Research Press Release

Environment: Mapping the deforestation footprint of nations reveals growing threat to tropical forests

Nature Ecology & Evolution

March 30, 2021

Consumption of products like beef, soy, coffee, cocoa, palm oil and timber by wealthy nations is directly linked to deforestation in threatened tropical biomes, finds a study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Increased global demand for agricultural and forestry commodities has led to deforestation worldwide. Prior research examined links between global supply chains and deforestation, but most studies were conducted at a regional level or only focused on specific commodities.

Keiichiro Kanemoto and Nguyen Hoang combined previously published information on forest loss and its drivers, with a global database of domestic and international trade relationships between 15,000 industry sectors from 2001 to 2015. Using these data, they quantified each country’s deforestation footprint domestically and internationally based on the population’s consumption.

The authors found that a number of countries have increased net forest gains domestically, but their deforestation footprint — primarily in tropical forests — has increased due to importing goods. They show that consumption in G7 countries — USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan — accounts for an average loss of 3.9 trees per person per year. Examining deforestation patterns for specific commodities, the authors found that cocoa consumption in Germany poses a very high risk to forests in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, and deforestation in coastal Tanzania is linked to Japanese demand for agricultural products. The authors also demonstrate how deforestation drivers may differ within countries: deforestation in the Central Highlands of Vietnam is mainly driven by coffee consumption in USA, Germany and Italy, whereas North Vietnam’s deforestation is largely linked to timber exports to China, South Korea and Japan.

The authors conclude that understanding the specific links between global trade and deforestation is necessary to create better regulations and science-based interventions to protect forests from disappearing.


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