Using Fieldwork and Interdisciplinary Research to Draw Lessons for Deforestation Policy

by: Jamison Douglas

Thanks to continued funding from the National Science Foundation, an interdisciplinary team of 25 faculty researchers and students from Salisbury University (SU), North Carolina State University (NCSU), the University of California - Santa Barbara (UCSB) and selected Brazilian universities conducted the fourth round of a household survey of over 600 farmers in the Ouro Preto do Oeste region of Rondônia, Brazil. Spearheaded by Dr. Jill Caviglia-Harris, an SU professor specializing in environmental and natural resource economics who initiated the project in 1996, the 2009 field team employed cutting edge survey technology and modern geospatial mapping techniques to better understand the relationship between land use and socioeconomic welfare in the Amazon. Back in the lab and once the field work was complete, Dar Roberts, a UCSB professor and biogeographer specializing in identifying land cover classes from remote sensing images, processes the ground data collected to better identify what is happening on the ground. Erin Sills, a forest economist from North Carolina State University, brings a wealth of information and experiences to the project through her collaboration with CIFOR (the Center for International Forestry Research) and IMAZON (Instituto do Homen e Meio Ambiente da Amazônia) and related research projects about reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. After nearly fifteen years in the region, the researchers have developed a better understanding of the links between land cover change, government policy and household decision making that together define the overall rate of tropical deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.

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