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
Predicting deforestation before it happens
(04/28/2015) The world's leading forest monitoring platform may soon help predict deforestation before it occurs, potentially enabling authorities to prevent it altogether.
'Deforestation fronts' revealed
(04/27/2015) Environmental group WWF has released a new report projecting where the organization believes the bulk of global deforestation is likely to occur over the next 15 years. The analysis, published today, highlights eleven regions where 'the bulk of global deforestation is projected to take place' by 2030.
'Zero Deforestation' not necessarily the answer, environmentalists warn
(04/27/2015) Last week, the London-based think tank Innovation Forum convened a two-day conference on the subject of sustainable forestry in Washington, D.C. Titled 'How Business Can Tackle Deforestation,' the conference brought together leaders from both public and private spheres, including forest commodities companies, NGOs and think tanks. Though the topics of discussion were diverse, ranging from the role of 'green' certification to the viability of GMO crops, there was widespread agreement that significant changes need to be made to current supply chain policies if we are to avoid further damaging the world’s forests.
NASA reveals rise in deforestation in remote Peruvian parks
(04/27/2015) New NASA data shows a jump in forest loss in two remote parks in the Peruvian Amazon during the first three months of 2015.
Jokowi must strengthen Indonesia's forest moratorium, not just extend it: activists
(04/25/2015) Less than a month before the expiry of a moratorium on new licenses for land-based exploitation in primary forests and on peat, environmentalists are calling for the Indonesian president to not only prolong the policy but strengthen it too, hampered as they say it has been by chaotic implementation, weak enforcement, standards that don’t go far enough and, some suggest, a lack of political will to see it through.
Conservation in Myanmar: a cause for optimism?
(04/24/2015) Fifty years of relative political and economic isolation have yielded slow economic growth and contributed to the conservation of many of Myanmar’s native species. However, the dissolution of Myanmar’s military junta in 2011 marked the beginning of a new age of increasing political and economic liberalization and international engagement. Many experts fear that possible rapid development fueled by international investment, improved infrastructure and expanded transport networks, pose a grave risk to Myanmar’s biodiversity and forests.
Officials: Sumatran rhino is extinct in the wild in Sabah
(04/23/2015) There are no Sumatran rhinos left in the wild in the Malaysian state of Sabah, confirmed Masidi Manjun, the Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, over the weekend. In 2008, conservationists estimated there were around 50 rhinos in the state. Five years later, it dropped that estimate to just ten. Now, it's admitted the awful truth: the wild rhino is very likely gone.
Activists target Roger Federer as brand ambassador for bank linked to deforestation
(04/22/2015) Environmentalists are asking tennis star Roger Federer to deliver a message to Credit Suisse over the banking giant's continued financing of a logging company linked to ongoing destruction of wildlife habitat in Indonesia. According to the Bruno Manser Fund two members of a rainforest community in Sumatra have written to Federer to ask for his help in persuading Credit Suisse to stop financing logging of peat forests.
Criticism of GAR and Wilmar African oil palm projects highlight global ‘no-deforestation' challenges
(04/16/2015) Despite high-profile no-deforestation policies, palm oil giants Golden Agri-Resources and Wilmar have attracted criticism recently over their projects in Africa, particularly regarding the correct implementation of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of affected communities. Some NGOs have suggested these persistent problems indicate no lessons have been learned from years of bad practice in Indonesia.
A tale of two maps: Brazilian state won’t use new atlas to close Cerrado deforestation loophole
(04/13/2015) Farmers in north-central Brazil, where the savanna meets the Amazon rainforest, are clearing land at an unprecedented rate. The government hasn’t stopped the cutting, partly because it is using inaccurate, outdated maps that hugely underestimate the extent of its endangered dry forests.
Platform provides near-real time analysis of deforestation in non-Brazilian Amazon
(04/09/2015) A new platform will provide critical near-real time information and analysis on emerging threats to forests in the non-Brazilian Amazon. Officially announced today, the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) in an initiative launched by the Amazon Conservation Association and Conservación Amazónica-ACCA.
Study finds abandoned pasture is 'a huge resource that is not being harnessed'
(04/09/2015) As tropical forests around the world are cleared for human development, scientists and conservationists are trying to find ways to both stem their loss and reclaim areas already deforested. In a recent study, researchers investigated restoration of abandoned agricultural land in Ecuador, finding that planting trees and even re-establishing pasture may help limit conversion of more forest to farmland.
Long considered tree-killers, lianas may actually help rainforest restoration
(04/09/2015) Since the 1970s, research into climbing woody vines called lianas has focused primarily on the harm they inflict on rainforest trees, but a new paper suggests that if they are judiciously planted, they might help, rather than hinder, rainforest recovery.
Condition of tropical forests 'worsening', could become 'critical'
(04/07/2015) World leaders are continuing to overlook the worsening condition of tropical forests despite the biome's vast potential to help mitigate climate change, support local livelihoods and ecosystem services, and stabilize global agriculture, warns a comprehensive review published by a body founded by Prince Charles.
Tiny Brazilian opossum could be farmers’ friend
(04/07/2015) André Mendonça pops open the spring-loaded door on the shoebox-sized trap and peeks inside. Two bulging, black eyes glare back at him. He pulls the trap off the tree limb and shakes the stunned, sopping wet creature into a clear plastic bag. “One more!” he says excitedly.
Who's to blame for forest loss in Borneo timber concession?
(04/06/2015) The apparent loss of some 4,000 hectares of forested peatland in Indonesian Borneo is raising questions on who bears responsibility for forest clearing in un-utilized concessions. On Monday, Greenomics-Indonesia issued a report revealing the loss of significant tracts of peat forest in a West Kalimantan concession held by PT Bumi Mekar Hijau (BMH), a plantation company whose operation in South Sumatra supplies Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) with woodpulp for its mills.
Palm oil companies, NGOs endorse new deforestation-limiting toolkit
(04/06/2015) Forests not only house many of the world's species, but also much of its carbon. Now, a toolkit has been developed by a group of companies and organizations with the aim of helping other companies and NGOs identify High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests. The toolkit was endorsed last week by major NGOs and plantation companies in Singapore.
Fighting fire with money: can finance protect Indonesia’s forests?
(04/06/2015) In previous articles, we have seen an overview of the problems with the Indonesian palm oil industry. Such problems are largely caused by rent-seeking politicians and businessmen, who are willing to sacrifice endangered wildlife, the health of their countrymen and long-term environmental stability in the pursuit of profit. These actors exert a significant influence on and within the Indonesian government. As a result, Indonesia remains conflicted between the opposing goals of conservation and economic growth.
Russia and Canada lead the world in forest loss in 2013
(04/02/2015) Russia and Canada led the world in forest loss, accounting for nearly forty percent of the 18 million hectares of forest lost globally in 2013, reveals a new analysis based on high resolution satellite imagery. The research — released today on Global Forest Watch, a forest monitoring and research platform — was led by Matt Hansen of the University of Maryland and involved Google, World Resources Institute (WRI), and other institutions
Domino's, DairyQueen, Taco Bell, Burt's Bees score terribly on eliminating deforestation from supply chains
(04/01/2015) Despite a worldwide trend of companies establishing social and environmental safeguards for palm oil sourcing, some of America's best-known brands are still failing to adopt policies to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains, concludes a updated assessment from The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
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