Clarissa Costalonga e Gandour also contributed to this piece.
The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest, but protecting it from illegal deforestation is a challenge nearly as immense as the forest itself. In a previous study, CPI has discussed explanations for a slowdown in the rate of forest clearings observed in the 2000s. In a new study, DETERring Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, 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.
Prior to the activation of DETER, Amazon monitoring depended on voluntary reports of threatened areas, making it difficult for law enforcement personnel to locate and access deforestation hot spots in a timely manner. With the adoption of the new remote sensing system, however, Brazilian law enforcement personnel were able to better identify, more closely monitor, and more quickly act upon areas with illegal deforestation activity.
Through empirical analysis, 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 estimate that, in a hypothetical scenario in which monitoring and law enforcement was entirely absent from the Amazon, an additional 122,700 km2 of Amazon forest would have been cleared from 2007 through 2011. To put that figure in context, that’s an area larger than the total land mass of the country of Nicaragua.