Feb 23, 2010 • A recently published Nature Geoscience article by Ruth DeFries et al. reveals that urban pressures (for food and resources) have replaced subsistence farmers as the leading driver of tropical deforestation this century. The study used MODIS and Landsat data to analyze 98 percent of the world’s tropical forests between 2000 and 2005. Correlations were made between deforestation rates and human migration to cities in the tropics. To stem further deforestation (and the loss of important carbon sinks) the researchers suggest that “industrial-scale, export-oriented agricultural production” in forested areas be replaced with more intensive farming on already cleared lands.
DeFries, R.S., T. Rudel, M. Uriarte, and M. Hansen (2010). Deforestation driven by urban population growth and agricultural trade in the twenty-first century.Nature Geoscience, doi:10.1038/ngeo756.