Research highlight

Drivers of deforestation

Nature Geoscience

February 8, 2010

Urban development is driving deforestation in the humid tropics, according to a study published online this week in Nature Geoscience. The report suggests that the movement of people from villages to cities was responsible for forest loss in the tropics between 2000 and 2005.

Ruth DeFries and colleagues used satellite-based estimates of forest loss to determine the cause of deforestation in 41 countries in the tropics between 2000 and 2005. They show that forest loss was positively correlated with urban population growth and the export of agricultural products. In contrast, rural population growth was not associated with forest lost.

The authors suggest that efforts to reduce tropical forest loss should focus on reducing deforestation for industrial-scale export-oriented agricultural production.

doi: 10.1038/ngeo756

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