A prominent goal of policies mitigating climate change and biodiversity loss is to achieve zero-deforestation in the global supply chain of key commodities, such as palm oil and soybean. However, the extent and dynamics of deforestation driven by commodity expansion are largely unknown. Here we mapped annual soybean expansion in South America between 2000 and 2019 by combining satellite observations and sample field data. From 2000-2019, the area cultivated with soybean more than doubled from 26.4 Mha to 55.1 Mha. Most soybean expansion occurred on pastures originally converted from natural vegetation for cattle production. The most rapid expansion occurred in the Brazilian Amazon, where soybean area increased more than 10-fold, from 0.4 Mha to 4.6 Mha. Across the continent, 9% of forest loss was converted to soybean by 2016. Soy-driven deforestation was concentrated at the active frontiers, nearly half located in the Brazilian Cerrado. Efforts to limit future deforestation must consider how soybean expansion may drive deforestation indirectly by displacing pasture or other land uses. Holistic approaches that track land use across all commodities coupled with vegetation monitoring are required to maintain critical ecosystem services.
The project is focused on mapping and monitoring commodity crop extent and expansion in South America. The anticipated deliverables of the project are:
- Annual maps of soy cover across South America;
- Soy cover 2000-forward to allow tracking indirect effects of soy expansion on deforestation and inform multi-stakeholder negotiations on soy sustainability
- Maps of corn cover across South America, updated twice a year: by end of May for primary season and and of July for second crop;
- Primary and secondary season corn as a driver of soy expansion and indicator of land use intensification;
- Soybean expansion alert system combining natural vegetation and high confidence new expansion of cropland and soybean.
For the full description please refer to the following publication:
X.-P. Song, M.C. Hansen, P. Potapov, B. Adusei, J. Pickering, M. Adami, A. Lima, V. Zalles, S.V. Stehman, C.M. Di Bella, C.M. Cecilia, E.J. Copati, L.B. Fernandes, A. Hernandez-Serna, S.M. Jantz, A.H. Pickens, S. Turubanova, A. Tyukavina (2021). Massive soybean expansion in South America since 2000 and implications for conservation. Nature Sustainability. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00729-z
Related project results:
Song, X.-P., Hansen, M.C., Potapov, P., Adusei, B., Pickering, J., Adami, M., Lima, A., Zalles, V., Stehman, S.V., Di Bella, C.M., Cecilia, C.M., Copati, E.J., Fernandes, L.B., Hernandez-Serna, A., Jantz, S.M., Pickens, A.H., Turubanova, S., Tyukavina A. (2021). Massive soybean expansion in South America since 2000 and implications for conservation. Nature Sustainability, 4, 784–792