email a friend
printable version
The past 40 years have seen dramatic increases in global production of tropical export commodities

Oil palm plantation on the slopes of Mt. Cameroon, © Marco Schmidt

The global production of many tropical commodity crops, including soya bean, oil palm, coffee, cocoa and rice, has increased dramatically. Such land-use changes, linked to global trade rules and over-consumption in the developed world, lead to drastic losses in biodiversity and ecological services in the developing world.


The global extent of several major tropical crops 1961–2000

Donald (2004)

There have been significant increases in the areas under cultivation for many tropical commodity crops (Donald 2004). Soya bean and oil palm have experienced the biggest growth, although the actual area under cultivation for these combined is still lower than that for rice alone. Soya bean and palm oil have become major commodities for consumption by the developed world, the latter being used in a great range of products from ice-cream to beauty treatments. Coffee and cocoa are major sources of income for developing countries, second only to oil in legal international trade (Donald 2004). Such land-use changes lead to drastic losses in biodiversity and ecological services from wild nature (Balmford and Long 1994; Costanza et al. 1997). For example, Brazil alone has over 20,000 km2 of coffee plantation, most of it having replaced primary rainforest. In Indonesia, coffee planting is responsible for massive forest loss, even inside protected areas (O’Brien and Kinnaird 2003). These land-use changes are linked to global trade rules and over-consumption in the developed world, which are thus partly responsible for large-scale habitat loss in high-biodiversity countries.



Related Case Studies in other sections

References

Balmford, A. and Long, A. (1994) Avian endemism and forest loss. Nature 372: 623–624.
 
Costanza, R., D’Arge, R., de Groot, R., Farber, S., Grasso, M., Hannon, B., Limburg, K., Naeem, S., O’Neill, R. V., Paruelo, J., Raskin, R. G., Sutton, P. and van den Belt, M. (1997) The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature 387: 253–260.
 
Donald, P. F. (2004) Biodiversity impacts of some agricultural commodity production systems. Conserv. Biol. 18: 17–37.
 
O’Brien, T. G. and Kinnaird, M. F. (2003) Caffeine and conservation. Science 300: 587.

Compiled 2004

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2004) The past 40 years have seen dramatic increases in global production of tropical export commodities. Presented as part of the BirdLife State of the world's birds website. Available from: http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/sowb/casestudy/131. Checked: 17/04/2014