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Tropical forests face huge threat from industrial agriculture

Tropical forests face huge threat from industrial agriculture

Tropical forests face huge threat from industrial agriculture
December 5, 2007

With forest conversion for large-scale agriculture rapidly emerging as a leading driver of tropical deforestation, a new report from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) suggests the trend is likely to continue with Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Peru, and Colombia containing 75 percent of the world’s forested land that is highly suitable for industrial agriculture expansion. Nevertheless the study identifies forests that may be best suited (low population density, unsuitable climate and soils) for “Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation” (REDD) initiatives which compensate countries for preserving forest lands in exchange for carbon credits.

“Forests with low suitability of industrial agriculture and low densities of human residents will be the cheapest to set aside as nations develop their REDD programs,” states a release from WHRC.

The study, titled “Readiness For Redd: A Preliminary Global Assessment Of Tropical Forested Land Suitability For Agriculture”, shows that in some countries (Bolivia, Congo, Venezuela, Guyana) one third to one half of the forests are unsuitable or have low concentrations of farmers, making them priorities for protection within REDD programs. The report also notes that in some countries (Malaysia, French Guiana, Cameroon) virtually all forested lands have high agricultural potential or high population densities.

The assessment shows that Brazil has 390,000 square kilometers of forested land suitable for soy, 2.283 million sq km for oil palm, and 1.988 million sq km for sugar on lands that combined contain 49 billion tons of carbon. Congo DRC has the potential to convert 1.015 million sq km of forest for industrial agriculture, including 778,000 sq km for oil palm plantations. Indonesia (765,000 sq km — 617,000 sq km suitable for oil palm), Peru (513,000 sq km — 458,000 sq km suitable for oil palm), Colombia (438,000 sq km — 417,000 sq km suitable for oil palm), Venezuela (270,000 sq km — 157,000 sq km suitable for sugar cane), and Malaysia (193,000 sq km — 146,000 sq km suitable for oil palm) follow.

Tropical land area suitable for soy (a), sugar cane (b), and oil palm (c). Areas in dark green are suitable for the individual crop and are currently forested, areas in yellow are suitable for the individual crop and currently not forested. Forest and non-forest regions are defined by the Vegetation Continuous Fields dataset (Hansen et al., 2001).

Claudia Stickler et al (2007). Readiness For Redd: A Preliminary Global Assessment Of Tropical Forested Land Suitability For Agriculture [PDF]. The Woods Hole Research Center. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP), Thirteenth session. 3-14 December 2007

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