Sustainably expanding tropical agriculture: Preventing perverse market outcomes from high-yielding crops

Grantham Scholar Felix Lim researches which rainforests are vulnerable to agricultural expansion and the resulting impacts on biodiversity and the environment.

The project

Converting rainforests to farmland is a major driver of the global extinction crisis that is threatening species across the planet. And it is likely to worsen as pressure to meet demands for food from a rising global population grows.

Improving agricultural technology is the typical approach to improving crop yields since it reduces the need for land clearing. However, the emergence of high-yielding crops in the tropics could perversely increase the rate of deforestation there. This is because improving crop yields may, simultaneously, make agriculture more profitable and raise demand by lowering market prices, making it more likely that land will be cleared for agriculture.

This project combines economic theory with models that project how land use will change in favour of crop expansion, and the impact this will have on biodiversity. This will help us understand the potential impacts of high-yield agricultural technologies and practices. The aim is to develop an economic model to explain how new agricultural technologies affect distribution and production of crops, market prices, and ultimately, land-use and deforestation. The project will predict which areas are vulnerable to agricultural expansion, and the resulting impacts on biodiversity and the environment. It will consider various scenarios based on improved yields, and market and government regulations.


Felix Lim co-authored a paper that suggested sheep farmers would be better off economically if they ‘farmed’ trees instead of sheep. The paper prompted some fierce debate in the media. Find out more here.

Watch: Valuing Nature: Does a price on nature help or hinder its conservation? Felix was part of a group of Scholars who organised this seminar on the pros and cons of putting a price on nature. You can watch it on our YouTube channel.

Our Scholars meet at Journal Club to discuss research from a multidisciplinary point of view. Felix took the lead to investigate how agricultural intensification may be bad for conservation and biodiversity. Read: Agricultural intensification and conservation by Felix Lim.

Unintended outcomes and the tragedy of the anticommons by Felix Lim. For Journal Club Scholars met to discuss a paper about unintended outcomes and the tragedy of the anticommons. Grantham Scholar Felix Lim sets out what they made of the paper.

Social media

You can follow Felix on Twitter and keep up to date with his research through ResearchGate and Google Scholar.

Felix Lim’s publications

Land rents drive oil palm expansion dynamics in Indonesia
Felix K S Lim, L Roman Carrasco, Jolian McHardy and David P Edwards. Published 16 July 2019 • © 2019 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd, Environmental Research Letters, Volume 14, Number 7.

Forest regeneration on European sheep pasture is an economically viable climate change mitigation strategy
Ms Connie O’Neill, Mr Felix K.S. Lim, Dr David P Edwards and Professor Colin P Osborne. Accepted Manuscript online 14 August 2020 • © 2020 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd.

Land-use change from market responses to oil palm intensification in Indonesia
Felix K. S. Lim, Luis Roman Carrasco, David P. Edwards, Jolian McHardy. © 2023 The Authors. Conservation Biology. published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Conservation Biology.