Cutting down trees does not build prosperity: On the continued decoupling of Amazon deforestation and economic development in 21st century Brazil

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Supplementary Files

DARREN NORRIS , Terciane Sabadini Carvalho, Angela M. Guerrero, Maria Isabel Sobral Escada, Ane Alencar, Liz Kimbrough, Rhett A. Butler


Background and aims:
We present evidence examining spatial and temporal patterns in forest cover changes and economic progress in Brazilian Amazonia. Specifically we tested two predictions embedded in arguments used by influential interest groups: i) where there is less forest cover economic progress should increase and ii) areas with most recent deforestation should have increased economic progress.
Complementary methods assessed variation in economic progress across 794 administrative districts (municipalities) covering 4.9 Mkm2 of the Brazilian Amazon from 2002 to 2019. A representative subset of municipalities was used to compare economic and basic socioeconomic indicators across municipalities with contrasting forest coverage.
Contrasting results between the full and a representative subset of municipalities suggests that municipality-level economic progress cannot be directly attributed to loss of natural forests. There was no association between forest loss and economic (average salary) or basic socioeconomic indicators (existence of sanitation plans and internet connectivity). The economic progress of municipalities with less than 40% forest cover in 1986 was no different to that of similar municipalities with more than 60% forest cover from 1986 to 2019.
The evidence contradicted both of the predictions tested. Reducing forest cover does not appear to directly promote socioeconomic progress. Any localized associations between forest cover and poverty most likely result from other more plausible alternatives including lack of opportunity and a widespread failure to effectively implement and enforce existing policies within the local socioeconomic context.
Implications for Conservation:
Our findings support evidence from across the tropics that show deforestation does not necessarily generate transformative and equitable food production systems or lead to poverty alleviation.



Environmental Studies, Forest Management, Life Sciences, Nature and Society Relations, Remote Sensing


Amazon, agriculture, deforestation, Economics, Forest Loss, MapBiomas, land cover, sustainable development


Published: 2022-05-13 20:49

Last Updated: 2022-09-16 04:42

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:

Data Availability (Reason not available):
The data that supports the findings of this study are available in the supplementary information of this article. A copy of the data is also openly available at