Patterns of (future) environmental risks from cocoa expansion and intensification in West Africa call for context specific responses

Marieke Sassen*, Arnout van Soesbergen, Andrew P. Arnell, Emma Scott

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Cocoa is an important historical driver and direct cause of forest loss and degradation in the West African Upper Guinean biodiversity hotspot. To inform efforts to prevent further cocoa-driven deforestation in the West African cocoa zone, we mapped areas that are important for biodiversity and ecosystem services (carbon, water, forest products) and potentially most at risk from further cocoa expansion based on climatic suitability, a continuation of past deforestation trends and the potential role of cocoa therein. We found that cocoa expansion and intensification risks further impacting ecologically important areas in West Africa, but that patterns vary in space, may be compounded by climate change and demand context specific responses. In Ghana and Côte d′Ivoire, remaining forests should be better protected, degraded forests should be restored, and agroforestry systems should be supported where possible to maintain or enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services provision in cocoa landscapes. In countries with large areas of remaining forests (e.g., Liberia and Cameroon) that are highly suitable for cocoa and where cocoa is expanding, the approach used in this study can help identify areas with the highest biodiversity and ecosystem services values and inform planning of future cocoa development to maximise cocoa system productivity potential, biodiversity and ecosystem services from the national to local scale. Adaptation strategies are required to avoid the loss but also improve the conservation of biodiversity and provision of ecosystem services across the region.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106142
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Cocoa
  • Deforestation
  • Ecosystem services
  • Land suitability
  • Spatial planning


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