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Linking global drivers of agricultural trade to on-the-ground impacts on biodiversity

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JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
DateAccepted/In press - 26 Sep 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 28 Oct 2019
DatePublished (current) - 12 Nov 2019
Issue number46
Number of pages7
Pages (from-to)23202-23208
Early online date28/10/19
Original languageEnglish


Consumption of globally traded agricultural commodities like soy and palm oil is one of the primary causes of deforestation and biodiversity loss in some of the world’s most species-rich ecosystems. However, the complexity of global supply chains has confounded efforts to reduce impacts. Companies and governments with sustainability commitments struggle to understand their own sourcing patterns, while the activities of more unscrupulous actors are conveniently masked by the opacity of global trade. We combine state-of-the art material flow, economic trade and biodiversity impact models to produce an innovative approach for understanding the impacts of trade on biodiversity loss and the roles of remote markets and actors. We do this for the production of soy in the Brazilian Cerrado, home to more than 5% of the world´s species. Distinct sourcing patterns of consumer countries and trading companies result in substantially different impacts on endemic species. Connections between individual buyers and specific hotspots explain the disproportionate impacts of some actors on endemic species and individual threatened species, such as the particular impact of EU consumers on the recent habitat losses for the iconic Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla). In making these linkages explicit, our approach enables commodity buyers and investors to target their efforts much more closely to improve the sustainability of their supply chains in their sourcing regions, while also transforming our ability to monitor the impact of such commitments over time.

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