Fires in protected areas reveal unforeseen costs of Colombian peace


Armed conflict, and its end, can have powerful effects on natural resources, but the influence of war and peace on highly biodiverse tropical forests remains disputed. We found a sixfold increase in fires in protected areas across biodiversity hotspots following guerrilla demobilization in Colombia, and a 52% increase in the probability of per-pixel deforestation within parks for 2018. Peace requires urgent shifts to include real-time forest monitoring, expand programmes to pay for ecosystem services at the frontier, integrate demobilized armed groups as staff of protected areas, and establish a domestic market for frontier deforestation permits.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Fire occurrence in Colombia.
Fig. 2: Modelled probability and recorded deforestation.

Data availability

Data associated with this paper have been deposited in the Dryad digital repository at


  1. 1.

    Baptiste, B. et al. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 1, 0102 (2017).

  2. 2.

    Acuerdo Final Para la Terminación del Conflicto y la Construcción de Una Paz Estable y Duradera (Government of Colombia, 2016);

  3. 3.

    Clerici, N. et al. Science 354, 190–191 (2016).

  4. 4.

    Álvarez, M. D. J. Sustain. For. 16, 47–68 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Álvarez, M. D. Environmentalist 21, 305–315 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Hanson, T. et al. Conserv. Biol. 23, 578–587 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Baumann, M. & Kuemmerle, T. J. Land Use Sci. 11, 672–688 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Daskin, J. H. & Pringle, R. M. Nature 553, 328–332 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    McNeely, J. A. Oryx 37, 142–152 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Walter, B. F. Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 20, 469–486 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Armenteras, D., Espelta, J. M., Rodríguez, N. & Retana, J. Glob. Environ. Change 46, 139–147 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Armenteras, D., Barreto, J. S., Tabor, K., Molowny-Horas, R. & Retana, J. Biogeosciences 14, 2755–2765 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Aragão, L. E. O. et al. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 363, 1779–1785 (2008).

  14. 14.

    Armenteras, D., Gibbes, C., Anaya, J. A. & Dávalos, L. M. Ecol. Appl. 27, 1294–1304 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Cochrane, M. A. & Barber, C. P. Glob. Change Biol. 15, 601–612 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Cochrane, M. A. Nature 421, 913–919 (2003).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Armenteras, D., Gibbes, C., Anaya, J. A. & Dávalos, L. M. Ecol. Appl. 27, 1294–1304 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Hansen, M. C. et al. Science 342, 850–853 (2013).

  19. 19.

    Aragão, L. E. O. C. & Shimabukuro, Y. E. Science 328, 1275–1278 (2010).

  20. 20.

    Dávalos, L. M., Holmes, J. S., Rodríguez, N. & Armenteras, D. Biol. Conserv. 170, 64–73 (2014).

  21. 21.

    Borras, S. M., Franco, J. C., Gómez, S., Kay, C. & Spoor, M. J. Peasant Stud. 39, 845–872 (2012).

  22. 22.

    Salgar, A. M. H. & Cárdenas, L. M. M. in The 21st Century Fight for the Amazon (ed. Ungar, M.) 115–130 (Springer, Cham, 2018).

  23. 23.

    Graesser, J., Aide, T. M., Grau, H. R. & Ramankutty, N. Environ. Res. Lett. 10, 034017 (2015).

  24. 24.

    Informe Ejecutivo Sobre el Seguimiento a los Programas de Familias Guardabosques y Proyectos Productivos: Monitoreo, Seguimiento y Evaluación al Desarrollo Alternativo en Colombia (Agencia Presidencial para la Acción Social y la Cooperación Internacional and Oficina de las Naciones Unidas contra la Droga y el Delito, 2013);

  25. 25.

    Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia (Unidad Administrativa Especial del Sistema de Parques Nacionales Naturales, 2018);

  26. 26.

    Wade, L. Science 360, 368–373 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    R Development Core Team R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing (R Foundation for Statistical Computing, 2018).

Download references


D.A. is supported by NAS Subaward Letter number 2000007526. L.S. is a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Biodiversity and Sustainable Development. L.M.D. is supported in part by NSF-DGE 1633299. We acknowledge the use of data and imagery from LANCE FIRMS, operated by the NASA/GSFC/Earth Science Data and Information System, with funding provided by NASA/HQ. We also acknowledge the use of imagery from the Image Collections LANDSAT/LC08/C01/T1_SR and COPERNICUS/S2, accessible through Google Earth Engine. Finally, we thank S. Barreto for his technical assistance with Google Earth Engine and J. Balch for her comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Author information




D.A. contributed to the conceptualization, methodology, data collection, spatial and statistical analyses. L.S. contributed to the conceptualization. L.M.D. contributed to the statistical analyses and policy recommendations. All authors wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dolors Armenteras.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Text, Figure and Tables

Reporting Summary

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Armenteras, D., Schneider, L. & Dávalos, L.M. Fires in protected areas reveal unforeseen costs of Colombian peace. Nat Ecol Evol 3, 20–23 (2019).

Download citation

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing