Impact of Rubber Plantations on Tropical Forest Deforestation


In a report by Reuters, research released on Wednesday suggests that the amount of forest loss in Southeast Asia caused by rubber production may be two or three times greater than previously thought, underscoring the difficulties importers face in locating sustainable supplies.

An international team of researchers warned that growing demand for rubber worldwide is placing additional strain on natural forests and accelerating the loss of biodiversity, with Southeast Asia bearing the brunt of this trend as it accounts for 90% of global production.

Approximately 90–99% of deforestation in tropical regions is related to the production of commodities used worldwide, including coffee, cocoa, oil palm, beef, soy, and natural rubber. Even though natural rubber is economically significant15 and has the potential to cause widespread deforestation, land degradation, and biodiversity loss, its effects on forests are still poorly understood.

Due to the establishment of more than 1 million hectares of rubber plantations in Key Biodiversity Areas and the loss of more than 4 million hectares of forest since 1993 (and at least 2 million hectares since 2000), rubber may have a significant impact on ecosystem services and biodiversity in Southeast Asia.

With many plantations established during a rubber boom 20 years ago being converted to other uses after a price crash in 2011, the total losses could be much higher.

At the end of the following year, a law will be implemented in the European Union to stop commodity importers from purchasing goods that cause deforestation. Originally pertaining to soy, beef, wood, cocoa, and coffee, the law was expanded to include rubber last December at the request of EU legislators.

Importers are required to furnish proof that products do not originate from deforested land after 2020 in order to avoid fines.

The regulations may incentivize purchasers to purchase rubber from large manufacturers with simpler supply chains. With smallholders accounting for 85% of global production, organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council are striving to ensure that their rubber can be sold in Europe by enhancing their traceability.


Stanway, David. 2023. Reuters: Forest loss from SE Asia rubber is up to 3 times more than thought – study. Retrieved from

Wang, Y., Hollingsworth, P.M., Zhai, D. et al. 2023. Nature: High-resolution maps show that rubber causes substantial deforestation. Retrived from,Southeast%20Asia%20could%20be%20extensive

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