Interactions among Amazon Land Use, Forests and Climate: Prospects for a Near-Term Forest Tipping Point

Interactions among Amazon Land Use, Forests and Climate: Prospects for a Near-Term Forest Tipping Point


This study concerns the interaction of anthropogenic and natural threats on the Amazon forest and considers the possibility of a tipping point in the near future. The authors argue that the interaction of various factors may lead to a large-scale forest dieback, for example a deforestation of about 31% of the Amazon closed-canopy forest formation.

Conclusions & Takeaways

Global markets demand increasing supplies of biofuels and animal rations and thus economically incentivize large scale forest clearing due to a growing profitability of land uses which depend on deforestation. Furthermore, there are positive feedbacks among drought, forest fire and economic activities. Human land use and its expansion in the Amazon forest often induce fire or increase the susceptibility of forests. Forest fragmentation and selective logging further degrade forests and are factors which change the structure of the forest in the long term, potentially turning it into low-stature ecosystems where fires easily ignite and spread. Except from the effect from fires, climate change might reduce the amount of rain in the Amazon. These characteristics that may trigger forest degradations play an increasingly important role in the Amazon forest.  Several suggestions are provided on how to prevent this scenario. First, farmers would have to use fire more cautiously in landscape management. Second, the authors suggest further implication of certification and sustainable land use crediting systems and third, a restriction of agriculture and livestock production in the Amazon forest region. This should be accompanied by the expansion of protection zones and incentives for local people and governments from programs like UN REDD+ to further protect forested areas.




Nepstad DC, Stickler CM, Filho BSoares-, Merry F. Interactions among Amazon land use, forests and climate: prospects for a near-term forest tipping point. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 2008;363:1737–1746. doi:10.1098/rstb.2007.0036.


  • Woods Hole Research Center, 149 Woods Hole Road, Falmouth, MA, USA
  • Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia, Avenida Nazaré, Belém, Paré, Brazil
  • School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL USA
  • Centro de Sensoriamento Remoto, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil