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15.05.2017 |

Commercial agriculture is dominant driver of tropical deforestation, study

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Deforestation caused by livestock agriculture in Paraguay (Photo: European Space Agency)

Large-scale commercial agriculture has been the main driver of deforestation in the tropics, new research shows. Clearings for large-scale agricultural expansion were responsible for an increasing proportion – in some places, more than half – of all observed forest loss across the tropics between 2000 and 2012, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The team of scientists at Duke University in North Carolina analysed deforestation trends by clearing size for this 12-year-period, using high-resolution, satellite-derived maps of forest cover produced by the University of Maryland. They found that Southeast Asia and South America saw the most severe losses. Over the study period, 79% of deforestation in the tropics occurred in these regions. “In South America, more than 60% of the increase in deforestation was due to a growing number of medium- and large-sized forest clearings typical of what you see with industrial-scale commercial agricultural activities,” said Jennifer J. Swenson, associate professor at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. In Southeast Asia, losses increased from 1400 kha in 2001 to more than 3700 kha in 2012. [+] more ...

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