80% of Tropical Deforestation Caused by Agriculture
A new report on what are the leading causes of deforestation and forest degradation across Africa, Latin America, and Asia finds that agriculture, both commercial and local/subsistence, is responsible for 80% of tropical deforestation.
Mongabay sums it up:
Industrial activities are the principal driver of deforestation and degradation worldwide, but subsistence agriculture and fuelwood consumption remains an important direct driver of deforestation, especially in Africa.
As you can see in the chart below, the balance of commercial v subsistence agriculture varies by region. In Latin America commercial agriculture—cattle ranching included—is far and away the largest driver of deforestation, with subsistence agriculture also contributing substantially. In Africa and Asia though the effect of commercial versus subsistence agriculture—the former taking the additional form of palm oil plantations and pulp and paper plantations—is more balanced between the two, with other factors playing a much larger role than in Latin America.
The report itself notes:
Our findings confirm that economic growth based on the export of primary commodities and an increasing demand for timber and agricultural products in a globalizing economy are critical indirect drivers [of deforestation].