Land tenure drives Brazil’s deforestation rates across socio-environmental contexts

Pacheco, A. & Meyer, C. | Nature Communications | 2022 | Peer Reviewed | Original research |


Many tropical forestlands are experiencing changes in land-tenure regimes, but how these changes may affect deforestation rates remains ambiguous. Here, we use Brazil’s land-tenure and deforestation data and quasi-experimental methods to analyze how six land-tenure regimes (undesignated/untitled, private, strictly-protected and sustainable-use protected areas, indigenous, and quilombola lands) affect deforestation across 49 spatiotemporal scales. We find that undesignated/untitled public regimes with poorly defined tenure rights increase deforestation relative to any alternative regime in most contexts. The privatization of these undesignated/untitled lands often reduces this deforestation, particularly when private regimes are subject to strict environmental regulations such as the Forest Code in Amazonia. However, private regimes decrease deforestation less effectively and less reliably than alternative well-defined regimes, and directly privatizing either conservation regimes or indigenous lands would most likely increase deforestation. This study informs the ongoing political debate around land privatization/protection in tropical landscapes and can be used to envisage policy aligned with sustainable development goals.