The Deforestation of the Amazon
A Case Study in Understanding Ecosystems and Their Value
Department of Biology
In this case study, students examine tropical deforestation in the Amazon from the perspective of three dominant stakeholders in the region: a peasant farmer, logger, and environmentalist. As part of the exercise, students perform a cost-benefit analysis of clearing a plot of tropical forest in the Amazon from the perspective of one of these stakeholder groups. Developed for a course in global change biology, this case could also be used in courses in general ecology, environmental science, environmental ethics, environmental policy, and environmental/ecological economics.
- Understand the political, cultural, and economic history leading to tropical deforestation in Amazonia. Understand issues facing the major stakeholders in the Amazon.
- Understand the concern for such a large loss in biodiversity.
- Understand the concepts of market and non-market valuation of ecosystems, benefit-cost analysis, and opportunity cost.
- Perform a cost-benefit analysis of clearing a plot of tropical forest in the Amazon, from the perspective of a peasant farmer, logger, and environmentalist.
- Critically evaluate economic vs. ethical valuation of ecosystems.
- Appreciate the political, social, economic, and ecological complexity of tropical deforestation.
- Appreciate how difficult decisions must me made in the face of limited or nonexistent data.
KeywordsDeforestation; Amazon; tropical forest; rainforest; ecosystem; biodiversity; bioprospecting; ecotourism; ecological economics; cost-benefit analysis; tropics; developing world; South America
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Type MethodsAnalysis (Issues), Role-Play
Subject HeadingsEnvironmental Science Ecology Economics Business / Management Science Forestry Botany / Plant Science Agriculture
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