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DETERring Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon: Environmental Monitoring and Law Enforcement

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Published: May, 2013

The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest. In Brazil, the forest originally occupied over four million km2 – an area equivalent to almost half of continental Europe. Amazon deforestation rates escalated in the early 2000s, peaking at over 27,000 km2  in 2004, but fell sharply to about 5,000 km2  in 2011 (INPE [2012]). Empirical evidence presented in a previous CPI/PUC-Rio study suggests that changes in Brazilian conservation policies helped address the challenge of protecting this immense area and significantly contributed to the recent deforestation slowdown.

In this study, we take a step further and answer the question: Which specific policy efforts contributed most to the reduction in Amazon deforestation?

Our analysis reveals that the implementation of the Real Time System for Detection of Deforestation (DETER), a satellite-based system that enables frequent and quick identification of deforestation hot spots, greatly enhanced monitoring and targeting capacity, making it easier for law enforcers to act upon areas with illegal deforestation activity. This improvement in monitoring and law enforcement was the main driver of the 2000s deforestation slowdown.

We estimate that DETER-based environmental monitoring and law enforcement policies prevented the clearing of over 59,500 km2  of Amazon forest area from 2007 through 2011. Deforestation observed during this period totaled 41,500 km2  – 59% less than in the absence of the policy change. We also find that the policy change had no impact on agricultural production.

Material em português: Como DETER o Desmatamento na Amazônia? O Impacto da Mudança na Política de Comando e Controle