Conservation news

Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon dropped 13 percent in 2017

  • A new analysis of satellite imagery and data finds 143,425 hectares of forest were lost in the Peruvian Amazon in 2017, down 13 percent from 2016.
  • The analysis identified newly deforestation hotspots in the San Martín and Amazonas regions.
  • The main causes of the loss of forest in the Amazon appear to be cultivation of crops, small- and medium-scale ranching, large oil palm plantations and gold mining.

A recent analysis of satellite images gives a glimpse into Peru’s widespread deforestation in 2017. The analysis, which was produced by the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), found 143,425 hectares of forest were lost across the Peruvian Amazon during 2017 — the equivalent of 200,000 soccer fields.

Deforestation was down 13 percent from 2016, but the analysis reveals new forest loss hotspots and conservationists remain concerned for the future of Peru’s forests.


Satellite images of an area in southern Peru’s Madre de Dios region show the advancement of deforestation from 2016 to 2018. Images courtesy of MAAP

MAAP’s report indicates the five most-deforested areas in Peru are spread throughout the country’s Amazonian regions, from Madre de Dios in the south to Ucayali and Huánuco and San Martín in the central part of the country to the Santa María de Nieva area in northern Peru’s Amazonas region.

According to the analysis, the main causes of deforestation in these areas are small- and medium-scale ranching, large-scale oil palm cultivation and gold mining.

Matt Finer, MAAP’s principal investigator, told Mongabay Latam that advancements in early deforestation alert systems have allowed them to quickly produce a complete panorama of what happened last year.

“Historically, we had to wait months and years to know the levels of deforestation that had been reached every year,” he said.


The amount of deforested land has increased to 3,220 hectares in Iberia in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. Images courtesy of MAAP

He added that the satellite analysis has allowed them to learn that the same patterns and drivers of deforestation are repeated throughout many different areas of the country.

In the Ucayali and Huánuco regions, MAAP estimates that deforestation affected 23,240 hectares in 2017. “In this area, the main drivers would be ranching and palm oil,” the report states.

Madre de Dios, one of Peru’s most-deforested regions, once held a large area of forest that has been lost to the Interoceanic Highway, as well as a deforested area along its border with Brazil.


Satellite imagery shows a new deforestation hotspot in the San Martín Region caused by the cultivation of oil palm. Images courtesy of MAAP

In the area around the Interoceanic Highway, deforestation totals 11,115 hectares and appears to be caused primarily by gold mining and agricultural activity, particularly in areas north of the highway. In Iberia, 3,220 hectares of forest were lost in 2017. In this area, the main drivers are the cultivation of corn, papaya and cacao, according to local sources.

A large-scale agricultural project in northeastern San Martín resulted in the deforestation of 740 hectares during the last few months of 2017. According to MAAP, Peru’s National Forest Conservation Program, administered by the Department of the Environment, confirmed that there is a new oil palm plantation on the border between the regions of San Martín and Loreto.

Another new deforestation hotspot is also located in the Amazonas Region, in Nieva District along the Bagua-Saramiriza Highway. In this area, 1,135 hectares of frest were lost in 2017. Deforestation in this area was due to crop cultivation and ranching, according to the report.


A recently deforested area in the Amazonas Region. Images courtesy of MAAP

Overall, MAAP found there was 13 percent less deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon in 2017 than in 2016. But experts still worry about the future of the country’s forests. Claudio Schneider, Technical Director of Conservation International Peru, considers the amount of deforestation in Peru to be too high.

“Although efforts have been made to improve monitoring — because now we have more reliable data about deforestation — there still isn’t enough being done to stop the loss of forests,” Schneider said.

He said that it is a complex issue, and that the Peruvian Amazon continues to be a neglected area with weak governance.

“As long as people don’t work in a territorial way, in the titling of the land and in coordination with Indigenous communities and other sectors of the population, the Amazon will continue to be, a little bit, no one’s land,” Schneider said. He added that this disorganization is an open door for illegal activities such as mining or indiscriminate logging.

Schneider says that to advance the fight against deforestation, the Peruvian government should launch a stronger land titling campaign for communities that reside in the country’s forests.


This story was initially published in Spanish on Mongabay Latam on Feb. 8, 2018.

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