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Have Brazil’s deforestation policies hit the limits of their effectiveness?

Deforestation in the Amazon has fallen dramatically, by about 77% between 2004 and 2011, enabling Brazil to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by more than a third in that period, while also preserving biodiversity and maintaining other vital ecosystem services. The country achieved this, in part, through ambitious government efforts to create new conservation areas and strengthen deforestation monitoring and enforcement, supported by a host of private-sector and civil society interventions.

Yet progress has slowed in recent years, and a new study led by SEI researchers, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that if Brazil wants to keep reducing deforestation, it will need to implement a broader range of strategies. While the enforcement-based approach worked well to reduce the clearance of vast swaths of forest, especially by large landowners, the study shows it is unlikely to be equally effective in reducing deforestation beyond current rates, particularly by smallholders.

Insights of the study point to the need for more diverse deforestation policies that differentiate between areas dominated by different landowner types, the study concludes.

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