Urban growth, farm exports drive tropical deforestation

Feb 07, 2010

The biggest causes of deforestation in tropical countries are population growth in cities and agricultural exports, a finding that should shape decisions on preventing forest loss, experts said Sunday.

Under December's Copenhagen Accord, rich countries are pledging some 10 billion dollars over the next three years to help poor countries tackle climate change.

A big but so far unspecified chunk of the cash will go on programmes to prevent loss of , which is a major source of greenhouse gases.

Beyond 2012, tens of billions of dollars per year could be primed if a planned UN pact on curbing climate change comes to fruition.

But environmental scientists publishing in the journal on Sunday cautioned against a rush to favour schemes that are unlikely to work.

A common theory is that pressure on forests can be eased by reducing the population in rural areas, or discouraging rural people from clearing land for fuel or food for their own use.

The study, led by Ruth DeFries of New York's Columbia University, looked at satellite data for forest loss in 41 countries from 2000 to 2005 and matched this against a host of other factors.

Two much bigger causes accelerated forest loss, they found.

One was the demographic growth of the host country's cities.

Urbanisation raises consumption levels and boosts demands for agricutural products. City dwellers eat more processed food and meat, which in turn encourages large-scale farming that leads to forest clearance.

The other factor is agricultural exports, which also amplified demands for farmland.

"The strong trend in movement of people to cities in the tropics is, counter-intuitively, likely to be associated with greater pressures for clearing tropical forests," says the study.

"We therefore suggest that policies to reduce deforestation among local, rural populations will not address the main cause of in the future."

Poor tropical countries thus face a dilemma if they want to feed their swelling cities, export food to gain wealth and preserve their forest treasure.

One solution, says DeFries, is boost food yields in lands that have already been cleared.

Explore further: Pharmaceuticals and the water-fish-osprey food web

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New technology needed to monitor rain forest 'tsunami'

Jan 12, 2009

Human impact on tropical forest ecosystems has reached a "tsunami" stage, say scientists, and will require a new generation of sophisticated remote-sensing technology to monitor the changes. Speaking at a January 12, 2009 ...

Tropical forest sustainability: A climate change boon

Jun 13, 2008

Improved management of the world's tropical forests has major implications for humanity's ability to reduce its contribution to climate change, according to a paper published today in the international journal, Science.

Recommended for you

Pharmaceuticals and the water-fish-osprey food web

8 hours ago

Ospreys do not carry significant amounts of human pharmaceutical chemicals, despite widespread occurrence of these chemicals in water, a recent U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Baylor University study finds. ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Quantum_Conundrum
not rated yet Feb 07, 2010
This article makes contradictory conclusions and recommendations.

A common theory is that pressure on forests can be eased by reducing the population in rural areas, or discouraging rural people from clearing land for fuel or food for their own use.


Hey idiots, you can be the first to start skipping meals, and turning off the heat/air to save forests...

Next, they cite urbanization and city growth as a reason for forest loss,e ven though cities tend to be made with metal and concrete, not (as much)wood.

Cities are more space efficient than rural dwellings, because the people are housed on less land, leaving more space for farming elsewhere.