Agriculture and Environment: Sugarcane

Environmental Impacts of Production: Habitat Loss

It is quite likely that the production of sugarcane has caused a greater loss of biodiversity on the planet than any other single agricultural crop.

First, with nearly 20 million hectares in cultivation, sugarcane has more area devoted to it than most cash crops produced in the tropics.

Perhaps, the most damage?
Second, sugarcane production has caused the clearing of some of the most unique and biodiverse regions on the planet.

For nearly 500 years, tropical forests, the entire natural habitat of thousands of islands, and millions of hectares of fragile coastal wetlands around the world have been cleared or otherwise converted for planting sugarcane. In fact, it is quite likely that but for sugarcane, any map of globally significant, biodiverse ecoregions would look quite different.

For example, because of sugarcane the Caribbean is not considered significant biologically, nor are any of the islands (except New Guinea) in greater Southeast Asia.

Excluded from conservation initiatives
Even in areas where sugarcane is grown that have been identified for priority biodiversity salvage work, its cultivation has shaped the strategic prioritisation of ecologically significant sites for conservation activities.

Priorities in the Everglades, for example, do not include the sugarcane production areas, nor do the priorities in the Atlantic coastal forest of Brazil, the largest sugarcane-producing area in the world.

A lions share in production areas
In short, sugarcane production has altered forever the landscape in many unique parts of the world. A dozen countries around the world devote 25% or more of all their agricultural land to the production of sugarcane.


Extracts from "World Agriculture & Environment" by Jason Clay - buy the book online from Island Press 

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