Reducing Tropical Deforestation

Rising food prices and the scarcity of new farmland in the US and Europe are helping to drive agricultural and livestock expansion into the Tropics. Tropical forests are

disappearing rapidly as people clear the natural landscape to make room for farms and pastures, harvest wood for construction and fuel, and build roads and urban areas.

  • Latin America is the fastest growing production region in the world.

  • Deforestation in the Amazon and Central Africa drastically reduces rainfall in the U.S. Midwest.

  • Approximately 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from tropical deforestation.

Annual Soy and Beef Prices and Deforestation graph

Annual deforestation and production (beef and soy) trends in the Brazilian Amazon. 

These important benefits of tropical forest conversion and harvesting come at a cost: the release of more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than all of the world’s cars, planes and buses combined, soil erosion, the degradation of streams and water supplies, and the loss of plant and animal species. Tropical forest conversion to agricultural commodity production can compete with and displace small-scale farmers and communities and infringe upon indigenous peoples’ territories.

Many of these costs of tropical forest conversion and degradation can be avoided. When public policies, technical support to farmers, regional planning, and responsible businesses are in place, the needs of both local populations and global commodity consumers can be met while maintaining the health and long-term productivity of native ecosystems, soils and water supplies.

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