Over the last 50 years conversion of tropical and subtropical dry forests to agriculture in developing countries has been the most powerful driver. Cultivated systems now cover more than 24 percent of the earth's surface so that only biomes unsuitable for cropping such as deserts, boreal forests and tundras are relatively intact. All scenarios adopted in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005: 2) forecast a continuation in the first half of the twenty-first century of the current rate of conversion of forest to agriculture of 13 million hectares a year (FAO, 2006: xiv).
The expansion of agriculture and also of cities and infrastructure is being driven indirectly by increases in population growth and changes in consumption patterns. Extensification of agriculture is meeting the increase in demand for products such as soy bean (Latin America and the Caribbean), oil palm and rubber (Asia-Pacific) and coffee (Africa, Latin America and Asia). This is set to continue, given that by 2050 the world's population will have risen to around 9 billion people. Another powerful indirect driver of consumption and tastes is per capita gross domestic product, which is expected to double or even quadruple, depending on the scenario chosen (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005).
The effects of indirect drivers of deforestation, such as globalization and trade liberalization, need to be anticipated and addressed at the international level. Drivers also include poverty reduction strategies, as typified by structural adjustment programs in the mid-1980s that ignored the integration of ecosystems and ecosystem services, the focus being on institutional and macroeconomic stability and economic growth (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). In contrast to trends in developing countries, the efficiency in the use of resources, lower population increases and a fall in meat consumption are expected to cause a contraction in the area of agriculture and an increase in forested area in industrialized countries.
While biofuels only occupy 1 percent of arable land presently, it is expected that vast areas will be planted to monocultures, replacing marginal agricultural lands that presently support biodiversity. Monoculture plantations in programs designed to mitigate global warming through afforestation and reforestation (A/R) may also contribute to biodiversity loss (UNEP, 2007: 178).
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