil, beef, leather, timber, pulp and paper.
Norway sovereign fund drops coal, tar sands, gold-mining companies
(02/09/2015) In its first-ever report on responsible investing, Norway's pension fund announced last week that it has divested from 114 companies in the past three years due to concerns over global warming, deforestation, and sustainability as well as long-term financial viability. Worth a staggering $861 billion, Norway's Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) is the world's largest sovereign wealth fund.
Scientists warn investors on cacao company's forest destruction in Peru
(02/06/2015) A prominent group of scientists have sounded the alarm over forest clearing by a cacao company in the Peruvian Amazon.
The Amazon's oil boom: concessions cover a Chile-sized bloc of rainforest
(02/04/2015) Hungry for oil revenue, governments and fossil fuel companies are moving even further into one of the world's last great wildernesses, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The total area set aside for oil and gas in the Western Amazon has grown by 150,000 square kilometers since 2008, now totaling more than 730,000 square kilometers—an area the size of Chile.
Palm oil major makes deforestation-free commitment
(02/03/2015) IOI Corporation officially committed to what its subsidiary, palm oil trader IOI Loders Croklaan, pledged last November: it will no longer source palm oil linked to deforestation and human rights abuses.
Despite green promise, Indonesian forestry giant continues to destroy forests
(02/03/2015) A year after it pledged a dramatic shift in how it operates in Indonesia's fast dwindling native habitats, Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd (APRIL) continues to destroy forests and peatlands in Sumatra, allege environmentalists.
Deforestation may be ramping up in Papua, West Papua
(01/27/2015) Despite being covered in commodity concessions and becoming a focal point for the Indonesian government’s palm oil development in the country’s eastern half, the provinces of Papua and West Papua have, rather mysteriously, recorded very low deforestation rates compared to the rest of the archipelago. However, emerging data, reports, and photos suggest the region's forest loss may be escalating.
Company run Sarawak governor has amassed $1.4B in state infrastructure contracts
(01/27/2015) Cahya Mata Sarawak, a publicly-listed infrastructure company run by relatives of Sarawak's former chief minister and current governor, has received over $1.4 billion in state contracts over the past 20 years, alleges an investigative report released by the Bruno Manser Fund.
Brazil's soy moratorium dramatically reduced Amazon deforestation
(01/23/2015) The moratorium on forest conversion established by Brazilian soy giants in 2006 dramatically reduce deforestation for soy expansion in the Amazon, and have been more effective in cutting forest destruction than the government's land use policy in the region, finds a study published today in the journal Science.
Company chops down rainforest to produce 'sustainable' chocolate
(01/20/2015) A cacao grower with roots in Southeast Asia’s palm oil industry has set up shop in the Peruvian Amazon. The CEO of United Cacao has told the international press that he wants to change the industry for the better, but a cadre of scientists and conservation groups charge that United Cacao has quietly cut down more than 2,000 hectares of rainforest.
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