Key underlying drivers for forest-related land use change include, but are not limited to:
Underlying causes of forest land use change
Forest land use change is seldom straightforward, often being driven through a complex mix of socio-economic, cultural and political factors. Such factors in turn result from the combined actions, decisions and behaviour of multiple agents ranging from national governments to international financiers to impoverished landless people.
Poverty is popularly cited as a principal driver of forest loss and degradation. In reality, however, the evidence for such a straight-forward relationship is weak and sometimes conflicting. The empirical evidence for the historical relationship between economic growth, a growing middle class, consumption levels and forest decline is perhaps a little better understood but also remains weak and fragmented. What is evident however is that there is a causal relationship, or more accurately several relationships, that need to be better understood. More reassuringly, there is some, yet again fragmented, evidence that no single trajectory is necessarily predetermined and that forest resources, under a range of circumstances, can be managed and utilized in such a way as to contribute to poverty reduction while keeping future options open to retain more and lose less forest biodiversity.
To find out more about the FCP's work on Poverty and Conservation, click here.
Imperfect Local, National and International Markets
While the contribution of forest goods and services for local livelihoods, national economic growth and as a global public good are regularly highlighted, there is a considerable gap between the acknowledgement of these benefits and how they are actually "valued". In many countries forests goods and services continue to be undervalued because in the absence of suitable markets, forests, as a land-use, are unable to compete, either with other land-uses or with other sectors such as energy. New markets could arise if the provision of key public utilities was viewed slightly differently. For example, clean and reliable water supply requires not only the hard infrastructure of pipes and reservoirs, but also the "green" infrastructure in watershed catchments. Equally production-based incentives for other land use activities, notably agriculture, also help drive forest loss and degradation.
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A common myth of the 1990s was that increasing populations was a major underlying cause of forest decline. Available evidence shows that there is no general relationship between population growth and density and deforestation. Indeed there are a number of examples in both developed and developing countries of how population increase has been accompanied by increasing tree cover. There are many examples particularly where fuelwood and agricultural land is in much demand and other livelihood options, are limited, of population growth and density resulting in increased pressure on forests although these then tend to be quite localized. Importantly, demographic factors associated with mortality and morbidity, particularly where the HIV/AIDS pandemic is concerned, may be just, if not more, significant when it come to forest-related land-use change.
Absence of Good Governance and Rule of Law
Government policies, and how those policies are enforced, both within and outside the forest sector, also ultimately impact on forest land use change. Forest land is still all too often seen as a nationally-owned asset, irrespective of the stewardship that local communities have exercised over the same resource for many years. Inequities in titling and use rights can result in forests becoming a major source of conflict and / or illegal activity. While illegal logging and corruption may, and often does, exist because of pure criminality it can, in some situations, be driven by inappropriate governance structures that turn legitimate concerns or entitlements into illegal activities. For example, in one Central American country in the early 1990s one of the main causes for bribery associated with log transport permits was not that loggers want to move illegally harvested trees but rather that they wanted to avoid long bureaucratic delays in attaining permission that would leave legally harvested trees deteriorating in forest loading yards.
To find out more about the FCP's work on Forest Governance, click here.
|Proximate causes of forest land use change|