Brazil knows how to protect the Amazon Forest. Over the past two decades, while the country gained broad experience in the use of policy instruments to protect its native vegetation, academia produced a robust body of empirical evidence on these instruments’ effectiveness and impact. This Evidence Pack consolidates, in a single place and using language that is accessible to a broad audience, lessons from academic research about what works to protect the Brazilian Amazon. It aims to promote the wide dissemination of scientific knowledge on this urgent and relevant topic, as well as to support the design and implementation of evidence-based conservation policy.

Strategic Plan

In the early 2000s, with average annual Amazon deforestation rates exceeding 22,000 square kilometers (INPE 2021), Brazil was clearing more tropical forest than any other country in both absolute and relative terms (Hansen et al. 2008). Under mounting pressure to control its high rates of forest loss, Brazil enacted the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon (Plano de Ação para Prevenção e Controle do Desmatamento na Amazônia Legal – PPCDAM). Launched in 2004 by the Federal Government, the PPCDAM proposed a set of strategic measures to combat Amazon deforestation and promote sustainable regional development.

The PPCDAM introduced a new approach to protecting native vegetation in the Amazon and entailed several public policy efforts over the next two decades, notably:

The plan broke new ground both in content, by introducing innovative policy instruments, and in form, by establishing the fight against deforestation as an interagency effort rather than a responsibility solely of the Ministry of the Environment (Ministério do Meio Ambiente – MMA). Originally a collaboration between 13 ministries coordinated by the Executive Office of the President of Brazil, the plan recommended actions organized around three axes: territorial and land management; environmental monitoring and law enforcement; and sustainable production. The MMA took over coordinating the PPCDAM in 2013 and added a fourth axis for action in 2016, focused on regulatory and economic instruments. The implementation of PPCDAM was divided into four phases (2004-2008; 2009-2011; 2012-2015; 2016-2020). As of 2021, the plan has not been renewed.

Over the first decade of PPCDAM, the deforestation rate in the Amazon fell from more than 27.700 square kilometers in 2004 to about 4.600 square kilometers in 2012 (INPE 2021). Empirical evidence shows that the drop in agricultural commodity prices in the middle of the decade helped slow down deforestation, but also indicates that policies introduced under PPCDAM were effective at combatting forest loss (Hargrave and Kis-Katos 2013; Assunção, Gandour and Rocha 2015). The plan played a significant part in reducing deforestation. Assunção, Gandour and Rocha (2015) estimate that if the set of policies introduced by PPCDAM had not been implemented, total deforested area in the Amazon would have more than twice greater than was observed between 2005 and 2009. After PPCDAM, Legal Amazon states developed their own action plans to strengthen forest protection at the state level, but the individual impact of the state plans has not yet been empirically assessed.

These empirical results highlight the importance of strategic and coordinated policy efforts. However, these efforts’ effectiveness is closely dependent on the institutional contexts in which they are implemented. Although the set of policies adopted under PPCDAM initially helped slow down deforestation, evidence suggests that the effects were not long-lasting. The rate of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon started to accelerate again in 2012, amid a scenario of national economic crisis, deteriorating commitment to Brazilian environmental legislation, and changes to environmental governance (Burgess, Costa and Olken 2019).



Assunção, Juliano, Clarissa Gandour and Rudi Rocha. “Deforestation Slowdown in the Brazilian Amazon: Prices or Policies?”. Environment and Development Economics 20, nº 6 (2015): 697-722.

Burgess, Robin, Francisco J. M. Costa and Benjamin A. Olken. “The Brazilian Amazon’s Double Reversal of Fortune.” FGV-EPGE, Working Paper (2019).

Hansen, Matthew C., et al. “Humid tropical forest clearing from 2000 to 2005 quantified by using multitemporal and multiresolution remotely sensed data”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105, nº 27 (2008): 9439-9444.

Hargrave, Jorge and Krisztina Kis-Katos. “Economic Causes of Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon: A Panel Data Analysis for the 2000s.” Environmental and Resource Economics 54, nº 4 (2013): 471-494. Monitoramento do Desmatamento da Floresta Amazônica Brasileira por Satélite (PRODES – Amazônia). 2021.

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Command and Control

Environmental command and control play a large role in protecting native vegetation in the Brazilian Amazon by regulating activities that pose a threat to vegetation and guaranteeing environmental law enforcement. Efforts include the regulation, monitoring, investigation, and punishment of environmental infractions and crimes.

Some of the main instruments of environmental command regarding the Amazon Forest are the Brazilian Federal Constitution, the Law of Environmental Crimes (Lei de Crimes Ambientais – LCA) and Decree 6,514/2008. Article 225 of the Federal Constitution acknowledges that everyone has the right to an ecologically balanced environment. Any activity that causes harm to the elements that make up this environment is a violation of this right and therefore a crime. The constitution also establishes a threefold environmental responsibility (criminal, administrative, and civil) and specifies that anyone engaging in conduct or activities that are harmful to the environment is subject to criminal and administrative penalties, independent of the obligation to repair the damage done. LCA regulates criminal and administrative environmental responsibilities defined in the Federal Constitution, defining environmental infractions and determining associated criminal and administrative penalties. Decree 6,514/2008 deals exclusively with administrative infractions, establishing the federal administrative procedure for investigating and punishing infractions. Among other things, the decree regulates the use of fines, embargos, and seizure and destruction of products and tools associated with environmental crimes.

For the removal of native vegetation in the Amazon to be considered a legal activity, it must comply with regulations that are specific to the land tenure category in which it occurs. It is not possible, based on currently available data, to unequivocally attest the legality of all deforested areas. But there is a consensus among academics and policymakers that most of the deforestation in the Amazon over the past two decades has been — and still is — illegal (Schmitt 2015; Azevedo-Ramos et al. 2020; Azevedo et al. 2021; Valdiones et al. 2021). Monitoring and law enforcement efforts are thus central to combating illegality and thereby reducing deforestation in the Amazon.

Empirical analyses usually focus on the impact of environmental enforcement actions. In practice, these actions occur within a broad framework of environmental command and control measures. Analytical results should therefore typically be interpreted as evidence about a set policy instruments, and not about isolated actions. Empirical evidence indicates that monitoring and law enforcement efforts effectively reduced Amazon deforestation (Hargrave and Kis-Katos 2013; Assunção, Gandour and Rocha 2019). These efforts made a significant contribution. Assunção et al. (2019a) estimate that, without monitoring and law enforcement, deforested area in the Amazon would have been nearly five times larger than observed between 2007 and 2016. The authors highlight the role played by the System for the Real-Time Detection of Deforestation (Sistema de Detecção de Desmatamento em Tempo Real – DETER). They argue that DETER enhanced Brazil’s capacity to enforce environmental laws by allowing authorities to detect forest loss more quickly and thereby provide a timelier response, including more binding penalties

Considering the benefits of reducing deforestation, monitoring and law enforcement efforts in the Amazon were cost-effective, and do not appear to have negatively impacted regional agricultural production (Börner, Marinho and Wunder 2015; Assunção, Gandour and Rocha 2019). Additionally, recent studies that explore the indirect effects of monitoring and law enforcement efforts aimed at combating deforestation document a positive impact on the extent and the permanence of secondary vegetation in the Amazon (Assunção, Gandour and Souza-Rodrigues 2019; Oliveira Filho 2020). Since the goal of these efforts was to reduce the loss of primary vegetation, the impact on secondary forest constitutes a spillover effect of public policy.



Assunção, Juliano, Clarissa Gandour, and Romero Rocha. “DETERring Deforestation in the Amazon: Environmental Monitoring and Law Enforcement”. CPI/PUC-Rio, Working Paper (2019a).

Assunção, Juliano, Clarissa Gandour, and Eduardo Souza-Rodrigues. “The Forest Awakens: Amazon Regeneration and Policy Spillover”. CPI/PUC-Rio, Working Paper (2019).

Azevedo, Tasso, Marcos R. Rosa, Julia Z. Shimbo, and Magaly G. de Oliveira. Relatório Anual do Desmatamento no Brasil 2020. São Paulo: MapBiomas, 2021.

Azevedo-Ramos, Claudia, Paulo Moutinho, Vera L. da S Arruda, Marcelo C. C. Stabile, Ane Alencar, Isabel Castro, and João Paulo Ribeiro. “Lawless land in no man’s land: The undesignated public forests in the Brazilian Amazon”. Land Use Policy 99 (2020).

Börner, Jan, Eduardo Marinho, and Sven Wunder. “Mixing Carrots and Sticks to Conserve Forests in the Brazilian Amazon: A Spatial Probabilistic Modeling Approach.” PLoS ONE 10, nº 2 (2015).

Hargrave, Jorge and Krisztina Kis-Katos. “Economic Causes of Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon: A Panel Data Analysis for the 2000s.” Environmental and Resource Economics 54, nº 4 (2013): 471-494.

Oliveira Filho, Francisco José B. de. “Impact of environmental law enforcement on deforestation, land use and natural regeneration in the Brazilian Amazon”. PhD diss., University of Cambridge, 2020.

Schmitt, Jair. “Crime sem castigo: a efetividade da fiscalização ambiental para o controle do desmatamento ilegal na Amazônia”. Tese de doutorado, Centro de Desenvolvimento Sustentável, Universidade de Brasília, 2015.

Valdiones, Ana Paula, Paula Bernasconi, Vinícius Silgueiro, Vinícius Guidotti, Frederico Miranda, Julia Costa, Raoni Rajão, and Bruno Manzolli. Desmatamento Ilegal na Amazônia e no Matopiba: falta transparência e acesso à informação. Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV), Instituto de Manejo e Certificação Florestal e Agrícola (IMAFLORA), Laboratório de Gestão e Serviços Ambientais (LAGESA), 2021.

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Using the System for the Real-Time Detection of Deforestation (Sistema de Detecção do Desmatamento em Tempo Real – DETER) to target environmental law enforcement was one of the main innovations in Brazilian forest conservation policy over the last two decades. Developed by the National Institute for Space Research (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais – INPE), DETER is a remote monitoring system that provides rapid assessments of changes in forest cover to support law enforcement actions aimed at combating deforestation and forest degradation. The system uses satellite imagery to scan the full extent of the Brazilian Amazon for signs of recent forest loss. By comparing images of the same location on different dates, DETER detects areas where forest cover has changed. For each of these areas, it issues an alert containing the location’s geographical coordinates. These alerts flag areas that require immediate attention and help target law enforcement operations

DETER was developed to support environmental law enforcement authorities. During enforcement operations, offenders found engaging in illegal deforestation are punished with administrative penalties that include fines, embargos, and seizure and destruction of illegal products and equipment associated with forest clearing. These penalties impose a high financial burden on violators both directly (payment of fines, loss of products or equipment) and indirectly (restricted access to credit, legal proceedings costs). Offenders can also be held accountable in civil and criminal terms.

The implementation of DETER was a game changer. The system was the first of its kind to be used for monitoring vegetation over such a vast geographical area and in near-real-time. It not only allowed the environmental law enforcement authorities to spot illegal activity throughout the entire Amazon, but   it did so with unprecedented speed — and speed was the key to boosting law enforcement’s potential for impact. Prior to the activation of DETER, it was extremely difficult for to locate and reach new deforestation activity in a timely manner. By the time law enforcement reached areas where a clearing had happened, it was often too late to effectively punish offenders. Even when able to correctly identify and locate the responsible parties, which is not a trivial task in a setting rife with fragile property rights, law enforcement could only apply truly costly penalties when catching offenders red-handed.

The composition of Amazon deforestation appears to have changes in response to monitoring and law enforcement efforts. Starting in 2006, soon after the adoption of DETER, there was a sharp drop in the share of deforestation that occurred via medium and large clearings (larger than 25 hectares, the minium threshold for detection in the satellite monitoring system). Results suggest that although environmental control efforts helped curb medium and large clearings, they were not as effective in containing small clearings, whose relative participation in annual deforestation increased over time. Yet, there is also evidence to suggest that this drop can be partially attributed to a strategic response on the part of those responsible for deforestation, as they began operating at a smaller scale to evade detection by the monitoring system. (Godar et al. 2014; Börner, Marinho and Wunder 2015; Assunção et al. 2017; Kalamandeen et al. 2018; Montibeller et al. 2020)

This change in the composition of deforestation led INPE to improve the monitoring system. From its inauguration in mid-2004 through the end of 2017, DETER used imagery with medium spatial resolution, but high revisit rates. The detection of changes to forest cover was limited to areas greater than 25 hectares, but the entire Brazilian Amazon was scanned daily. In August 2015, INPE introduced a new version of DETER with higher spatial resolution but less frequent imagery. In this new version, each location is only visited every 4 to 5 days, but the improved resolution allows for the detection of areas as small as three hectares, as well as for the distinction across different types of forest loss.

Recent data point to a reversal in the composition of deforestation, with the participation of large clearings rapidly increasing in a context of deteriorating command and control efforts to combat deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon (Trancoso 2021).



Assunção, Juliano, Clarissa Gandour, Pedro Pessoa, and Romero Rocha. “Property-level assessment of change in forest clearing patterns: The need for tailoring policy in the Amazon”. Land Use Policy 66 (2017): 18-27.

Börner, Jan, Eduardo Marinho, and Sven Wunder. “Mixing Carrots and Sticks to Conserve Forests in the Brazilian Amazon: A Spatial Probabilistic Modeling Approach”. PLoS ONE 10, nº 2 (2015).

Godar, Javier, Toby A. Gardner, E. Jorge Tizado, and Pablo Pacheco. “Actor-Specific Contributions to the Deforestation Slowdown in the Brazilian Amazon”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111, nº 43 (2014): 15591-15596.

Kalamandeen, Michelle, et al. “Pervasive Rise of Small-scale Deforestation in Amazonia”. Scientific Reports 8, nº 1600 (2018).

Montibeller, Bruno, Alexander Kmoch, Holger Virro, Ülo Mander, and Evelyn Uuemaa. “Increasing Fragmentation of Forest Cover in Brazil’s Legal Amazon from 2001 to 2017”. Scientific Reports 10, nº 1 (2020).

Trancoso, R. “Changing Amazon Deforestation Patterns: Urgent Need to Restore Command and Control Policies and Market Interventions”. Environmental Research Letters 16, nº 4 (2021): 041004.

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Priority Municipalities

The Priority Municipalities policy (Decree 6,321/2007) established criteria for selecting Amazon municipalities concentrating recent forest loss and determined that these locations would be preferential targets for policy action to prevent, monitor, and control deforestation. In addition to stepping up efforts to promote the regularization of rural establishments, these municipalities would also be subject to more rigorous monitoring and law enforcement.

Since 2008, the Ministry of the Environment (Ministério do Meio Ambiente – MMA) has been responsible for issuing an annual list of priority municipalities. Municipalities are added to the list based on three criteria: (i) total deforested area; (ii) total deforested area over the past three years; and (iii) an increased rate of deforestation in at least three of the past five years. To be removed from the list, a municipality must meet requirements regarding the registration and monitoring of its rural establishment, as well as maintain its deforestation rate below a cut-off established by the MMA.

The evidence indicates that this policy effectively contained deforestation in priority municipalities (Arima et al. 2014; Cisneros, Zhou and Börner 2015; Assunção and Rocha 2019; Assunção et al. 2019). Yet, there is no consensus in the literature regarding the underlying mechanisms for this effect. Some authors attribute the drop in deforestation to stricter monitoring and law enforcement (Arima et al. 2014; Assunção and Rocha 2019), while others favor economic disincentives due to sanctions imposed by commodity supply chains and the reputational risks for local politicians (Abman 2014; Cisneros, Zhou and Börner 2015).

The reduction in deforestation does not seem to have had a detrimental effect on agricultural production and was not associated with a drop in the granting of rural credit in priority municipalities (Assunção and Rocha 2019; Koch et al. 2019). Moreover, there is evidence that the policy generated a positive externality, reducing deforestation in neighboring municipalities that were not subject to targeted conservation action (Assunção et al. 2019).



Abman, Ryan. “Reelection Incentives, Blacklisting and Deforestation in Brazil”. Working Paper (2014).

Arima, Eugenio Y., Paulo Barreto, Elis Araújo, and Britaldo Soares-Filho. “Public Policies Can Reduce Tropical Deforestation: Lessons and Challenges from Brazil”. Land Use Policy 41 (2014): 465-73.

Assunção, Juliano, Robert McMillan, Joshua Murphy, and Eduardo Souza-Rodrigues “Optimal Environmental Targeting in the Amazon Rainforest”. NBER, Working Paper 25636 (2019).

Assunção, Juliano and Romero Rocha. “Getting Greener by Going Black: The Effect of Blacklisting Municipalities on Amazon Deforestation”. Environment and Development Economics 24, nº 2 (2019): 115-37.

Cisneros, Elías, Sophie L. Zhou, and Jan Börner. “Naming and Shaming for Conservation: Evidence from the Brazilian Amazon”. PLoS ONE 10, nº 9 (2015).

Koch, Nicolas, Erasmus K. H. J. zu Ermgassen, Johanna Wehkamp, Francisco J. B. Oliveira Filho, and Gregor Schwerhoff. “Agricultural productivity and forest conservation: evidence from the Brazilian Amazon”. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 101, nº 3 (2019): 919-940.

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Conditional Rural Credit

Rural credit is Brazil’s main public policy to support agricultural production. From mid-2019 to mid-2020, more than 120,000 contracts were signed, totaling BRL 19 billion in subsidized loans within the Amazon biome, with over 80% of this amount destined to support cattle farming operations (Souza et al. 2021). To avoid having subsidized credit contribute to forest loss, the Brazilian government adopted special requirements for granting rural credit in the Amazon.

With the enactment of Resolution 3,545/2008, the Brazilian Central Bank determined that rural credit could only be granted to support agricultural activities inside the Amazon biome upon proof of compliance with environmental and property rights regulations. All credit agents —public banks, private banks, and credit cooperatives — were required to implement these conditions. Some groups, primarily small producers that were beneficiaries of the National Program to Strengthen Family Farming (Programa Nacional de Fortalecimento da Agricultura Familiar – PRONAF) — faced less rigorous requirements to access credit.

Empirical evidence indicates that Resolution 3,545/2008 led to a reduction in the total amount of credit granted in the Amazon biome between 2008 and 2011, mainly due to a drop in medium and large contracts (Assunção et al. 2020). This outcome is consistent with the more flexible conditions for small borrowers. The study shows, moreover, that the reduction in rural credit helped contain deforestation, and that these effects were driven by municipalities where cattle farming was the main economic activity. The authors interpret this result as evidence that, in these municipalities, rural credit had been used to support activities associated with forest loss.



Assunção, Juliano, Clarissa Gandour, Romero Rocha, and Rudi Rocha. “The Effect of Rural Credit on Deforestation: Evidence from the Brazilian Amazon”. The Economic Journal 130, nº 626 (2020): 290-330.

Souza, Priscila, Gabriel Campos, Stela Herschmann, Pedro Vogt, and Juliano Assunção. 6 Peculiaridades do Crédito Rural na Amazônia: Nova Pesquisa Mostra Restrições a Crédito e Uso Extensivo da Terra na Agropecuária. Rio de Janeiro: Climate Policy Initiative, 2021.

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Protected Territory

In Brazil, protected territories consist primarily of protected areas (such as national parks, natural monuments, and biological reserves) and indigenous lands. Protected areas aim at providing long-term conservation of high-value natural ecosystems, whereas indigenous lands aim at protecting nature as a means of preserving the livelihoods of indigenous communities and ensuring their right of access to and management of lands as part of their traditional way of life. Despite this difference, the National Strategic Plan for Protected Areas (Plano Estratégico Nacional de Áreas Protegidas – PNAP) recognizes that indigenous lands contribute to environmental conservation and therefore regards them as protected territories.

The rules governing the clearing of native vegetation in protected territories vary according to the type of protection. Strictly protected areas only allow the indirect use of their natural resources, so forest clearing in these areas is typically prohibited; protected areas for sustainable use allow for the use of a share of their natural resources, so forest clearing may be legal if duly licensed and in accordance with the area’s management plan. In indigenous lands, the clearing of native vegetation is only legal when carried out by indigenous peoples as part of their traditional way of life.

Brazil’s regulatory framework allows for harsher punishment of environmental infractions committed within protected territories. In addition to being monitored by dedicated governmental agencies, these territories are also typically under greater public scrutiny, attracting much attention from national and international medias, as well as from the civil society. Thus, environmental offenders engaging in illegal activities in protected territories face a higher expected risk of getting caught and severely punished.

Landscape protection is one of the most widely-used environmental conservation policies in the world, and in Brazil as well — over half of the Brazilian Amazon Forest is under protection as (federal or state) protected areas or indigenous lands. However, the academic literature documents mixed results regarding these areas’ effectiveness in reducing Amazon deforestation. There is evidence that suggests that protected areas and indigenous lands contain deforestation within protected territories, but there is also wide variation in estimated effectiveness across regions, time periods, and types of protection (Nolte et al. 2013; Pfaff et al. 2014; Pfaff et al. 2015a, 2015b; Anderson et al. 2016; BenYishay et al. 2017; Kere et al. 2017; Assunção and Gandour 2018; Herrera, Pfaff and Robalino 2019; Baragwanath and Bayi 2020). Such a diverse set of outcomes should be interpreted in light of these areas’ differing levels of exposure to deforestation threats. After all, if an area is not at imminent risk of forest loss, it will probably not have significant deforestation, whether it is protected or not. Hence, negligible and even null effects are frequently justified as referring to remote territories located far from deforestation pressures (Pfaff et al. 2015a, 2015b; Anderson et al. 2016; Herrera, Pfaff and Robalino 2019).

Starting in 2004, the citing strategy for protected territories in the Amazon began to more explicitly consider the possibility that these areas could serve as barriers to advancing deforestation. This contributed to a large expansion of protected territory in regions known to be under great deforestation pressure. Assunção and Gandour (2018) explore this citing strategy to test the impact of territorial protection in high-risk areas. Results indicate that protected areas and indigenous lands effectively curbed deforestation, preventing it from advancing into protected territory. However, estimates suggest that territorial protection did not reduce the aggregate level of deforestation in the Amazon. The authors interpret this as evidence that protected territories serve as shields, effectively protecting forests within their borders, but, in turn, diverting deforestation to unprotected areas. This, they argue, is an indirect effect of protecting territories.

Evidence on the indirect effects of territorial protection is still relatively limited, but the academic literature reveals a growing interest in the topic (Fuller et al. 2019). For the Brazilian Amazon, results suggest that, as with the direct effect, indirect effects vary both in magnitude and direction across locations and types of protection (Herrera 2015; Herrera, Pfaff and Robalino 2019). This highlights the importance of considering, for public policy planning purposes, how governance structures can influence the impacts of territorial protection. Furthermore, little is known about the mechanisms behind these indirect effects. Herrera (2015) moves in this direction by exploring migration patterns and expansion of transport infrastructure as possible mechanisms for an estimated outcome of reduced deforestation in the immediate surroundings of protected territories. The author argues that the existence of a protected territory seems to affect the dynamics of regional development, and thereby influence deforestation close to these territories.

Overall, the evidence corroborates the use of territorial protection as an instrument for both protecting critical areas and containing advancing deforestation. However, it also reinforces the need to integrate territorial protection strategies and complementary conservation policies to curb deforestation throughout the entire Amazon Forest. This requires a deeper understanding of the possible indirect effects of territorial protection and its mechanisms.



Anderson, Lina O., Samantha De Martino, Torfinn Harding, Karlygash Kuralbayeva, and Andre Lima. “The Effects of Land Use Regulation on Deforestation: Evidence from the Brazilian Amazon”. OxCarre, Working Paper (2016).

Assunção, Juliano and Clarissa Gandour. “The Deforestation Menace: Do Protected Territories Actually Shield Forests?”. CPI/PUC-Rio, Working Paper (2018).

Baragwanath, Kathryn and Ella Bayi. “Collective Property Rights Reduce Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117, nº 34 (2020): 20495-20502.

BenYishay, Ariel, Silke Heuser, Daniel Runfola, and Rachel Trichler. “Indigenous land rights and deforestation: Evidence from the Brazilian Amazon”. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 86 (2017): 29-47.

Fuller, Carley, Stefania Ondei, Barry W. Brook, and Jessie C. Buettel. “First, do no harm: A systematic review of deforestation spillovers from protected areas”. Global Ecology and Conservation 18 (2019).

Herrera, Luis Diego, Alexander Pfaff, and Juan Robalino. “Impacts of Protected Areas Vary with the Level of Government: Comparing Avoided Deforestation across Agencies in the Brazilian Amazon.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116, nº 30 (2019): 14916-14925.

Herrera, Luis Diego. “Protected areas’ deforestation spillovers and two critical underlying mechanisms: An empirical exploration for the Brazilian Amazon”. Tese de doutorado, Duke University, 2015.

Kere, Eric Nazindigouba, Johanna Choumert, Pascale Combes Motel, Jean Luis Combes, Olivier Santoni, and Sonia Schwartz. “Addressing contextual and location biases in the assessment of protected areas effectiveness on deforestation in the Brazilian Amazônia”. Ecological Economics 136 (2017): 148-158.

Nolte, Christoph, Arun Agrawal, Kirsten M. Silvius, and Britaldo Soares-Filho. “Governance Regime and Location Influence Avoided Deforestation Success of Protected Areas in the Brazilian Amazon”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110, nº 13 (2013): 4956-4961.

Pfaff, Alexander, Juan Robalino, Catalina Sandoval, and Luis Diego Herrera. “Protected Area Types, Strategies and Impacts in Brazil’s Amazon: Public Protected Area Strategies Do Not Yield a Consistent Ranking of Protected Area Types by Impact”. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 370, nº 1681 (2015a): 20140273.

Pfaff, Alexander, Juan Robalino, Eirivelthon Lima, Catalina Sandoval, and Luis Diego Herrera. “Governance, Location and Avoided Deforestation from Protected Areas: Greater Restrictions Can Have Lower Impact, Due to Differences in Location”. World Development 55 (2014): 7-20.

Pfaff, Alexander, Juan Robalino, Luis Diego Herrera, and Catalina Sandoval. “Protected Areas’ Impacts on Brazilian Amazon Deforestation: Examining Conservation – Development Interactions to Inform Planning”. PLoS ONE 10, nº 7 (2015b).

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Forest Code

The Forest Code is Brazil’s main public policy for protecting native vegetation within private lands. By defining rules for land use, it imposes on landowners the obligation to preserve part of the native vegetation within their lands. The new version of the Forest Code, Federal Law No. 12,651/2012, preserved the basic concepts of the previous code, but changed some of the rules for land use and introduced new instruments to support compliance with the law. Chiavari and Lopes (2015a, 2015b) address the key points of the new legislation: the instruments for the conservation of native vegetation, the complexity of consolidated areas and their rules for conservation, and the processes for environmental regularization.

The Forest Code’s main instruments for the protection of native vegetation are the Permanent Preservation Areas (Área de Preservação Permanente – APP) and the Legal Reserve. APPs are areas considered critical for the protection of essential environmental services, such as water supply, biodiversity conservation, and geological protection. The vegetation in these areas must be preserved, and no economic exploitation of forest resources within the APP is allowed. The Forest Code determines several categories of APP, including the banks of water bodies, hills and slopes with an inclination of more than 45° and areas around springs, and establishes specific protection rules for each category. The Legal Reserve is an area within the rural establishment that must remain covered with native vegetation. It aims at conserving biodiversity and protecting remnants of native vegetation throughout the country. The Forest Code establishes the size of the Legal Reserve as a share of the establishment’s total area and determines shares according to geographic location and associated type of native vegetation. Legal Reserves are generally much larger in rural establishments within the Amazon biome (80% as forest areas) than in other regions of Brazil (20% to 35%).

The body of empirical evidence on the effectiveness of the Forest Code for protecting native vegetation is still very limited. Sant’Anna and Costa (2021)

assess how a particular feature of the code affected deforestation in the Amazon. Despite determining that clearings within APP or Legal Reserve must be restored, the 2012 version of the Forest Code established more flexible rules and parameters for complying with vegetation conservation requirements in areas that were illegally deforested before July 22, 2008 (consolidated rural areas). The authors argue that, by giving amnesty to those who violated the environmental law in the past, the new code encouraged opportunistic behavior of non-compliance with current law. Results point to a harmful impact of the Forest Code revision on the loss of vegetation within rural establishments in the Amazon. However, this increase in deforestation should not be interpreted as an effect of the Forest Code’s instruments for protecting vegetation, but of the changes in the legal framework associated with them.



Chiavari, Joana and Cristina L. Lopes. Novo Código Florestal Parte I: Decifrando O Novo Código Florestal. Rio de Janeiro: Climate Policy Initiative, 2015a.

Chiavari, Joana and Cristina L. Lopes. Novo Código Florestal Parte II: Caminhos e Desafios para a Regularização Ambiental. Rio de Janeiro: Climate Policy Initiative, 2015b.

Sant’Anna, André A. and L. Costa. “Environmental Regulation and Bail Outs Under Weak State Capacity: Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon”. Ecological Economics 186 (2021).

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The Rural Environmental Registry (Cadastro Ambiental Rural – CAR) is a national public registry that stores and integrates environmental information on rural properties in Brazil. It was conceived as an instrument for environmental control, monitoring, and environmental and economic planning, as well as to support efforts to combat deforestation. Landholders are required to enroll their properties in CAR, and access to several of their rights, such as obtaining authorization to remove native vegetation or using consolidated rural areas, is now conditioned upon doing so.

To enroll medium and large properties (greater than four fiscal modules), landholders must present a georeferenced plan that identifies the property’s perimeter, remaining areas of native vegetation, Area of Permanent Preservation (Área de Preservação Permanente – APP), Legal Reserve, Restricted Use Areas, and rural consolidated areas in APP and Legal Reserve, and administrative easement areas. There is a simplified procedure for enrolling small properties (smaller than four fiscal modules). CAR enrollment is self-declaratory, but state environmental authorities are meant to verify and validate each registration.

The body of empirical evidence on CAR’s impacts is still quite limited. There are indications that, in the state of Pará, enrollment in CAR did not significantly affect deforestation within private properties, except for small properties (100 to 300 hectares) where there was a reduction in the deforested area (L’Roe et al., 2016). However, this null effect may have resulted from the fact that the registry was still in its early stages during the period of analysis, so findings do not necessarily reflect medium to long-term impacts. On the other hand, there is also evidence that the registry helped reduce forest loss in the states of Pará and Mato Grosso, but with variation in effect over time (Alix-Garcia et al., 2017). There is also a growing concern regarding the impact of irregular enrollments, especially those that arise from the illegal occupation of public lands. More than 11 million hectares of undesignated forests have been registered as private properties in CAR (Azevedo-Ramos et al., 2020). If eventually validated and legalized, these areas are expected to increase forest loss.



Alix-Garcia, J., Rausch, L. L., L’Roe, H. K. G., and Munger, J. “Avoided Deforestation Linked to Environmental Registration of Properties in the Brazilian Amazon.” Conservation Letters 11, no. 3 (2017).

Azevedo-Ramos, C., Moutinho, P., Arruda, V. L., Stabile, M. C. C., Alencar, A., Castro, I., and Ribeiro, J.P. “Lawless Land in No Man’s Land: The Undesignated Public Forests in the Brazilian Amazon”. Land Use Policy 99 (2020): 104863.

L’Roe, J., Rausch, L., Munger, J., and Gibbs, H. K. “Mapping Properties to Monitor Forests: Landholder Response to a Large Environmental Registration Program in the Brazilian Amazon”. Land Use Policy 57 (2016): 193–203.

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Supply Chains

Commitments to eliminate deforestation along supply chains traditionally associated with forest loss occupy a prominent position in the ongoing debate about the protection of native Amazon vegetation. Despite not being public policy instruments per se, some of these commitments are officially endorsed by government entities.

Soy Moratorium

The Soy Moratorium is a voluntary zero-deforestation agreement for soy production in the Amazon biome. It was agreed upon by the private sector — the Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oil Industries (ABIOVE), the National Association of Grain Exporters (ANEC), and associated companies — and the civil society, and endorsed by the MMA. The moratorium was first signed in 2006 and was renewed indefinitely in 2016. It formalizes the commitment by ABIOVE and ANEC to not market, acquire, or finance soy from Amazon biomes areas that were deforested after July 2008, as well as from areas under administrative embargo due to deforestation or listed under the Ministry of Labor’s list for the use of slave-like labor.

The literature documents a sharp drop in the expansion of soy farming in forest areas following the adoption of the Soy Moratorium, suggesting that the terms of the agreement were generally respected (Rudorff et al. 2011; Macedo et al. 2012; Gibbs et al. 2015; Gollnow et al. 2018). In addition, Heilmayr et al. (2020) find that the moratorium helped contain deforestation in areas suitable for soy production, but highlight that its effectiveness fundamentally depends on monitoring forest loss and implementing complementary policy efforts to register rural establishments.

There is no robust causal evidence linking the Soy Moratorium to the observed reduction in the aggregate levels of deforestation in the Amazon. This should be interpreted in light of the fact that, when the moratorium was agreed on, less than 5% of the area that had been historically deforested in the Amazon was used as cropland, including for soy production. The moratorium’s impact on land use conversion dynamics could still be relevant for regional patterns of deforestation and when accounting for the commitment’s indirect effects, including interactions with pasture expansion dynamics in the Amazon and leakage to biomes to which the moratorium’s restrictions do not apply (Gollnow et al. 2018; Moffette and Gibbs, forthcoming).



Gibbs, H. K., Rausch, L., Morton, D. C., Noojipady, P, Soares-Filho, B., Barreto, P., Micol, L., Walker, N. F. “Brazil’s Soy Moratorium”. Science 347, nº 6220 (2015): 377-78.

Gollnow, Florian, Leticia de B. V. Hissa, Philippe Rufin, and Tobia Lake. “Property-Level Direct and Indirect Deforestation for Soybean Production in the Amazon Region of Mato Grosso, Brazil”. Land Use Policy 78 (2018): 377-385.

Heilmayr, Robert, Lisa L. Rausch, Jacob Munger, and Holly K. Gibbs. “Brazil’s Amazon Soy Moratorium reduced deforestation”. Nature Food 1 (2020): 801-810.

Macedo, Marcia N., Ruth S. DeFries, Douglas C. Morton, Claudia M. Stickler, Gillian L. Galford, and Yosio E. Shimabukuro. “Decoupling of deforestation and soy production in the southern Amazon during the late 2000s”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109, nº 4 (2012): 1341-136.

Moffette, Fanny and Holly Gibbs. “Agricultural Displacement and Deforestation Leakage in the Brazilian Legal Amazon”. Land Economics, no prelo.

Rudorff, Bernardo Friedrich Theodor, Marcos Adami, Daniel Alves Aguiar, Maurício Alves Moreira, Marcio Pupin Mello, Leandro Fabiani, Daniel Furlan Amaral, and Bernardo Machado Pires. “The Soy Moratorium in the Amazon Biome Monitored by Remote Sensing Images”. Remote Sensing 3, nº 1 (2011): 185-202.

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Meat TACs

In light of the Soy Moratorium, the livestock sector has also demonstrated interest in signing a zero-deforestation commitment for the Amazon. In 2009, after being the target of lawsuits from the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) and the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA) and suffering market pressure,meatpackers operating in the state of Pará signed Conduct Adjustment Terms (TAC) with the MPF and a public commitment to Greenpeace. The TAC is a legal commitment. By signing it, By signing it, the meatpackers authorize the MPF to impose penalties without the need for judicial intervention if the terms of the agreement are breached. In the agreement, the meatpackers commit to only buying cattle from farms in which there was no deforestation after 2009, that are not listed in the Ministry of Labor’s list for the use of slave-like labor, that were registered in the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR), and that are not located inside protected territories. In subsequent years, meatpackers in other states signed similar commitments.

Evidence on the impacts of these agreements is quite limited. Although at first TACs may have contributed to further the registration of properties in CAR and curbed deforestation within registered properties, they do not appear to have had a significant effect on aggregate forest loss over time (Gibbs et al. 2016; Alix-Garcia et al. 2017). Significant difficulties regarding the effective implementation of TACs and the monitoring of compliance with their terms are usually pointed out as likely explanations for the documented lack of significant impacts of TACs on Amazon deforestation (Gibbs et al. 2016; Imazon 2017; Klingler, Richards and Ossner 2018; Gibbs et al. forthcoming).



Alix-Garcia, Jennifer, Lisa L. Rausch, Jessica L’Roe, Holly K. Gibbs, and Jacob Munger. “Avoided Deforestation Linked to Environmental Registration of Properties in the Brazilian Amazon”. Conservation Letters 11, nº 3 (2017).

Gibbs H., Moffette F., Munger J., Rausch L., Molina Vale P., L’Roe J., Barreto P., and Amaral T.  “Impacts of Zero-Deforestation Cattle Agreements in the Brazilian Amazon Limited by Inconsistent and Evasive Behavior”. Environmental Research Letters, forthcoming.

Gibbs, Holly K., Jacob Munger, Jessica L’Roe, Paulo Barreto, Ritaumaria Pereira, Matthew Christie, Ticiana Amaral, and Nathalie F. Walker. “Did Ranchers and Slaughterhouses Respond to Zero-Deforestation Agreements in the Brazilian Amazon?”. Conservation Letters 9 (2016): 32-42.

Imazon. Os frigoríficos vão ajudar a zerar o desmatamento da Amazônia? 2017.

Klingler, Michael, Peter D. Richards, and Roman Ossner. “Cattle vaccination records question the impact of recent zero-deforestation agreements in the Amazon”. Regional Environmental Change 18 (2018): 33-46.

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Payment for Ecosystem Services

Payment for ecosystem services (PES) mechanisms seek to promote the conservation of native vegetation by financially compensating those who protect it. Payments can be made at national (countries), subnational (states, projects), or individual (communities, families, individuals) levels, and are typically conditioned upon proof of environmental outcomes. Because this mechanism entails voluntary conservation, PES is considered an important ally in promoting forest protection beyond what is required by law. However, PES mechanisms currently in place for the Brazilian Amazon are not restricted to compensating reductions in the legal removal of native vegetation.

Developed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), REDD+ is one of the most prominent incentive and payment mechanisms for ecosystem services at the national level. Originally focused on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), the concept has also come to encompass efforts relating to the conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable forest management, and increasing forest carbon stocks (REDD+). This mechanism financially compensates developing countries that preserve their forests and thereby reduce GHG emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Although considered to be quite promising, there is still little evidence regarding the impact of PES policies and programs in the context of the Brazilian Amazon. Simonet et al. (2018) estimate that the pilot for the Sustainable Settlements Project in the Amazon, aimed at promoting sustainable practices in family farming, led to a reduction in deforestation and associated emissions. However, the project entailed a mix of interventions, including PES and technical assistance to participants. Cisneros et al. (2019) explore the environmental impacts of Bolsa Floresta, a PES program focused on protected areas for sustainable use in the state of Amazonas. Results suggest that effects on deforestation were negligible, likely due to mistargeting of the program, which was implemented in protected areas under low risk of deforestation. On the other hand, Anderson et al. (2021) evaluate the Bolsa Verde, a federal program that provides cash transfers to families in extreme poverty, in which payments are conditional on regional forest cover results. Their study indicates that Bolsa Verde was associated with a reduction in deforestation, especially in the poorest areas. However, this reduction did not occur inside the properties of the program beneficiaries, but at the regional level. The authors argue that this might be explained by increased law enforcement presence in the regions, and suggest that the program generated incentives for beneficiaries to monitor and report deforestation near their homes.

One of the main challenges in assessing PES impacts is being able to identify additionality in changes to forest loss — did payments really help protect the forest or would deforestation have fallen even without the financial incentive? West et al. (2020)

address this issue in an assessment of 12 voluntary REDD+ projects implemented in the Brazilian Amazon between 2008 and 2017. Results indicate that payments did not significantly contribute to the reduction in deforestation or emissions. In addition, the evidence suggests that project baselines, typically established from historical deforestation patterns, overestimate forest loss. In this case, reductions in forest clearings during the term of the project would not be related to the financial incentive, but to other factors that contained deforestation. The authors point out, however, that a series of practical difficulties related to the design and implementation of PES projects may have compromised the effectiveness of the financial incentive mechanism.



Anderson, Liana O., Torfinn Harding, Karlygash Kuralbayeva, Ana M. Pessoa, and Po Yin Wong. “Pay For Performance and Deforestation: Evidence from Brazil”. Working Paper (2021).

Cisneros, Elias, Jan Börner, Stefano Pagiola, and Sven Wunder. “Impacts of conservation incentives in protected areas: The case of Bolsa Floresta, Brazil”. World Bank, Working Paper (2019).

Simonet, Gabriela, Julie Subervie, Driss Ezzine-de-Blas, Marina Cromberg, and Amy E. Duchelle. “Effectiveness of a REDD+ project in reducing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon”. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 101, nº 1 (2018): 211-229.

West, Thales A. P., Jan Börner, Erin O. Sills, and Andreas Kontoleon. “Overstated carbon emission reductions from voluntary REDD+ projects in the Brazilian Amazon”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117, nº 39 (2020): 24188-24194.

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Subnational Initiatives

Decentralized initiatives for forest protection and management have been gaining ground in the public policy sphere for forest protection in developing countries, but the available evidence on their effectiveness is usually qualitative or derived from case studies (Blackman and Bluffstone 2021). Indeed, few studies use rigorous empirical methods to obtain estimates of causal impact and thus robust implications for public policy.

Green Municipalities Program

Created in 2011 in the state of Pará in response to the Federal Government’s Priority Municipalities policy, the Green Municipalities Program (PMV) aimed to reduce forest loss, promote a sustainable rural economy, and improve local governance. Although it is still a limited literature, some studies empirically assess the program’s impact.

Sills et al. (2015) focus on the case of Paragominas, the first municipality to implement the measures that would eventually make up the PMV and also the first to leave the list of priority municipalities. The evidence suggests that the program contributed to both reduce deforestation in Paragominas and keep it at low levels for three years, even when comparing with other municipalities in the priority list. However, the difference between Paragominas and these other municipalities is only significant for one year of the sample, which suggests that the program may have had only a limited effect beyond that of being a priority municipality. The assessment of the state-level impacts of PMV conducted by Sills et al. (2020) reinforces this interpretation. The results indicate that the program did not significantly contribute to municipalities reducing deforestation beyond what they did in response to inclusion in the priority list.



Blackman, Allen and Randy Bluffstone. “Decentralized forest management: Experimental and quasi-experimental evidence”. World Development 145 (2021).

Sills, Erin O., et al. “Estimating the impacts of local policy innovation: the synthetic control method applied to tropical deforestation”. PLoS ONE 10, nº 7 (2015).

Sills, Erin, Alexander Pfaff, Luiza Andrade, Justin Kirkpatrick, and Rebecca Dickson. “Investing in local capacity to respond to a federal environmental mandate: Forest & economic impacts of the Green Municipality Program in the Brazilian Amazon”. World Development 129 (2020).

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  • PLATFORM UNDER CONSTRUCTION | Please send comments to Thank you!

The Evidence Pack covers Brazil’s key policy efforts to fight Amazon deforestation since the early 2000s. Its content is organized thematically. Each theme includes simple descriptions of the policy instruments and summaries of the main findings from academic impact evaluations. The literature review focused on three types of works: publications in economics and interdisciplinary peer-reviewed scientific journals; working papers from universities and research centers; and PhD dissertations in economics. It prioritized quantitative impact evaluations that use rigorous statistical methods to identify causal effects.

Policy efforts to combat Amazon deforestation that have not yet been subjected to rigorous assessments are not discussed. This should not be interpreted as an indication that such efforts are not relevant for the protection of the Amazon Forest, but as a suggestion of relevant topics for future research.

This platform is still under development. Suggestions and comments are welcome. Please send them to Thank you!

Suggested citation: Climate Policy Initiative (2021). Evidence Pack. Web platform for viewing academic research. Available at . Accessed on <DATE>.

This effort was lead by Clarissa Gandour with support from Helena Rodrigues.


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