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Agriculture is the direct driver for worldwide deforestation
25 September 2012
Wageningen University and Research Centre
A new synthesis on drivers of deforestation and forest degradation was published during the Bangkok climate change negotiations in September by researchers from Canada and from Wageningen University, Netherlands. The report stresses the importance of knowing what drives deforestation and forest degradation, in order to be able to design and monitor effective REDD+ policies to halt it.
Agriculture is estimated to be the direct driver for around 80% of deforestation worldwide. In Latin America, commercial agriculture is the main direct driver, responsible for 2/3 of all cut forests, while in Africa and tropical Asia commercial agriculture and subsistence agriculture both account for one third of deforestation. Mining, infrastructure and urban expansion are important but less prominent drivers worldwide. It is concluded that economic growth based on the export of primary commodities and an increasing demand for timber and agricultural products in a globalizing economy are critical indirect drivers.
Degradation of forest means a decrease in quality of forest, and is in over 70% of cases caused by (commercial) timber extraction and logging activities in Latin America and tropical and sub-tropical Asia. In Africa, fuel wood collection, charcoal production, and, to a lesser extent, livestock grazing in forests are the most important drivers of degradation.
The synthesis report ‘Drivers of Deforestation and Forest Degradation’ sums up currently available knowledge from the literature on drivers, worldwide and by country, and gives recommendations to policymakers involved in the on-going international climate negotiations, as well as country-level plans and interventions. The viability of REDD+ depends on altering business-as-usual activity in sectors currently driving greenhouse gas emissions from forests, it is concluded. The report distinguishes between direct drivers, that directly cause deforestation and forest degradation, and indirect drivers, forces at the background such as changing market prices, population growth or policies and governance.
The report concludes it is important for forested tropical countries to regularly assess and monitor drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, in order to be able to design effective REDD+ policies. The types of drivers have great influence on the forest carbon impacts and the choice of data sources and methods used to measure them. Also, understanding forest change patterns and underlying causes are important for developing forest reference (emission) levels, necessary for REDD+ implementation.
Countries largely define REDD+ strategies and interventions to deal with national and local scale drivers, but face problems addressing international drivers and acknowledge that international pressure will increase. The report offers solutions for how countries can decouple economic growth from deforestation, investigating the range of options countries have to address drivers at various scales.
The report, was supported by the UK and Norwegian governments, is available from 2 sources: www.regjeringen.no/climate-and-forest-initiative
The results also emphasize the importance of a multi-sector and interdisciplinary research perspective in the design and implementation of climate change mitigation activities; as addressed in the Wageningen University REDD research network (http://www.redd.wur.nl/).