White cows on pasture; recently deforested cattle pasture in the eastern Brazilian Amazon

Photo: Toby Gardner / SEI.

A new study suggests that between 90 and 99% of tropical deforestation is directly or indirectly caused by agriculture. The study, published in the journal Science , is co-authored by researchers from Stockholm Environment Institute, Chalmers University, Université catholique de Louvain and Trase, including SEI’s Dr Toby Gardner, Director of Trase.

It was previously estimated that agriculture was attributable to around 80% of tropical deforestation, but this latest review of the best available data reveals that agriculture’s impact is staggeringly higher. Moreover, only one-half to thirds of this agriculture results in the expansion of agricultural production on the deforested land.

The review outlines that a step-change approach will be essential and effective measures critical to address the underlying and indirect roles of agriculture.

Florence Pendrill, the lead author of the study at the Chalmers University of Technology , commented: “Our review makes clear that between 90 and 99% of all deforestation in the tropics is driven directly or indirectly by agriculture. But what surprised us was that a comparatively smaller share of the deforestation – between 45 and 65% – results in the expansion of actual agricultural production on the deforested land. This finding is of profound importance for designing effective measures to reduce deforestation and promote sustainable rural development.”

Here you can read the article in its entirety. 

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