Deforestation and forest degradation in Peru are critical concerns [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9] as they threaten the country’s enormous biodiversity and are among the major sources of GHG emissions, contributing to over 36% of the country’s total emissions in 2014.

Peru is the 9th most forested country in the world and holds the third largest extent of tropical rainforests, after Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The total extent of natural forests was estimated at 70,657,944 ha (54.9% of the country’s territory) as of 2020 [10], comprised of the Amazonian tropical forests (96.3%), the dry forests of the Costa region (3.36%), and relict Andean forests (0.34%). In addition, some 3,292 ha of mangroves were estimated to still remain in 2016. These forests are among the richest in the world, in terms of both biological diversity and natural resources (timber, energy, and mineral resources). Parts of the Amazonian tropical forest are also inhabited by indigenous communities (15,389,576 ha, as of 2020) or included in protected areas (18,790,396 ha, as of 2020).

Amazonian forests are the most heavily affected by deforestation in Peru. Forest extent and loss in the Amazonian tropical forests are systematically monitored by the Ministry of Environment's (MINAM) Forest cover change monitoring platform [10]. Some 2,636,585 ha of Amazonian tropical forests are estimated to have been lost from 2000 (when total coverage should have been 70,707,472 ha) to 2020 (68,070,889 ha), with a net loss of 131,829 ha per year on average — but increasing over the last decade. Four departments (Loreto, Uyacali, San Martín, and Huánuco) concentrated over 66% of such losses. Unclassified forests under no management scheme or jurisdictional authority were the most heavily affected (37% of the cumulative 2000–2021 loss), followed by forests in indigenous communities’ lands (18.3%). 3.4% of the cumulative 2001–2020 loss occurred in protected areas.

Changes over time in the coverage of other forest and vegetation types are systematically monitored (since 2004, using other, lower resolution methods) by MINAM in collaboration with Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical, through the Terra-i Perú system. Some 1,683 ha of relict Andean forests and 33,685 ha of dry forests were estimated to have been lost from 2004 to 2021. In addition, some 314 ha of mangrove swamps were lost between 1996 and 2016 [6].

Forest degradation has not yet been properly evaluated but it is believed to be mainly caused by illegal selective logging and forest fires.

Most logging in Peru is thought to be illegal; it is particularly acute in Amazonian forests (where the most valuable tree species, such as mahogany, grow), in the Loreto, Ucayali, and Madre de Dios departments, and takes place even within protected areas. Over 221,000 m3 of timber (amounting to 15% of the country’s total production) was thought to have been illegally extracted in 2005, but the volume has greatly increased over the last decade. Over 1,630,000 m3 of timber was estimated to have been illegally extracted from Loreto, 330,418 m3 from Uyacali, and 307,378 m3 from Madre de Dios between 2009 and 2018.

The incidence and impact of forest fires has increased rapidly over recent years. Forest fires are most frequently triggered by the use of fire to clear the land for agriculture or to promote regrowth of grass for livestock ranching; in dry conditions, these fires can burn out of control and spread into the forest. Over 500 forest fires were recorded every year between 2018 and 2020, and over 20 thousand hectares were burnt every year between 2013 and 2017 [11].


Deforestation in Peru is heavily concentrated in the Peruvian Amazon. The major direct causes of deforestation in this region include the expansion of small-scale agriculture and livestock ranching, as well as commercial and artisanal mining. There is also an increasing impact from oil and gas operations, infrastructure development (particularly road construction), and commercial agriculture (mainly palm oil plantations). Indirect factors include land-tenure uncertainty and lack of property rights, lack of land-use planning, low market value of forested land, conflicts between economic development and conservation policies, population migration, and insufficient governance [1], [2], [3], [4], [8], [10].

Most forest losses (> 60%) in the Peruvian Amazon occur in small segments no larger than 5 ha each. Agricultural and pasture lands in this region increased from 2,504,049 ha in the year 2000 to 3,590,983 ha in 2016. Most deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon is thus attributed to conversion of forest lands —via slash-and-burn methods— to farming and livestock uses by small-scale producers in small areas (<5ha) near roads. Their use of poor farming techniques rapidly causes loss of fertility and low productivity, leading to migratory agriculture.

Population migration, the low market value of forested land compared to other land uses, the lack of a rural cadastre and the ensuing uncertainty regarding land rights together with the lack of land-use planning schemes are major indirect drivers of this process. About 27% of the Amazon forests lack a recognized legal status and are not subject to granted rights, which limits the possibilities for legal and sustainable use. There has been limited institutional capacity to halt deforestation in remote parts of the region. 

Amazon forests hold deposits of alluvial gold that are pursued by large-scale operators and artisanal, small-scale miners, including three big gold mines as well as an unknown but large number of artisanal, small-scale mining operations particularly in the Madre de Dios department. Both large-scale and artisanal operations involve clearing the forest and opening mining roads and, indirectly, encourage the formation of human settlements that put additional pressure on forests for building material, fuelwood, and agricultural land. The coverage of mining areas in the Peruvian Amazon increased from 12,087 ha in the year 2000 to 57,222 ha in 2016. Some 2,0192 ha of forested land are estimated to have been converted into mining areas from 2000 to 2005; 16,916 ha from 2005 to 2011; 5,824 ha from 2011 to 2013; and 12,197ha from 2013 to 2016.

The Peruvian government has granted large energy concessions in ecologically-sensitive areas including a 2005 deal with China National Petroleum Corporation, which encompasses 1.5 million ha of mostly forested land in the Madre de Dios department. The Interoceanic Highway — a 2,623 km paved road joining the ports of Matarini, Ilo, and San Juan on the Peruvian coast to a highway in Brazil — was completed in 2011 and has opened access to formerly isolated forested regions, particularly in the Madre de Dios department. The improved road might likely incite migration from other parts of Peru, colonization, and the ensuing increase in deforestation and logging.

In the 1980s and 1990s extensive areas in the Andean foothills were cleared for coca plantations. Eradication efforts by the government reduced the area under cultivation from 115,300 ha in 1995 to 31,150 ha in 2003. However, this has increased lately, with some 88,200 ha estimated in 2020. Oil palm cultivation is also expanding in the region. As of 2020, over 90,000 ha were estimated to be cultivated with oil palm, particularly in the San Martín, Uyacali, Loreto, and Huánuco departments.  

Deforestation of the dry forests of the Costa region is mostly due to the conversion of forest lands for agricultural purposes and timber exploitation.


Key policies and governance approach

Several efforts have been made recently or are ongoing to construct and implement a much-needed policy and regulatory framework for Peru’s forestry sector.

Overall policy guidelines for the forestry sector are set by the 2013 National Policy on Forestry and Wildlife [12]. The policy aims to contribute to the country’s sustainable development by properly managing its forestry and wildlife heritage, ensuring its sustainable use, conservation, protection, and expansion, in harmony with the country’s social, cultural, economic, and environmental interests. Planning instruments to attain the policy’s objectives related to deforestation and forest conservation include the 2016 National Strategy on Forests and Climate Change [13]. This strategy actually embodies Peru’s national REDD+ strategy and aims to articulate the efforts of the country’s relevant public and private sectors to comprehensively reduce deforestation and GHG emissions from the forestry sector, and to turn the country’s forests into an engine of sustainable development, with a long-term view (as of 2030). The policy includes two specific objectives: Reduce GHG emissions from the LULUC (Land use and land-use changes) sector in a competitive, sustainable, equitable, and inclusive manner, and reduce the vulnerability to climate change of the country’s forests and forest-dwelling populations.

The National Forestry and Wildlife Service (SERFOR) is the country’s top technical-regulatory authority on forest resources and wildlife. It is responsible for guiding the management, and promoting sustainability and competitiveness of the forestry and wildlife sector. The National System for Forestry and Wildlife Management (SINAFOR) aims to articulate and coordinate the efforts of the various government entities with competence on forests and wildlife management. Participation of the private sector and civil society into forests and wildlife management is ensured by the local-level Committees for Forestry and Wildlife Management.

The principal regulatory instrument is the new 2011 Forestry and Wildlife Act [14]. The act governs the sustainable use and conservation of forest resources and wildlife, and provides the legal framework for regulating, promoting, and overseeing all forestry and wildlife interventions in the country. The act also sets standards, regulations, and guidelines for the sustainable exploitation of timber and non-timber resources, as a means to achieve integrated forest management.

The Amazon basin is shared by eight countries (French Guiana, Colombia, Perú, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Surinam, Guyana, and Venezuela); only 10% of the basin falls under Peru’s jurisdiction. Addressing environmental and natural resource issues in the region thus necessarily requires coordinated efforts by and cooperation between all the countries involved. The 2019 Leticia Pact for the Amazon is the major, most recent, high-level instrument of regional cooperation for the conservation and sustainable development of the Amazon basin. The Pact was signed by seven countries (Colombia, Perú, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Surinam, and Guyana). One of its main objectives is strengthening regional actions to address challenges such as deforestation, selective logging, and illegal mining in the region.



Deforestation in Peru, particularly in the Peruvian Amazon, keeps increasing. As pointed out by some recent assessments [1], [2], [3], despite the efforts described above, little concrete progress has been attained in halting or reducing deforestation and regulating its driving forces. Limited institutional capacities, the inaccessibility and extent of priority forested areas, together with land tenure uncertainty, have hampered the implementation of existent policies and the enforcement of regulatory instruments.


Initiatives and Development Plans

Initiated in 2010, the National Programme for Forest Conservation for Mitigating Climate Change (PNCBMCC) aims to protect the country’s tropical forests to mitigate climate change and contribute to the country’s sustainable development. Its goal is to protect ten million hectares of forest by 2030, benefitting 1,000 indigenous and farming communities, and small-holder producers, The programme targets forests in the Amazonas, Ucayali, Loreto, San Martín, Madre de Dios, Cusco, Pasco, Junín, and Huánuco departments in the Amazon region, as well as in the Piura, Tumbes, and Lambayeque departments on the North Coast.

Peru began participating in the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) process in 2008, when it submitted an Idea Note for the REDD+ Preparedness Plan. Preparation for REDD+ activities began in 2014. Peru submitted an Emissions Reduction Program Idea Note to the FCPF Carbon Fund in 2014. Currently, REDD+ preparedness activities are ongoing. Peru is one of the first eight countries to benefit from the Forest Investment Programme. The Programme is managed by the MINAM and aims to contribute to the national goal of reducing GHG emissions from deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon. In 2019, the PNCBMCC began implementing Phase II of the Support to the Implementation of the National REDD Strategy project with the aim of consolidating the achievements attained in the REDD+ preparation process [9].


Goals and Ambitions

The National Environmental Plan (2011-2021) [7] aims to attain, by 2021, a zero net deforestation rate in 54 million hectares of primary forests by promoting their conservation and sustainable use, and increasing reforestation and forestation actions across the country.

The latest version of Peru’s National Environmental Policy [15] recognizes deforestation and forest degradation among the country’s critical issues and sets the priority objective (OP 2) of reducing deforestation and ecosystem degradation. In particular, it aims at reducing annual forest loss by 6.25% by 2030.


Regulating the driving forces and underlying factors of deforestation seems to be extremely challenging, given the low market value of forested land compared to other uses (e.g., palm oil plantations, mining, infrastructure, etc.) and the recurrent clash between policies aiming to solve pressing issues such as poverty alleviation, job creation, and economic growth and those aiming for forest and biodiversity conservation.