The Rubber Juggernaut

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Science  22 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5930, pp. 1024-1025
DOI: 10.1126/science.1173833

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Rubber plantations are expanding rapidly throughout montane mainland Southeast Asia (13). More than 500,000 ha may have been converted already in the uplands of China, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar (see the figure, panel A). By 2050, the area of land dedicated to rubber and other diversified farming systems could more than double or triple, largely by replacing lands now occupied by evergreen broadleaf trees and swidden-related secondary vegetation (2). What are the environmental consequences of this conversion of vast landscapes to rubber?