Agricultural expansion and its impacts on tropical nature

Trends Ecol Evol. 2014 Feb;29(2):107-16. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2013.12.001. Epub 2013 Dec 30.


The human population is projected to reach 11 billion this century, with the greatest increases in tropical developing nations. This growth, in concert with rising per-capita consumption, will require large increases in food and biofuel production. How will these megatrends affect tropical terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity? We foresee (i) major expansion and intensification of tropical agriculture, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South America; (ii) continuing rapid loss and alteration of tropical old-growth forests, woodlands, and semi-arid environments; (iii) a pivotal role for new roadways in determining the spatial extent of agriculture; and (iv) intensified conflicts between food production and nature conservation. Key priorities are to improve technologies and policies that promote more ecologically efficient food production while optimizing the allocation of lands to conservation and agriculture.

Keywords: agricultural intensification; biodiversity; biodiversity hotspots; carbon storage; deforestation; land sparing; species extinctions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Agriculture / trends*
  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Crops, Agricultural / growth & development
  • Developing Countries
  • Ecosystem*
  • Extinction, Biological
  • Fresh Water
  • Humans
  • South America
  • Transportation
  • Trees
  • Tropical Climate