Patterns, trends and drivers of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon: What you need to know 

February 21, 2017

As the world’s largest rainforest covering nine countries, the Amazon rainforest has been known as Earth’s lungs for generations. However, as a resource-rich forest, it continues to be deforested at staggering rate. To combat that, our MAAP project was launched over 2 years ago to help not only monitor the deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon in near real-time, but also to empower local authorities with key information so they can act before it gets to a point of no return. So far 50 MAAP threat alerts have been issued. Here is what we have learned about the patterns, trends and drivers of deforestation in this key area of the Amazon rainforest.

Trends – What has been the progression of deforestation?
During the 15 years between 2001 and 2015, around 4,448,000 acres of Peruvian Amazon forest have been deforested, with a steadily increasing trend. 2014 had the highest annual forest loss on record (438,775 acres), followed by a slight decrease  in 2015. The preliminary estimate for 2016 indicates that forest loss remains relatively high. The vast majority (80%) of forest loss events in the Peruvian Amazon are small-scale (<13 acres), while large-scale events (>125 acres) pose a latent threat due to new agro-industrial projects.

Hotspots –  Where is the deforestation taking place?
We have identified at least 8 major deforestation hotspots. The most intense hotspots are located in the central Amazon (Huánuco and Ucayali) of Peru. Other important hotspots are located in Madre de Dios and San Martin, two areas that have long been plagued by illegal gold mining. Two legally protected conservation areas (Tambopata National Reserve and El Sira Communal Reserve) are currently threatened by these hotspots, since invasions to these protected areas are not uncommon.

Drivers – What are the key factors that are driving deforestation? 
By analyzing high-resolution satellite imagery, we have documented six major drivers of deforestation and degradation: small/medium-scale agriculture, large-scale agriculture, cattle pasture, gold mining, illegal coca cultivation, and road creation. Small-scale agriculture and cattle pastures are likely the most dominant drivers of deforestation overall. Gold mining is a major driver in southern Peru. Large-scale agriculture and major new roads are latent threats. Logging roads are likely a major source of forest degradation in central Peru.

Check out a full analysis with graphics over at