Unravelling the link between global rubber price and tropical deforestation in Cambodia

Abstract

Tropical forests continue to undergo a rapid transformation. The expansion of rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) plantations has been reported as a major driver of forest loss, linked to a boom in market demand. Distant commodity markets have spurred a surge of large-scale economic land concessions granted throughout tropical Southeast Asia. Using satellite imagery, we show the impact of rubber tree plantations on Cambodian forest cover and analyse how annual forest-to-rubber conversion rates relate to global rubber prices from 2001 to 2015. We found that 23.5 +/- 1.8% of national forest cover was cleared in this period, with 23.2 +/- 3.6% of cleared forest converted to rubber plantations. Annual forest-to-rubber conversion rates closely correlated with global rubber prices, with a time lag of 8-9 months (Pearson's r = 0.93). Our results reveal a strong link between global commodity markets and tropical forest loss, particularly in countries with land policies geared towards rapid development.

Type
Publication
Nat Plants
Dirk Pflugmacher
Dirk Pflugmacher
Senior Researcher
Patrick Hostert
Patrick Hostert
Principal Investigator