Transnational agricultural land acquisitions threaten biodiversity in the Global South

Davis, Kyle Frankel; Müller, Marc F; Rulli, Maria Cristina; Tatlhego, Mokganedi; Ali, Saleem; Baggio, Jacopo A; Dell’Angelo, Jampel; Jung, Suhyun; Kehoe, Laura; Niles, Meredith T; Eckert, Sandra (2023). Transnational agricultural land acquisitions threaten biodiversity in the Global South. Environmental Research Letters, 18(2), 024014. IOP Publishing 10.1088/1748-9326/acb2de

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Agricultural large-scale land acquisitions have been linked with enhanced deforestation and land
use change. Yet the extent to which transnational agricultural large-scale land acquisitions
(TALSLAs) contribute to—or merely correlate with—deforestation, and the expected biodiversity
impacts of the intended land use changes across ecosystems, remains unclear. We examine 178
georeferenced TALSLA locations in 40 countries to address this gap. While forest cover within
TALSLAs decreased by 17% between 2000 and 2018 and became more fragmented, the
spatio-temporal patterns of deforestation varied substantially across regions. While deforestation
rates within initially forested TALSLAs were 1.5 (Asia) to 2 times (Africa) higher than immediately
surrounding areas, we detected no such difference in Europe and Latin America. Our findings
suggest that, whereas TALSLAs may have accelerated forest loss in Asia, a different mechanism
might emerge in Africa where TALSLAs target areas already experiencing elevated deforestation.
Regarding biodiversity (here focused on vertebrate species), we find that nearly all (91%) studied
deals will likely experience substantial losses in relative species richness (−14.1% on average within
each deal)—with mixed outcomes for relative abundance—due to the intended land use
transitions. We also find that 39% of TALSLAs fall at least partially within biodiversity hotspots,
placing these areas at heightened risk of biodiversity loss. Taken together, these findings suggest
distinct regional differences in the nature of the association between TALSLAs and forest loss and
provide new evidence of TALSLAs as an emerging threat to biodiversity in the Global South.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
10 Strategic Research Centers > Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

UniBE Contributor:

Eckert, Sandra




IOP Publishing


[505] Land Matrix Official URL
[803] Cluster: Land Resources
[805] Sustainability Governance




Melchior Peter Nussbaumer

Date Deposited:

08 Feb 2023 11:18

Last Modified:

08 Feb 2023 23:28

Publisher DOI:





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