How transport infrastructure is influencing deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon

A new study will contribute to the informed design of interventions to reduce the impact of transport infrastructure on deforestation processes
Dirt road that enters a community in San Martin region, Peru. Photo by Marlon del Aguila Guerrero/CIFOR

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Recent studies estimate that nearly two million hectares of primary forests in the Peruvian Amazon have been deforested in the last 20 years. This is a dynamic process that responds to physical, political, social and economic conditions specific to the territory, and in which relationships of influence between various drivers converge.

When discussing economic development, road infrastructure jumps out as a factor on the frontiers of deforestation, so understanding its influence is critical to the design of interventions that reduce its impact on forest conversion.

A forthcoming study led by CIFOR-ICRAF in collaboration with the Group for the Analysis of Development (GRADE), a research center in Peru, is analysing deforestation frontiers and transport infrastructure on land use dynamics with a view to providing recommendations. The study entitled “Analysis of deforestation frontiers 2000-2020 and the influence of transport infrastructure on land use dynamics in three case studies in the Peruvian Amazon” examines roads (formal accessibility infrastructure) and formal and informal forestry or logging roads (informal accessibility infrastructure) in three different contexts: Iquitos-Nauta road in the Loreto region, the Peru-Brazil binational road project in Pucallpa-Cruzeiro do Sul, Ucayali region, and the IIRSA Sur-Las Piedras sector in the Madre de Dios region.

Preliminary results indicate that the dynamics of deforestation in the forests of the Peruvian Amazon respond mainly to synergies with socio-economic, institutional and political contextual factors, and not only to the role of road infrastructure.  “The contextual factors, or underlying causes, that most influence deforestation and road infrastructure are political will, state control and oversight, corruption, and the capacity to implement policies and sanctions,” says Karla Vergara, geographer and researcher of the study.

In the specific case of the IIRSA South – Las Piedras sector, the main direct causes of deforestation are encroachment, followed by the expansion of infrastructure such as roads and settlements, and agricultural activity related to semi-permanent crops. However, these causes are the result of interaction with other, mainly indirect causes, which have influence at different scales. It is highlighted that cultural factors, especially corruption, have the most active influence on the network, followed by institutional and political factors such as lack of governance tools, lack of inter-sectoral articulation and limited public budget, among others. Furthermore, it is observed that commercial agricultural activities, such as annual and semi-permanent crops, are not only closely linked to income generation, but are also affected by institutional and political factors that promote their expansion or the reduction of their extension. In other words, the areas devoted to these activities fluctuate due to institutional and political factors, as well as technological developments specifically related to technical assistance.

The research is based on two methodologies: DriveNet and deforestation archetype analysis. The DriveNet Methodology, developed by CIFOR-ICRAF, combines a participatory multi-stakeholder approach with elements of progressive contextualisation and network metrics analysis to generate a systemic analysis of the causes of deforestation and identify the interactions that lead actors to make decisions that impact on the processes of deforestation and forest degradation in the Peruvian Amazon.

Archetype analysis seeks to understand local trends in forest loss by finding general patterns in different cases of deforestation, and with the aim of helping policy makers determine what kind of strategies might work best in certain situations, and why.

“This novel study is based on the integration of results from archetype analysis and DriveNet to analyse the influence of road infrastructure on land use dynamics shaping deforestation frontiers in the Peruvian Amazon,” explains Valentina Robiglio, senior land use systems scientist and lead agroforestry scientist for Peru and Latin America at CIFOR-ICRAF.

The preliminary results of the study were recently validated in a workshop with experts from the National Service of Natural Areas Protected by the State (SERNANP), the Peruvian Society of Environmental Law (SPDA), the National Forestry and Wildlife Service (SERFOR), the ProPurús Association, Re:wild and GRADE.  Based on the feedback and contributions, the recommendations of the study are planned to be finalized soon.

“The study will be useful for those interested in understanding the dynamics within deforestation frontiers and the role of transport infrastructure along with other contextual factors in their spatial configuration, and for entities in charge of designing interventions to reduce the impact of transport infrastructure on deforestation processes, said Martín Reyes, research associate at CIFOR-ICRAF and researcher of the study.

For more information please contact: Martín Reyes, researcher at CIFOR-ICRAF (

The study is part of a larger project led by GRADE entitled “Towards sustainable infrastructure in the Peruvian Amazon” funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

This article is also available in [Spanish]

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Topic(s) :   Deforestation