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

Jonah Busch, Climate Economics Fellow, Conservation International

Nov 15 2021 | 11:00am to 12:00pm PT Bren Hall 1414 / Online

Headshot of Jonah Busch
Jonah Busch



Dr. Busch will be presenting in person at Bren. Join us in Bren Hall 1414 (masks required) or join online using this link and passcode forest


This article updates our previous comprehensive meta-analysis on 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 316 spatially explicit econometric studies published in peer-reviewed academic journals from 1996-2019, and introduces reforestation and forest degradation as new dependent variables alongside deforestation.  Deforestation is consistently associated with accessibility (as influenced by natural features such as slope and elevation, and built infrastructure such as roads, cities, and cleared areas) and with economic returns (from agriculture, livestock, and timber). Some demographic variables are consistently associated with less deforestation (e.g., Indigenous people, poverty, age) or more deforestation (e.g., population), while others are not (e.g., education, 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, 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, land tenure security). Greater population is consistently associated with more forest degradation, while steeper slope, greater distance from cities, and lower population are consistently associated with more reforestation.


Dr. Jonah Busch is a Climate Economics Fellow at Conservation International. He is an environmental economist who has published more than thirty-five scientific articles on climate, forests, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable development. He is the co-author of the book Why Forests? Why Now? The Science, Economics, and Politics of Tropical Forests and Climate Change. He has also published on the economics of penguins, pandas, and surfers. Busch has advised numerous governments and institutions on the design of climate and forest finance mechanisms. He holds a PhD from University of California, Santa Barbara (Economics and Environmental Science, 2008).

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