What Drives and Stops Deforestation, Reforestation, and Forest Degradation? An Updated Meta-analysis

Jonah Busch and Kalifi Ferretti-Gallon | Review of Environmental Economics and Policy Volume 17, Number 2 | 2023 | Peer Reviewed | Review | https://doi.org/10.1086/725051


This article updates our previous comprehensive meta-analysis of what drives and stops deforestation (Busch and Ferretti-Gallon 2017). By including six additional years of research, this article more than doubles the evidence base to 320 spatially explicit econometric studies published in peer-reviewed academic journals from 1996 to 2019. We find that deforestation is consistently associated with greater accessibility (as influenced by natural features such as slope and elevation and built infrastructure such as roads, cities, and cleared areas) and with higher economic returns (from agriculture, livestock, and timber). Some demographic variables are consistently associated with less deforestation (e.g., Indigenous people, poverty, and age) or more deforestation (e.g., population), and others are not associated with the level of deforestation (e.g., education and gender). Policies that directly influence allowable land-use activities are associated with less deforestation (e.g., protected areas, enforcement of forest laws, payments for ecosystem services, community forest management, and certification of sustainable commodities). But policies and institutions that primarily seek other ends are not consistently associated with more or less deforestation (e.g., democracy, general governance, conflict abatement, and land-tenure security). We introduce reforestation and forest degradation as new dependent variables alongside deforestation. Greater population is consistently associated with more forest degradation, whereas steeper slope, greater distance from cities, and lower population are consistently associated with more reforestation.