January 17 (UPI) – New data analysis shows that the relationship between economic growth and deforestation looks like half of a Kuznets curve. In other words, economic growth in less developed countries appears to be the engine of deforestation.
The Kuznets environmental curve describes the environmental impact of economic growth in economies of different sizes. In theory, the curve suggests that pollution and other environmental problems will increase as less developed economies grow. But at some point, a growing economy matures enough that the environmental consequences of economic growth slow down and begin to reverse.
Researchers in Laxenburg, Austria, looked at rates of forest cover and deforestation, as well as economic data from 130 different countries.
“This study was like a large-scale natural experiment, which in economics is extremely rare,” said study leader Jesus Crespo Cuaresma, a researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, IIASA, said in a press release. “For the first time, we were able to empirically assess this effect convincingly, using natural boundaries.”
The data only revealed a half-curve. Economic growth leads to deforestation in developing countries, but does not have a constant impact on the health of forests in developed countries.
Results – detailed in the journal Scientific reports – are problematic, because many of the world’s less developed economies have some of the largest areas of forest.
“Africa is home to some of the largest tracts of intact forest in the world,” said Ian McCallum, researcher at IIASA. “The factors that keep deforestation under control in other tropical regions of the world, such as good governance, monitoring systems and peace, are lacking in much of tropical Africa.”
Scientists say more needs to be done to mitigate the impact of economic development on forests.
“It’s important to keep in mind that there are many factors that contribute to deforestation,” said Ping Yowargana, researcher at IIASA. “Problems like education, ease of doing business and corruption are key to understanding the big picture – and to finding solutions that can lead to both poverty reduction and forest preservation. .