Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences - Biogeography

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences | Geography Department | Biogeography | News_folder | Land grabs lead to increasing deforestation in the tropics

Land grabs lead to increasing deforestation in the tropics


Kyle F. Davis, Heejin Irene Koo, Jampel Dell’Angelo, Paolo D’Odorico, Lyndon Estes, Laura Kehoe, Milad Kharratzadeh, Tobias Kuemmerle, Machava D., Aurelio de Jesus Rodrigues Pais, Natasha Ribeiro, M. Cristina Rulli, Mo Tatlhego


Summary: Land acquisitions in the tropics by multinational companies or countries have been a growing phenomenon recently, but it remains unclear whether that leads to more deforestation. A new study, led by Kyle Davis from the University of Delaware, analyzed over 82,000 individual land deals in 15 tropical countries to show that land deals do indeed target areas with disproportionally high forest cover and that once deals are made they lead to increased deforestation. This emphasizes the need for stronger policies curbing the negative environmental impacts of land deals. 



Tropical forests are vital for global biodiversity, carbon storage and local livelihoods, yet they are increasingly under threat from human activities. Large-scale land acquisitions have emerged as an important mechanism linking global resource demands to forests in the Global South, yet their influence on tropical deforestation remains unclear. Here we perform a multicountry assessment of the links between large-scale land acquisitions and tropical forest loss by combining a new georeferenced database of 82,403 individual land deals—covering 15 countries in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia — with data on annual forest cover and loss between 2000 and 2018. We find that land acquisitions cover between 6% and 59% of study-country land area and between 2% and 79% of their forests. Compared with non-investment areas, large-scale land acquisitions were granted in areas of higher forest cover in 11 countries and had higher forest loss in 52% of cases. Oil palm, wood fibre and tree plantations were consistently linked with enhanced forest loss while logging and mining concessions showed a mix of outcomes. Our findings demonstrate that large-scale land acquisitions can lead to elevated deforestation of tropical forests, highlighting the role of local policies in the sustainable management of these ecosystems.


Link to the manuscript: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-020-0592-3


Citation: Davis K.F., Koo H. I., Dell’Angelo J., D’Odorico P.,  Estes L., Kehoe L., Kharratzadeh M., Kuemmerle T., Machava D., de Jesus Rodrigues Pais A., Ribeiro N., Rulli M. C. & Tatlhego M. (2020): Tropical forest loss enhanced by large-scale land acquisitions. Nature Geosciences, in press.


Photo: Achmad Rabin Taim / Wikimedia Commons