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Socio-economic cost of deforestation

February 2020: Measuring changing carbon emission from forested lands due to commercial developments reveals the socio-economic costs of deforestation, in addition to environmental impacts.


New approaches to analysing carbon emissions from tropical forests are benefitting from advances in cost-effective monitoring systems. It allows researchers to estimate the economic cost of global deforestations as forests are being converted from carbon sinks to sources. The study uses satellite imagery, remote sensing data, and machine learning algorithms to estimate carbon stocks and emissions of sensitive ecosystems, such as in Peru. The research points towards land changes in forested areas due to commercial development projects, which include cattle ranching, logging, mining, cacao plantation, , and palm oil. This leads to some areas emitting more carbon than they are able to sequester and establishes a link between social costs and the increased carbon emissions of deforestation in addition to environmental impacts.

Implications and opportunities

Identifying and monitoring changes in carbon emissions spotlights risks of deforestation, such as increased carbon emissions, loss of biodiversity, reduced fresh water supply leading to higher frequency and severity of droughts. This may necessity increased government support to mitigate the socio-economic costs associated with farming losses due to drought, fore example. The paper may inform policy making, and conservation and commercial strategies that are able to reverse deforestation while ensuring a just transition to more sustainable farming practices and industries. Arising benefits may include income and employment from nut and rubber farming as well as climate regulation that helps to ensure reliable rainfall patterns, amongst others.


The paper should be seen within its geographic and methodological context. Individual re-forestation and transition strategies may require careful tailoring to local policy and geographic contexts.


Csillik, O., Kumar, P., Mascaro, J., (2019). Monitoring tropical forest carbon stocks and emissions using Planet satellite data. Scientific Reports, 9(1).

GreenBiz (2020). Statistic of the decade: 8.4 million soccer fields of land deforested in the Amazon. Retrieved from

Starns, J.,Soares-Filho, B., Costa Heil, M., ( (2018). Spatially explicit valuation of the Brazilian Amazon Forest’s Ecosystem Services. Nature Sustainability, (1), 657-664.

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Adele Wiliams

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The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.