Global economic and diet transitions drove Latin American and Caribbean forest change during the first decade of the century.

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David Lopez-Carr, Sadie Jane Ryan, Matthew Clark


Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) contain more tropical high-biodiversity forest than the remaining areas of the planet combined, yet experienced more than a third of global deforestation during the first decade of the 21st century. While drivers of forest change occur at multiple scales, we examined forest change at the municipal and national scales integrated with global processes such as capital, commodity, and labor flows. We modeled multi-scale socioeconomic, demographic, and environmental drivers of local forest cover change. Consistent with LAC’s global leadership in soy and beef exports, primarily to China, Russia, the US, and the EU, national-level beef and soy production were the primary land use drivers of decreased forest cover. National level GDPs, migrant worker remittances, and foreign investment, along with municipal-level temperature and area, were also significantly related to reduced forest cover. This challenges forest transition frameworks, which theorize that rising GDP and intensified agricultural production should be increasingly associated with forest regrowth. Instead, LAC forest change was linked to local, national, and global demographic, dietary and economic transitions, resulting in massive net forest cover loss. This suggests an urgent need to reconcile forest conservation with mounting global demand for animal protein.



Arts and Humanities, Environmental Sciences, Geography, Life Sciences, Natural Resources and Conservation, Physical and Environmental Geography, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Social and Behavioral Sciences



Published: 2021-03-31 22:19


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