The fatal future

If things do not change

The fatal future - This is not an unlikely situation for many parts of the rainforest if the rubber consumption and production do follow the prospects. The rubber tree is native to the rainforest and has its optimal growing conditions in tropical areas of distinct climate conditions; often regions already grown with rainforest or other arable lands. Furthermore, rubber consumption is estimated to increase by approximately 5-6 % annually. This will result in an expansion in both number and size of rubber plantations in the tropical areas of the world. Source: The International Rubber Study Group IRSG (Link)

The establishment of new plantations leads to deforestation of rainforest and destruction of natural flora and fauna. For instance, the Xishuangbanna region of China is one of the richest regions in terms of flora and fauna diversity. Most of the region was covered in tropical rainforest and broadleaf forest, but deforestation has led to a decrease in woodland. In 1976, 70% of the region was covered in forest and in 2003, this was down to 50%. This was amongst other factors due to the establishment of rubber plantations. These particular rubber plantations only account for a very small fraction of the worlds total rubber production, so one can imagine the global deforestation due to the creation of rubber plantations. Source: Li, H., et al: Demand for rubber is causing the loss of high diversity rain forest in SW China. Biodivers Conserv (2007) 16:1731–1745 (Link)

Another issue is the growing need for agriculture. Even when plantations are established in areas with no rainforest, they constitute a problem. It is not hard to imagine the future needs for arable lands in a world of a fast growing global population, Fast Growing Global Population UN projects the global population to grow from 6.1 billion (2000) to 8.9 billions in 2050.

source: UN 2300 report
and the establishment of rubber plantations may well take up these areas, which are perfect for agriculture.

Synthetic rubber is mostly made from scarce fossil fuel resources, which increases the pollution of our planet. Furthermore, synthetic rubber does not always degrade well in nature. On the other hand, being a natural compound, natural rubber is biodegradable.