Nav: Home

Trade-offs between economic growth and deforestation

January 16, 2017

Economic growth in poor countries increases along with deforestation rates, but the effect disappears in wealthier economies, according to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Although economic development has long been assumed to be a driver of deforestation, there has been little reliable data to support the theoretical link. In the new study, researchers combined satellite data on forest cover with economic data from 130 different countries. By comparing forest cover across border regions with similar geography, they were able to make comparisons between economic factors and deforestation in different countries.

"This study was like a large-scale, natural experiment, which in economics is extremely rare." says IIASA researcher Jesus Crespo Cuaresma, who led the study. "For the first time, we were able to empirically assess this effect in a convincing fashion, making use of natural borders."

In economics, the hypothetical link between economic development and environmental degradation is known as an environmental "Kuznet's curve", Crespo Cuaresma explains, "Theory predicts that economic growth in poor countries increases environmental depletion, but that the effect disappears or reverts for developed economies."

In the new study, the researchers found what they described as "half of a Kuznet's curve"--that is, the data agreed with the hypothesized link between economic development and deforestation for developing countries. For wealthier countries, however, the correlation disappeared.

The study has implications in particular for countries on the "dangerous" part of the deforestation curve, where economic growth is likely to lead to major forest cover loss in the near future. The results suggest that Africa is expected to be particularly vulnerable to forest cover loss as sub-Saharan economies catch up on income per capita with the rest of the world.

"This is particularly worrying because Africa is home to some of the world's largest tracts of remaining undisturbed forests," says IIASA researcher Ian McCallum, who also worked on the study. "Factors that keep deforestation in check in other tropical regions of the world, like good governance, monitoring systems, and peace, are lacking in much of tropical Africa."

IIASA scientists have been contributing to a growing body of research related to sustainable development in tropical forest basins. IIASA researcher Ping Yowargana, who works on the IIASA Tropical Futures Initiative adds, "It's important to keep in mind that there are many factors that contribute to deforestation. Issues like education, ease of doing business, and corruption are vital to understand the bigger picture--and to find solutions that can lead to both decreased poverty along with forest preservation."
-end-


Reference


Crespo Cuaresma J, Danylo O, Fritz S, McCallum I, Obersteiner M, See L, and Walsh B (2017). Economic development and forest cover: evidence from satellite data. Scientific Reports. http://www.nature.com/articles/srep40678

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Related Deforestation Articles:

Amazon basin deforestation could disrupt distant rainforest by remote climate connection
The ongoing deforestation around the fringes of the Amazon may have serious consequences for the untouched deeper parts of the rainforest.
Amazon rainforest may be more resilient to deforestation than previously thought
Taking a fresh look at evidence from satellite data, and using the latest theories from complexity science, researchers at the University of Bristol have provided new evidence to show that the Amazon rainforest is not as fragile as previously thought.
Human-induced deforestation is causing an increase in malaria cases
A new study of 67 less-developed, malaria-endemic nations led by Lehigh University sociologist Dr.
'Narco-deforestation' study links loss of Central American tropical forests to cocaine
Central American tropical forests are beginning to disappear at an alarming rate, threatening the livelihood of indigenous peoples there and endangering some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in North America.
Stanford study explores risk of deforestation as agriculture expands in Africa
Multinational companies are increasingly looking to Africa to expand production of in-demand commodity crops such as soy and oil palm.
Trade-offs between economic growth and deforestation
In many developing countries, economic growth and deforestation seem to go hand in hand -- but the links are not well understood.
Local government engagement, decentralized policies can help reduce deforestation
Empowering local governments with forestry decisions can help combat deforestation, but is most effective when local users are actively engaging with their representatives, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder-led study.
The fight against deforestation: Why are Congolese farmers clearing forest?
Only a small share of Congolese villagers is the driving force behind most of the deforestation.
Significant deforestation in Brazilian Amazon goes undetected, study finds
A new study finds that close to 9,000 square kilometers of Amazon forest was cleared from 2008 to 2012 without detection by the official government monitoring system.
Effects of past tropical deforestation will be felt for years to come
Even if people completely stopped converting tropical forests into farmland, the impacts of tropical deforestation would continue to be felt for many years to come.

Related Deforestation Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#521 The Curious Life of Krill
Krill may be one of the most abundant forms of life on our planet... but it turns out we don't know that much about them. For a create that underpins a massive ocean ecosystem and lives in our oceans in massive numbers, they're surprisingly difficult to study. We sit down and shine some light on these underappreciated crustaceans with Stephen Nicol, Adjunct Professor at the University of Tasmania, Scientific Advisor to the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies, and author of the book "The Curious Life of Krill: A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World".