A systematic comparison of deforestation drivers and policy effectiveness across the Amazon biome

Peer Reviewed
16 June 2023

Aline Hänggli, Samuel A Levy, Dolors Armenteras, C Isabella Bovolo, Joyce Brandão, Ximena Rueda, Rachael D Garrett

The Amazon biome, spanning nine countries, has one of the highest rates of deforestation worldwide. This deforestation contributes to biodiversity loss, climate change, the spread of infectious diseases, and damage to rural and indigenous livelihoods. Hundreds of articles have been published on the topic of deforestation across Amazonia, yet there has been no recent synthesis of deforestation drivers and deforestation-control policy effectiveness in the region. Here we undertook the first systematic review of papers published between 2000 and 2021 that have causally linked proximate and underlying drivers and policies to deforestation outcomes in Amazonia. In the 155 articles that met our inclusion criteria, we find that causal research is concentrated in Brazil, and to a lesser degree Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. There has been little study of the Guianas, Venezuela or Colombia. Large- and small-scale agriculture linked to improved market access and high agricultural prices are frequently researched underlying drivers of deforestation across the heavily researched regions. In the Guianas research focuses on mining with little focus on underlying causes. Research on infrastructure expansion, mining, and oil extraction and on technological, sociocultural, and institutional factors remains sparse. Many public and private policies have been found to be effective in controlling deforestation across the biome, with protected areas and public policies standing out as particularly successful in slowing deforestation vis-à-vis supply chain approaches. Frontier age, land tenure, and policy interactions are key moderating factors affecting the outcomes of different underlying causes and policies. Our findings indicate a greater need for research on (i) additional deforestation drivers beyond agriculture and economic factors, (ii) the complex interactions between different drivers and deforestation control policies, (iii) causes underlying deforestation in low or new deforestation areas, and (iv) the dynamics between Amazonian subregions and countries. Understanding the extent and diversity of deforestation drivers and effectiveness of existing deforestation mitigation policies across Amazonia is a necessary first step toward designing policies to further reduce deforestation in the biome.

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Publication reference
Hänggli, A., Levy, S. A., Armenteras, D., Bovolo, C. I., Brandão, J., Rueda, X., & Garrett, R. D. (2023). A systematic comparison of deforestation drivers and policy effectiveness across the Amazon biome. Environmental Research Letters, 18(7), 073001. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/acd408
Publication | 27 July 2023