Effects of deforestation and forest degradation on ecosystem service indicators across the Southwestern Amazon




The Southwestern Amazon (SWA) is home to one of the Earth́s remaining intact ecosystems and a key provider of continental atmospheric moisture flows. However, the integrity of this region is threatened by global changes in climate and local to regional changes in land-use and land-cover. Here, unlike most Amazonia-land-change research which has focused primarily on deforestation, we evaluated the effects of both deforestation and forest degradation on three Ecosystem Service Indicators (ESIs) – evapotranspiration (ET), land surface temperature (LST), and precipitation (P) – at the local and watershed scale across the SWA between 2003 and 2020. We computed annual and monthly ESI differences over distinct forest conditions and buffers around disturbed areas (degraded or deforested). We also determined the influence of forest disturbance trends on ESI trends at the pixel and watershed level through a Partial Mann-Kendall approach. The results show that ESI differences among different forest conditions are statistically-significant and more pronounced during the dry season. In comparison with intact forest, monthly P rates were up to 25 % lower over any type of disturbance; whereas ET rates were up to 15 % and 48 % lower, and LST rates up to 1.6 °C and 4.4 °C higher, over degraded and deforested areas, respectively. ET and LST edge effects were only significant within buffers around some of the most heavily disturbed areas. At the pixel scale, negative trends in ET and positive trends in both LST and P were more frequently explained by forest disturbances as these trends themselves become more pronounced. ET and LST trends determined by disturbances were generally located near roads, rivers, and human settlements; and surprisingly, we found that degradation more often influences these trends than deforestation, which we attribute to the practice of converting deforested areas into crops whose growing season ET and LST rates are similar to those in natural vegetation. At the watershed scale, the analysis suggested that the climate implications of degradation and deforestation have not scaled up to this level yet; however, literature has shown that even the local impacts we report here can have important implications for areas outside of the SWA, which emphasizes the importance of continuing to conserve this remote region.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publisher Statement

© 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.