wellbeing-brand-logo

Inspired living

The cost of tropical deforestation


cut up logs from trees near a forest

Credit:123RF

Tropical forests are mostly destroyed and cleared due to the demand for forestry products or to clear land for agriculture in response to global demand for food, biofuel and other products.

But the benefits of deforestation are quickly countered by enormous costs to the environment and the loss of ecosystem system services (ES).

Ecosystem services are the benefits obtained by people from ecosystems such as forests, including carbon sequestration, flood protection and water purification.

Much of this deforestation is carried out without any information on the spatial distribution of benefits and costs of deforestation and little is known how these economic benefits and costs vary on a global scale.

The findings also showed that the benefits from agriculture are US$32 to 53 billion per year but the cost to environmental damage caused by tropical deforestation amounts to future annual losses of US$107 to 135 billion dollars a year.

If there was sufficient information about the benefits and costs of deforestation by region, it would help land-use policies identify regions where deforestation is most and least beneficial and can help in selecting areas where conservation efforts can be more focussed.

A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) recently completed a global study on the trade-offs between agricultural benefits, carbon emissions, and losses of multiple ecosystem services in tropical deforested areas around the world.

The team conducted an analysis of deforestation and crop distribution data and examined deforestation activities in more than 50 countries in the tropics between 2000 and 2012. They identified areas where deforestation was beneficial the most and also areas where deforestation was least beneficial.

There was a large difference between the costs and benefits globally.

The researchers identified the Atlantic forest, areas around the Gulf of Guinea and Thailand as areas where the benefits from agricultural conversion are higher than the environmental costs.

This suggests that it is difficult to implement conservation strategies that incentivise farmers in this region.

However, Latin America, Insular Southeast Asia and Madagascar were identified as areas where deforestation derived low agricultural benefits and high environmental costs and thus are considered to be areas where conservation programs can be viable.

The findings also showed that the benefits from agriculture are US$32 to 53 billion per year but the cost to environmental damage caused by tropical deforestation amounts to future annual losses of US$107 to 135 billion dollars a year.

Knowing which forested land converted to agriculture and has the highest agricultural benefit but lowest environmental benefit helps in meeting global demand without damaging tropical forests unnecessarily.

However, even though the study showed large variations between costs and benefits globally, the researchers found that on the whole tropical deforestation generates large economic losses.

Source: PLOS Biology



 

Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!