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Developing countries often outsource deforestation, study finds
Date:11/23/2010

In many developing countries, forest restoration at home has led to deforestation abroad, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The authors say their findings could have significant implications for ongoing efforts to protect the world's remaining forests, which are disappearing at an annual rate of more than 32 million acres an area roughly the size of England.

"Reducing deforestation is an international priority, given its impacts on carbon emissions and biodiversity," said study co-author Eric Lambin of Stanford University in California and the University of Louvain in Belgium. "However, our study found that strengthened forest-conservation policies and economic expansion often increased the demand for imported timber and agricultural products, which contributed to deforestation abroad."

In the study, Lambin and co-authors Patrick Meyfroidt (University of Louvain) and Thomas Rudel (Rutgers University) analyzed the relationship between reforestation at the national scale and the international trade in forest and agricultural products between 1961 and 2007. The researchers focused on six developing countries China, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, India and Vietnam that underwent a shift from net deforestation to net reforestation during that period.

Exporting deforestation

In five of the six countries (with the exception of India), the return of native forests was accompanied by a reduction in timber harvests and new farmland, thus creating a demand for imported wood and agricultural products.

"For every 100 acres of reforestation in these five countries, they imported the equivalent of 74 acres of forest products," said Meyfroidt, a postdoctoral researcher at Louvain and lead author of the study. "Taking into account their exports of agricultural products, the net balance amounted to 22 acres of land used in other countries."


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Contact: Mark Shwartz
mshwartz@stanford.edu
650-723-9296
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert  

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