Key takeaways

  1. Deforestation can have severe consequences on the environment, biodiversity, and local/indigenous communities.

  2. When assessing the impact of deforestation, make sure to focus on one of the three angles mentioned above and contextualise the impact (i.e. assessing biodiversity loss, CO2 emissions, or displacement of communities).

  3. Make sure to analyse the depth, breadth and persistence of the impact.

What is it?

Forests cover 31% of the land area on Earth. They help people thrive and survive by, for example, purifying water and air and providing people with jobs. Many species also rely on forests. 80% of the world's land-based animals live in forests. Forests also play a critical role in mitigating climate change. They act as a carbon sink, soaking up carbon dioxide that would otherwise be free in the atmosphere and contribute to ongoing changes in climate patterns.

Forests around the world are being degraded and deforested. The main drivers are farming, resource extraction, logging, and urbanisation.

Tropical rain forests, which contain much of the world’s biodiversity, are significantly affected by deforestation. For example, around 17% of the Amazon forest has been lost in the last 50 years, mostly due to forest conversion for cattle ranching.


SDG choice

✅ SDG 15

✅ SDG 1

✅ SDG 13

Impact assessment

Deforestation can have multiple impacts:

- On biodiversity

- On indigenous groups

- On the climate

In your analysis, make sure to select one angle and the right level of granularity. You are allowed to mention the other impacts briefly, but the main focus should be on one topic.

Try to be as specific as you can: where is the deforestation taking place, since when? How is the biodiversity/climate/local indigenous communities affected? Go back to the Logical Model if needed.

To help readers assess the impact scale and value, you should contextualise the impact. For instance:

  • How extensive is the company’s deforestation compared to the industry is it part of? (Learn more about comparisons here.)

  • If evaluating the impact on biodiversity, how biodiverse are these forests? What is the impact of losing this biodiversity?

  • If evaluating the impact on climate, how much CO2 could these forests absorb if they were still there and how much CO2 is released by cutting them?

  • If evaluating the impact on indigenous groups, what are the social implications of their forests lost?

Alos, ask yourselves the following questions:

1/ The breadth of the impact

  • Is the impact local, national, or global?

  • How many species or people are concerned?

2/ The depth of the impact

  • Is the biodiversity or people concerned deeply affected, or does the issue just marginally impact them?

  • Are the changes brought by the issue profoundly changing society or the planet?

3/ The persistence of the impact

  • How long would the impact described last for? Months? Years? Decades?

  • How reversible is the impact described in the impact analysis? Can it be easily stopped/extended?

Find more about evaluating the scale of the impact in Step 5: Assess scale and value.

Helpful sources

  • Forest 500: an NGO which reports and assess the deforestation policies of the largest players in commodity production, processing, manufacture and/or retail and ranks them.

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