Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Urbanization, Export Crops Drive Deforestation

10.02.2010
In Reversal, Land Is Cleared for Global Trade and Big Cities, Says Study

The drivers of tropical deforestation have shifted in the early 21st century to hinge on growth of cities and the globalized agricultural trade, a new large-scale study concludes.

The observations starkly reverse assumptions by some scientists that fast-growing urbanization and the efficiencies of global trade might eventually slow or reverse tropical deforestation. The study, which covers most of the world’s tropical land area, appears in this week’s early edition of the journal Nature Geoscience.

Deforestation has been a rising concern in recent decades, especially with the recognition that it may exacerbate climate change. Studies in the late 20th century generally matched it with growing rural populations, as new roads were built into forests and land was cleared for subsistence agriculture. Since then, rural dwellers have been flooding into cities, seeking better living standards; 2009 was recorded as the first year in history when half of human lived in urban areas. Large industrial farms have, in turn, taken over rural areas and expanded further into remaining forests, in order to supply both domestic urban populations and growing international agricultural markets, the study suggests.

“The main drivers of tropical deforestation have shifted from small-scale landholders to domestic and international markets that are distant from the forests,” said lead author Ruth DeFries, a professor at the Earth Institute’s Center for Environmental Research and Conservation. “One line of thinking was that concentrating people in cities would leave a lot more room for nature. But those people in cities and the rest of the world need to be fed. That creates a demand for industrial-scale clearing.”

DeFries and her colleagues analyzed remote-sensing images of forest cover across 41 nations in Latin America, Africa and Asia from 2000-2005, and combined these with population and economic trends. They showed that the highest forest losses were correlated with two factors: urban growth within countries; and, mainly in Asia, growth of agricultural exports to other countries. Rural population growth was not related.

In recent years, tropical countries have been supplying growing amounts of palm oil, soybeans, sugar, meat and other processed products to distant markets abroad. Not all the products are used for food; palm oil and sugar in particular are also being converted into biofuels. Furthermore, said DeFries, as small farmers within tropical nations move away to become city dwellers, they may actually use more resources from the countryside, not less. This is because those living in cities have higher incomes—the reason most moved there to begin with—and thus tend to consume more processed foods and animal products. Pastures needed to produce meat, and large plantations and other facilities that turn out other products, in turn, require land. “Collectively, these results indicate a shift from state-run road building and colonization in the 1970s and 1980s to enterprise-driven deforestation,” says the study.

Hot spots of industrial-scale clearing include Brazil, Indonesia and Cambodia—countries that, unlike many others, still have considerable forests left to clear. The trend has not reached some forested parts of Latin America, such as Surinam or Guyana, which also have large tracts of remaining forest. Almost 60% of remaining forests occur in areas where net agricultural trade, percent of products exported, and urban growth are all relatively low. But as demand for products grows, these areas are likely to see increased pressure, the study says. According to projections by the United Nations, nearly all population growth in the next 40 years will take place in cities, and some two-thirds of people will live there by 2050.

DeFries said that some initiatives aimed at halting deforestation need to be quickly shifted. For instance, some policies that focus on getting small landowners to conserve forests—a popular mechanism among governments and nonprofits at the moment—“may not be all that productive without a focus on large-scale clearing as well,” she said. “Governments will have to look at policies that intensify yields on existing high-yield fields—not clear more land,” she said.

The other authors of the study are Columbia University ecologist Maria Uriarte; ecologist Thomas Rudel of Rutgers University; and Matthew Hansen of South Dakota State University.

Kevin Krajick | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.columbia.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Novel method for investigating pore geometry in rocks
17.06.2018 | Kyushu University, I2CNER

nachricht Decades of satellite monitoring reveal Antarctic ice loss
14.06.2018 | University of Maryland

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

Im Focus: Water is not the same as water

Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities. These results were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and their colleagues in Hamburg in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

From a chemical perspective, water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms. It is less well known that water exists in two...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A sprinkle of platinum nanoparticles onto graphene makes brain probes more sensitive

15.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

100 % Organic Farming in Bhutan – a Realistic Target?

15.06.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Perovskite-silicon solar cell research collaboration hits 25.2% efficiency

15.06.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>