Forest transitions, trade, and the global displacement of land use.

Research paper by Patrick P Meyfroidt, Thomas K TK Rudel, Eric F EF Lambin

Indexed on: 17 Nov '10Published on: 17 Nov '10Published in: PNAS


Reducing tropical deforestation is an international priority, given its impacts on carbon emissions and biodiversity. We examined whether recent forest transitions--a shift from net deforestation to net reforestation--involved a geographic displacement of forest clearing across countries through trade in agricultural and forest products. In most of the seven developing countries that recently experienced a forest transition, displacement of land use abroad accompanied local reforestation. Additional global land-use change embodied in their net wood trade offset 74% of their total reforested area. Because the reforesting countries continued to export more agricultural goods than they imported, this net displacement offset 22% of their total reforested area when both agriculture and forestry sectors are included. However, this net displacement increased to 52% during the last 5 y. These countries thus have contributed to a net global reforestation and/or decrease in the pressure on forests, but this global environmental benefit has been shrinking during recent years. The net decrease in the pressure on forests does not account for differences in their ecological quality. Assessments of the impacts of international policies aimed at reducing global deforestation should integrate international trade in agricultural and forest commodities.