Using case studies and concepts we suggest that constraints upon aggregate or global forest transition are significantly more severe than those upon local forest reversals. The basic reason is that one region’s reversal can be facilitated by other regions that supply resources and goods, reducing the demands upon the region where forests rise. Many past forest reversals involve such interdependence. For ‘facilitating regions’ also to rise in forest requires other changes, since they will not be receiving such help. We start by discussing forest-transitions analysis within the context of Environmental Kuznets Curves (EKCs), for a useful typology of possible shifts underlying transitions. We then consider the historical Northeast US where a regional reversal was dramatic and impressive. Yet this depended upon agricultural price shocks, due to the Midwest US supplying food, and also upon the availability of timber from other US regions. Next we consider deforestation in Amazônia, whose history (like the Northeast US) suggests a potential local role for urbanization, i.e. spatial concentration of population. Yet inter-regional issues again are crucial. For cattle and soy, expansion of global demands may give to Amazonia a role more like the Midwest than the Northeast US. In addition, across-region interdependencies will help determine where reversal and facilitation occur. Finally we discuss the constraints upon very broad forest transition.
Land Use Policy 2010 27:119–129