Global tropical deforestation slowing down

Our colleague Jan Christoph von der Goltz points us to this new working paper by Wheeler, Kraft, and Hammer at the Center for Global Development:
This report summarizes recent trends in large-scale tropical forest clearing identified by FORMA (Forest Monitoring for Action). Our analysis includes 27 countries that accounted for 94 percent of clearing during the period 2000–2005. We highlight countries with relatively large changes since 2005, both declines and increases. FORMA produces indicators that track monthly changes in the number of 1-sq.-km. tropical forest parcels that have experienced clearing with high probability. This report and the accompanying spreadsheet databases provide monthly estimates for 27 countries, 280 primary administrative units, and 2,907 secondary administrative units. Countries’ divergent experiences since 2005 have significantly altered their shares of global clearing in some cases. Brazil’s global share fell by 11.2 percentage points from December 2005 to August 2011, while the combined share of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Myanmar increased by 10.8. The diverse patterns revealed by FORMA’s first global survey caution against facile generalizations about forest clearing in the pantropics. During the past five years, the relative scale and pace of clearing have changed across regions, within regions, and within countries. Although the overall trend seems hopeful, it remains to be seen whether the decline in forest clearing will persist as the global economy recovers.
CGD blog link here. While the overall trend is good news, the point about heterogeneity is well taken. See, for example, this time series map of Borneo's forest cover, and in particular the jump between 2000 and 2010:


  1. If there is less forest there is less forest to clear. Simple enough?

    Somewhat more complex, the easiest places to clear get cleared out first.

  2. Availability certainly drives some of it, as does the marginal cost of clearing (i.e., the second point). That said, we know plenty of other factors also matter, for example the "political logging cycles" documented in Burgess et al. (http://econ-www.mit.edu/files/6121).

    More generally, deforestation has reversed in many of the developed countries; check out this map from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment to see where: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_4Z7wJiyM7rg/TPh8wkzmyQI/AAAAAAAAAAc/lo3_SwzXB6Y/s1600/sdm-gene-02-deforestation.jpg . Given that, it doesn't seem untoward to think that at some point the same will (or at least, could) happen in the tropics.