Disentangling the numbers behind agriculture-driven tropical deforestation


Tropical deforestation continues at alarming rates with profound impacts on ecosystems, climate, and livelihoods, prompting renewed commitments to halt its continuation. Although it is well established that agriculture is a dominant driver of deforestation, rates and mechanisms remain disputed and often lack a clear evidence base. We synthesize the best available pantropical evidence to provide clarity on how agriculture drives deforestation. Although most (90 to 99%) deforestation across the tropics 2011 to 2015 was driven by agriculture, only 45 to 65% of deforested land became productive agriculture within a few years. Therefore, ending deforestation likely requires combining measures to create deforestation-free supply chains with landscape governance interventions. We highlight key remaining evidence gaps including deforestation trends, commodity-specific land-use dynamics, and data from tropical dry forests and forests across Africa.

Science, 377(6611) eabm9267
Tobias Kuemmerle
Tobias Kuemmerle
Professor & Head of the Conservation Biogeography Lab