Rapid integration of global agricultural markets and subsequent cropland displacement in recent decades increased large-scale tropical deforestation in South America and Southeast Asia. Growing land scarcity and more stringent land use regulations in these regions could incentivize the offshoring of export-oriented commodity crops to sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). We assess the effects of domestic- and export-oriented agricultural expansion on deforestation in SSA in recent decades.

Global environmental change necessitates increased predictive capacity; for forests, recent advances in technology provide the response to this challenge. “Next-generation” remote-sensing instruments can measure forest biogeochemistry and structural change, and individual-based models can predict the fates of vast numbers of simulated trees, all growing and competing according to their ecological attributes in altered environments across large areas. Application of these models at continental scales is now feasible using current computing power.