The Immediate Impact of the Colombian Peace Agreement on Forest Conversion

Authors: Paulo Murillo*, Geography and Geospatial Science, College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA, Kristina Van Dexter, Department of Environmental Science & Policy, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA, Jamon Van Den Hoek, Geography and Geospatial Science, College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA, Robert Kennedy, Geography and Geospatial Science, College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
Topics: Latin America, Remote Sensing, Qualitative Research
Keywords: armed conflict, peace, forest, remote sensing, ethnography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Coolidge, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


After decades of conflict, Colombia recently achieved a relative cease-fire after a series of peace agreements culminating in the agreement with the main rebel group (FARC) in November 2016. The agreement has implications not only for the social, political and economic spheres, but also for the forests that harbor biodiversity and provide ecosystem services. We hypothesized that Colombia is not living in a post-conflict era; rather, it is experiencing a “violence syndrome” that stipulates new laws and policies that will likely produce a new forest disturbance regime. We thus sought to elucidate the short-term effect of the peace agreement on forest lands and the underlying motivations of change. We combined a near-real-time disturbance detection algorithm using satellite imagery with ethnographic data collected in three conflict-affected settlements – Puerto Guzman, Puerto Asis and Puerto Leguizamo. We found that forest disturbance increased, especially during 2017 and 2018. The absence of FARC, as well as the introduction of recent agrarian policies, have triggered land speculation incited by expectations of land titling. This has led to widespread land grabbing, forest conversion to pasture, extensive cattle ranching, and increasing coca cultivation. New and dissident illegal groups associated with drug mafias are emerging in this region, undermining agricultural practices of local farmers (campesinos). These findings suggest a disjunction between that the short-term societal implications of the most recent peace agreement and the long-term preservation of pristine forest.

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