, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 387–397 | Cite as

International trade causes large net economic losses in tropical countries via the destruction of ecosystem services

  • Junning Chang
  • William S. Symes
  • Felix Lim
  • L. Roman Carrasco


Despite the large implications of the use of tropical land for exports (“land absorption”) on ecosystem services (ES) and global biodiversity conservation, the magnitude of these externalities is not known. We quantify the net value of ES lost in tropical countries as a result of cropland, forestland and pastureland absorption for exports after deducting ES gains through imports (“land displacement”). We find that net ES gains occur only in 7 out of the 41 countries and regions considered. We estimate global annual net losses of over 1.7 x 1012 international dollars (I$) (I$1.1 x 1012 if carbon-related services are not considered). After deducting the benefits from agricultural, forest and livestock rents in land replacing tropical forests, the net annual losses are I$1.3 and I$0.7 x 1012, respectively. The results highlight the large magnitude of tropical ES losses through international trade that are not compensated by the rents of land uses in absorbed land.


Conservation planning Ecological footprint analysis International trade Tropical deforestation Under-priced exports 



We are thankful for research funding from a Tier 2 grant from the Ministry of Education of Singapore, WBS R154000574112.

Supplementary material

13280_2016_768_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (578 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 579 kb)
13280_2016_768_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (120 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (XLSX 120 kb)


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesNational University of SingaporeSingaporeRepublic of Singapore

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