A global analysis of tropical deforestation due to biofuel development

Yan Gao, Margaret Skutsch, Omar Masera, Pablo Pacheco

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    The relationship between biofuel development and tropical deforestation is complex. It is difficult to detect direct links and to quantify these at the global level, due to limited data availability. These limitations include: the lack of time series data on deforestation at sufficient resolution on the global scale; the lack of information on the geographical location of biofuel cultivation areas; much of the deforestation related to biofuel cultivation being indirect through displacement of other agriculture; much of the biofuel cultivation being very recent; and, that many biofuel feedstocks are multipurpose (biofuels often represent only a small proportion of larger food and fodder production systems). Combined, these difficulties make it impossible to quantify the relationship between biofuel production and deforestation and to map it at the global level.
    Indirect land use change (iLUC) is of particular concern, as it can take effect in neighbouring abstract regions or across the globe and is likely to become increasingly important as biofuel production increases. Indirect effects of biofuel production are likely to increase; although several studies have been carried out, no estimation method has yet been accepted. The rate of biofuel expansion will depend on many other factors, including land availability, enabling national government policies and foreign direct investment, as well as policy at an international level.

    This report reviews the methodological difficulties in estimating the relationship between biofuel and deforestation in detail. It considers both the wellestablished biofuel feedstocks such as sugarcane for ethanol (in Brazil and Argentina) and palm oil for diesel (in Malaysia and Indonesia), and the emergent feedstocks such as jatropha, which is expanding in sub-Saharan Africa, India and Latin America.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationBogor, Indonesia
    Number of pages100
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

    Publication series

    NameCIFOR Working paper


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