Forests in the Time of Violence: Conservation Implications of the Colombian War

Forests in the Time of Violence: Conservation Implications of the Colombian War


While there has been extensive attention paid to the social, economic, and political effects of the decades of conflict in Colombia, there has been limited research that seeks to understand the environmental side. This is critical since Colombia ranks among a select few "megadiversity" countries in the world. This article aims to remedy this issue through analyzing the geographic distribution of forest remnants in the Colombian Amazon, Andes, and Chocó in relation to the armed conflict in country. 

Goals & Methods

The paper has two main objectives. The first one is to estimate the proportin of forests in municipalities where guerrilla and paramilitary activies may have impacted individual's resources and the second is to identify potential effects of armed conflict on deforestation and forest conservation within these municipalities. The authors use data on forest cover and forest types along with ranges of guerrillas, paramilitaries, drug crops, and land purchases from previous studies. Moreover, management policies of guerrilla groups were obtained through conversations with local civilians. 

Conclusions & Takeaways

The paper found that guerrilla and paramilitary activities occurred in various regions, ranging from human encroachment to remnant forests and that management also ranged from "gunpoint conservation" to rapid land-cover conversion. The paper concludes with recommendations for future conservation efforts in this region, including incentives for intensive agriculture, elimination of herbicide on coca and poppy plots, and enforcing conservation by international and national environmental agencies. 



Álvarez MD. Forests in the Time of Violence. Journal of Sustainable Forestry. 2003;16:47–68. doi:10.1300/j091v16n03_03.


  • Columbia University, New York, NY, USA