What the Amazon needs now

Six actions to stop deforestation and conserve biodiversity

Waterway in Peruvian Amazon runs through trees

2023 Lovejoy Symposium: A Turning Point for the Amazon

On Oct. 24, extraordinary global thinkers and leaders in science, policy, and conservation will discuss the resilience of the Amazon, groundbreaking conservation science research, and solutions for the region's nature and people.

Learn more

The Amazon is in crisis. Deforestation, degradation, and climate change are pushing the Amazon rain forest and river systems to the edge, undermining the future resiliency of the Amazon’s people and ecosystems. Decreased rainfall, siltation, and construction of dams are degrading the quality and connectivity of river systems and jeopardizing aquatic species. In the near future, tropical forests could be replaced by savanna-like vegetation if action isn’t taken to stop deforestation and degradation. With current levels of deforestation in the Amazon at approximately 17%, we must act now.

What we need to do:

1. Increase monitoring and enforcement to stop illegal deforestation and degradation
Recently, leaders of Amazon countries declared they would increase regional cooperation to fight illegal deforestation. This is encouraging and essential—as over 90% of deforestation in Brazil is illegal, and additional efforts are necessary to end the illegal mining that degrades Amazonian rivers and threatens the health of humans and wildlife.

2. Strengthen and build upon the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) program
The ARPA program supports effective management of conservation areas and has a demonstrated ability to curb deforestation. Research shows that the protected areas supported by ARPA prevented about 650,000 acres of deforestation, the equivalent of avoiding roughly 104 million tons of CO2 emissions, or an amount equal to the total emissions of US domestic aviation in 2020.

In general, Project Finance for Permanence models, such as ARPA, are an opportunity to align public, private, multilateral, and philanthropic institutions in an actively coordinated arrangement to support large-scale and long-term conservation in the Amazon and other critical ecosystems. Ensuring protections and conservation efforts extend to freshwater ecosystems and the services that they deliver is essential.

3. Support Indigenous peoples and local communities in the management and sustainable development of their territories and community lands
Indigenous peoples and local communities are the most effective stewards of their lands, and supporting their leadership and rights is essential to long-term conservation. Governments, donors, and the private sector must collaborate with Indigenous peoples and local communities to support their rights to manage their lands; promote economic and nature-based opportunities that strengthen local peoples' livelihoods; and enhance access to finance, technology, and social services.

4. Stop the production and importation of commodities sourced from deforested lands
One of the biggest drivers of deforestation and conversion in the Amazon and Cerrado savanna is the production of commodities like beef, soy, and leather. To curb this, we urgently need market incentives for the production of zero-deforestation commodities—such as company reporting of deforestation risks and financial support for producers to transition to deforestation- and conversion-free practices.

The private sector cannot act alone: Countries that import forest products also have a role to play. The US Congress and president have an opportunity to act decisively by enacting the bipartisan FOREST Act. The bill, which will be reintroduced shortly, would prohibit the importation of globally traded commodities sourced from illegally deforested land and ensure that farmers and ranchers have the means to implement more sustainable practices. It’s past time that we break the link between the products we import and consume every day and illegal deforestation in the Amazon.

5. Promote low-impact infrastructure development
Renewable energy and access to the internet and other services are critical needs in the Amazon’s rural and remote communities. At the same time, poorly planned infrastructure development can contribute to habitat destruction by fragmenting forests and rivers, impeding wildlife and freshwater species’ movements and water flows, and making forests more accessible and vulnerable to illegal deforestation. Low-impact infrastructure can bring prosperity to the people of the Amazon without jeopardizing the region’s future.

6. Strengthen science, technology, and innovation to improve sustainability
The transition to long-term sustainable solutions can be complex. It requires an investment in research that produces options for enhancing sustainability and resilience. Further, promoting knowledge-sharing platforms and science-policy interfaces that support evidence-based, transformative policy agendas is critical. Overall, there must be better integration of Indigenous and local knowledge in the design, implementation, and monitoring of all policies, programs, and actions.