Behind beef, soy is the second largest agricultural driver of deforestation worldwide. From the Northern Great Plains of the U.S. to the Amazon of Brazil, forests, grasslands, and wetlands are being plowed up to make room for more soy production. When these native habitats are lost, it leaves wildlife without homes, accelerates climate change, leads to more water pollution, disrupts rain, and prolongs drought.
As the global population grows and incomes rise, demand for meat—and the soy-based feed used to raise livestock—will increase. WWF works with soy farmers, traders, processors, manufacturers, retailers, restaurants, investors, and other critical stakeholders around the world to eliminate deforestation from soy supply chains and to promote innovative practices that yield more soy with fewer resources and impacts on the environment.
The interconnectedness between impacts in one part of the globe and consumer choices thousands of miles away are illustrated by the story of soy:
1. Expanding soy threatens South America’s most important habitats
Straddling Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia, the Cerrado and Chaco are two of South America’s richest landscapes.
Covering more than 20% of Brazil, the Cerrado is South America’s largest savannah. It shelters 5% of all the living species on Earth and one in 10 Brazilian species. There are over 10,000 species of plants, almost half of which are found nowhere else in the world.
The Chaco is the largest dry forest in South America, home to 3500 bird species, 220 reptiles and amphibians, and 150 mammals—including 18 species of armadillo alone.
Along with the Amazon rainforest, these ecosystems are threatened by expanding production of soy.
2. The Cerrado and Chaco are rapidly disappearing
The Cerrado once covered an area half the size of Europe: now, its native habitats and rich biodiversity are being destroyed much faster than the neighboring rainforest. Around half the native savannah and forest of the Cerrado has been converted to agriculture since the late 1950s. Nearly one-quarter of the Gran Chaco in Argentina and about one-fifth of it in Paraguay disappeared between 1976 and 2011, yet agricultural expansion continues.
As these ecosystems are lost, so are the wildlife they support and the vital ecological services they provide, like clean water, carbon sequestration and healthy soils. Species that are threatened include the jaguar, maned wolf and giant anteater, but also many other plants and animals that are unique to the Cerrado and Chaco.
Not only fragile ecosystems and species are feeling the strain. Habitat destruction also threatens the way of life of many indigenous people and other communities who rely on forests, natural grasslands and savannahs for their livelihoods.
Read more at WWF.