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
APRIL violates sustainability policy by clearing peat forest after Jan cut-off
(03/26/2015) New data shows Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL) is continuing to destroy rainforests on deep peat despite a high profile pledge to clean up its operations. Today Greenomics-Indonesia released an analysis of two NASA Landsat images confirming that APRIL's subsidiary PT Riau Andalan Pulp Paper (RAPP) has cleared significant tracts of peat forest on Pulau Pedang island off Sumatra's coast since January 2015.
Indonesia's biodiversity-protected areas no match for encroachers, finds study
(03/26/2015) Indonesia's biodiversity-focused protected areas are failing to slow deforestation, while other categories have achieved mixed results, finds a new study. The coupling of poor law enforcement with the presence of high-value timber seems to be the main culprit.
Destruction of elephant, tiger, and orangutan habitat doubles
(03/25/2015) The rate of forest loss in Indonesia's Leuser Ecosystem — the only place on Earth where rhinos, orangutans, tigers, and elephants live in the same habitat — has more than doubled due to logging, encroachment, and conversion to industrial plantations, warn conservationists. In a statement issued Tuesday, the Sumatran Orangutan Society reported that 80,316 hectares of forest were lost between 2008 and 2013, a sharp increase from the 30,830 hectares cleared between 2002 and 2008.
Illegal cocoa plantations threaten Côte d’Ivoire’s parks and primates
(03/25/2015) Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s largest producer of cocoa, also boasts an ecosystem of great biological richness and species diversity, with over 2,250 endemic plants and 270 vertebrate species. Unfortunately, it also has the highest deforestation rate in all of sub-Saharan Africa, largely due to its rise as a significant player in the global agricultural economy after years of civil unrest.
Photos: expedition to Amazon’s white sands may have found new primate
(03/24/2015) Most people think of the Amazon rainforest as one massive, homogenous ecosystem—a giant castle of green. However, within the Amazon rainforest lie a myriad of distinct ecosystems, sporting unique characteristics and harboring endemic species. One of the rarer ecosystems in the Amazon is the white sands forest.
Seeing the trees but not the forest (commentary)
(03/20/2015) Understanding forest dynamics is necessary for the sound management of forests, for both production and conservation. This includes an understanding of the extent of forest area, information about what the forest contains and how the forest resource is managed. Forest monitoring provides this information.
Who's funding palm oil?
(03/19/2015) Palm oil may be the single most important crop that you never heard of. A vegetable fat that resembles reddish butter at room temperature, palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree. Both nutritious and highly versatile, palm oil is now an important component of products ranging from biofuels and food to soaps and cosmetics. Estimates indicate that as much as 50 percent of the products used by the average Western consumer every day contain palm oil or its derivatives.
Indonesia's small islands being rapidly damaged by industrial activities
(03/18/2015) Intense exploitation of Indonesia's natural resources is taking a special toll on the country's small islands, with many subject to an outpouring of mining concessions that cover huge swaths of their tiny areas, often to the chagrin of local populations.
Can voluntary sustainability standards survive in emerging markets?
(03/17/2015) Last month, Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) published a new edition of its The World in 2050 report. Confirming the findings of previous studies, the report describes a shift in economic power from the global north to the south. PwC projects that the US' and EU's share of world GDP will face a steady decline from around 33 percent in 2014 to about 25 percent by 2050. At the same time, emerging markets like China, India, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico, and Turkey (the so-called E7 countries) are gaining in importance as both producers and consumers in the global economy.
Brazil confirms rising deforestation in the Amazon
(03/14/2015) The Brazilian government has officially confirmed that deforestation in the Amazon is pacing sharply higher than a year ago. Figures released last week by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) shows that forest clearing detected by DETER — a short term deforestation monitoring system based on coarse satellite imagery — is 63 percent higher for the twelve months ended January 31, 2015 relative to the year earlier period.
Proposed law could decimate Indonesia's remaining forests
(03/14/2015) A seemingly well-intended law that aims to turn forests over to traditional users could instead lead to large-scale destruction of Indonesia's native ecosystems, warns a prominent conservation biologist.
East Kalimantan reaffirms moratorium on new mining, logging concessions
(03/06/2015) The governor of East Kalimantan, Indonesia, has reaffirmed his commitment to a 2013 moratorium on mining, logging, and plantation permits. The policy, which was originally outlined in a letter to the province's regents and mayors will be elevated to a higher status, he said.
Humans cause erosion one hundred times faster than normal
(03/05/2015) Experts have long linked deforestation and intensive farming to worsening erosion rates around the world. Although studied extensively, determining erosion rates due to human-induced activities has rarely been quantified by scientists. However, new research conducted by geologists finds that erosion rates in the southeastern United States increased one hundred times after the arrival of European colonists in the 1700s due to tree clearing and unsustainable agriculture practices.
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.
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