Land-use intensification in the tropics plays an important role in meeting global demand for agricultural commodities but generates high environmental costs. Here, we synthesize the impacts of rainforest conversion to tree plantations of increasing management intensity on carbon stocks and dynamics. Rainforests in Sumatra converted to jungle rubber, rubber, and oil palm monocultures lost 116 Mg C ha-1, 159 Mg C ha-1, and 174 Mg C ha-1, respectively. Up to 21% of these carbon losses originated from belowground pools, where soil organic matter still decreases a decade after conversion. Oil palm cultivation leads to the highest carbon losses but it is the most efficient land use, providing the lowest ratio between ecosystem carbon storage loss or net primary production (NPP) decrease and yield. The imbalanced sharing of NPP between short-term human needs and maintenance of long-term ecosystem functions could compromise the ability of plantations to provide ecosystem services regulating climate, soil fertility, water, and nutrient cycles.