The destruction of the Amazon is a major global environmental issue, not only because of greenhouse gas emissions  or direct impacts on biodiversity and livelihoods, but also due to the forest’s role as a tipping element in the Earth System.

With nearly a fifth of the Amazon already lost, there are already signs of an imminent forest dieback process that risks transforming much of the rainforest into a drier ecosystem, with climatic implications across the globe. There is a large body of literature on the underlying drivers of Amazon deforestation.

However, insufficient attention has been paid to the behavioural and institutional microfoundations of change. Fundamental issues concerning cooperation, as well as the mechanisms facilitating or hampering such actions, can play a much more central role in attempts to unravel and address Amazon deforestation.

The authors of this article thus present the issue of preventing the Amazon biome from crossing a biophysical tipping point as a large-scale collective action problem. Drawing from collective action theory, they apply a novel analytical framework on Amazon conservation, identifying six variables that synthesize relevant collective action stressors and facilitators: information, accountability, harmony of interests, horizontal trust, knowledge about consequences, and sense of responsibility.

Drawing upon literature and data, they assess Amazon deforestation and conservation through their heuristic lens, showing that while growing transparency has made information availability a collective action facilitator, lack of accountability, distrust among actors, and little sense of responsibility for halting deforestation remain key stressors. They finalize by discussing interventions that can help break the gridlock.