Urbanisation, global trade stripping forest cover

February 10th, 2010 - 3:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 10 (IANS) The growth of cities and global trade has led to extensive tropical deforestation, according to a new study.
Ruth DeFries, professor at the Earth Institute’s Centre for Environmental Research and Conservation, and her colleagues analysed remote-sensing images of forest cover across 41 nations in Latin America, Africa and Asia from 2000 to 2005, and combined these with population and economic trends.

They showed that the highest forest losses were correlated with two factors: urban growth within countries; and, mainly in Asia, growth of agricultural exports to other countries. Rural population growth was not related.

The observations starkly reverse assumptions by some scientists that fast-growing urbanisation and the efficiencies of global trade might eventually slow or reverse tropical deforestation.

“The main drivers of tropical deforestation have shifted from small-scale landholders to domestic and international markets that are distant from the forests,” said DeFries, who led the study.

The other study co-authors were Columbia University ecologist Maria Uriarte; ecologist Thomas Rudel of Rutgers University; and Matthew Hansen of South Dakota State University, said an Earth Institute release.

The study appeared in this week’s early edition of Nature Geoscience.

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