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
'Sea change' in clothing industry means more protections for forests
(06/30/2015) Sateri has become the latest major viscose producer to adopt a new wood- and pulp-sourcing policy aimed at removing deforestation from its supply chain. The company, the world's third-largest viscose producer, joins Aditya Birla and Lenzing, the two biggest, in making commitments to stop buying wood pulp from natural or endangered forests.
Corporations rush to make zero-deforestation commitments, but is it working?
(06/29/2015) Every year, more companies pledge to stop using ingredients whose production cause tropical deforestation. Retailers and brands making voluntary commitments – mostly involving palm oil – include Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Colgate and Wilmar, the world's largest palm oil trader. Among 2014 joiners were Cargill, Krispy Kreme, Dunkin's Donuts and Baskin' Robbins, with 2015 bringing the addition of McDonald's, Archer Daniels Midland and Yum! Brands (owner of Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell).
Satellite-based forest mapping platform hits its stride
(06/26/2015) Global Forest Watch, a young online forest monitoring and alert system, provides free, near real-time data on deforestation and tree-cover loss around the world. It allows users to create customized interactive maps detailing forest change, concession areas for natural resource extraction and agricultural production, conservation areas, and community land boundaries. The system acts as a research platform, providing country profiles and rankings based on forest statistics, and allowing users to crowdsource forest data and stories.
Illegal forest clearing spotted in Aceh's biggest peat swamp
(06/26/2015) Encroachers have been clearing forest at three locations in Aceh's biggest peat swamp since February, the Rawa Singkil Wildlife Reserve, analysis of Landsat satellite imagery by environmental group Greenomics-Indonesia shows. The area is home to the densest population of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans in the Leuser Ecosystem.
Do we need to move 'beyond certification' to save forests?
(06/25/2015) Over the past two years dozens of companies have established 'zero-deforestation' or 'deforestation-free' policies for the commodities they source, trade, and produce. The pace of adoption has been staggeringly fast for a business that have been historically slow-moving relative to other industries. Some sectors, like the Indonesian palm oil industry and the Brazilian soy industry, even appear to be nearing a critical mass where the majority of international buyers and traders are now bound by such agreements.
Status change to come for Indonesia's partial logging moratorium?
(06/25/2015) Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry might upgrade the partial logging moratorium from a presidential instruction to a government regulation, or PP, later this year, a ministry official said this week. The change would take place after the ministry completes its semiannual revision of the moratorium map for the ninth time in November, according to The Jakarta Post.
Social-media firestorm defends popular man-eating tiger in India, raising conservation questions
(06/23/2015) On May 8, 56-year-old forest guard Rampal Saini was attacked and killed by a tiger named Ustad with a bite to the neck. Ustad was hugely popular with tourists and had gained a massive online following. But Saini was Ustad's fourth victim in a span of five years, and his death unleashed a heated debate — especially online — about whether the ensuing decision to banish him to captivity was the right one.
Controversy emerges over alleged deforestation policy breach by APRIL supplier
(06/23/2015) Less than three weeks after APRIL unveiled a sustainability policy that is supposed to protect natural forests, an environmental group is alleging that one of the Indonesian forestry giant's subsidiaries is already breaching the commitment. But APRIL refuted the claim and says it continues to stand by the policy.
Can we save the Sumatran rhino? Indonesia holds out hope
(06/19/2015) 'One percent of the world's population,' veterinarian Zulfi Arsan says as he nods towards Bina, a 714-kilogram, 30-year-old female Sumatran rhinoceros leisurely crunching branches whole. A gentle and easygoing rhino, pink-hued Bina doesn't seem to mind the two-legged hominids snapping pictures and awing at her every move at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary.
Has Amazon deforestation reached a 7-year high in Brazil?
(06/18/2015) Analysis of satellite data suggests deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon may have reached a seven-year high.
Gold miners invade Amazonian indigenous reserve
(06/16/2015) Illegal miners have invaded an indigenous reserve in the Peruvian Amazon, reveals new analysis of satellite imagery.
$4.5 Billion Spent On Voluntary Carbon Offsets Over Past Decade: Report
(06/16/2015) Nearly one billion carbon offset credits were voluntarily purchased over the past decade, which netted conservation and clean energy projects almost $4.5 billion, according to a recent report by the Washington D.C.-based conservation group Forest Trends.
Consumers willing to pay sharp premium for wildlife-friendly palm oil, claims study
(06/15/2015) Shoppers may be willing to pay a 15 to 56 percent premium for palm oil produced without the destruction endangered species' habitat, asserts a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A toad's relationship with its prey endures in the face of deforestation for palm oil
(06/15/2015) Biologists and conservationists have studied the effects of habitat degradation on individual species, but have rarely investigated how logging and conversion of rainforests to oil palm agriculture change interspecies relationships. A study of a toad and its ant prey found that while the toad dwindled in disturbed habitats, a shortage of food was not the reason.
90% of Amazon deforestation occurs outside protected areas
(06/13/2015) Ten percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon between August 2012 and July 2014 occurred in protected areas, reports new research from Imazon.
Rising seas, sinking peat to swamp Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil
(06/13/2015) With global sea levels going up at a rate of about 9 millimeters per year, the livelihoods of many coastal people in the world look increasingly threatened, especially in those parts of the world with limited financial or technical means to adapt. A rate of a thumb-width of water per year may not sound like much, but the half to one meter higher water levels mean that many coastal people will have to abandon their homes and fields before the end of the century.
Palm oil giant announces deforestation freeze amid NGO campaign
(06/12/2015) Palm oil giant Astra Agro Lestari has announced an immediate moratorium on land clearing, less than a month after the launch of an environmental campaign targeting one of its sister companies, the Mandarin Oriental hotel chain. The prohibition applies to Astra Agro's own plantations as well as to those of its suppliers. Astra Agro characterized the freeze as a major step toward bringing its operations into line with the standards of the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge, a high-profile, joint sustainability commitment signed by palm giants Wilmar, Cargill, Golden Agri-Resources, Asian Agri and Musim Mas as well as the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce.
Oil palm company accused of violating RSPO, IPOP standards in Indonesia
(06/11/2015) The reputation of oil palm business group Sawit Sumbermas Sarana, a holding of one of Indonesia's richest men, has in recent days taken hits on multiple fronts, with a pair of NGOs separately accusing the firm of violating various sustainability commitments it is party to. The criticism highlights holes in both the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP), a high-profile sustainability pact to which palm giants Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources, Musim Mas, Asian Agri and Cargill are signatories, and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
Satellite images provide new view of uncontacted Amazonian communities
(06/10/2015) A laundry list of dangers threaten Amazonia’s few remaining uncontacted indigenous communities. Colonists and industry workers often grab tribal land for mining, logging, drug trafficking, or hydrocarbon extraction, which damage the groups’ environment and bring them into conflict with armed settlers. Careless encroachment by outsiders can also bring diseases to which uncontacted groups have no immunity.
In Sumatra, an oasis in a sea of oil palm
(06/08/2015) Sumatra is estimated to have lost 85 percent of its forests in the past half century, primarily due to widespread conversion for oil palm and pulp plantations. In the village of Tangkahan, however, residents have managed to preserve their forests and create one of Indonesia's ecotourism hotspots.
Other pages in this section:
Selection of information sources