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Dr Rachel Carmenta

Research Interests

My research interest focuses on the performance of environmental policy in the forested tropics of the global south. My entry point in this area has been through analysis of human-fire interactions and forest governance, particularly in rural marginalized communities of the Brazilian Amazon and more recently in the dynamic carbon-dense frontier of Indonesia's peatlands.

My most recent research explored the governance challenges related to sustainable management of peatland forest landscapes in Sumatra, Indonesia. I approached this through generating an improved understanding of the perceptions and discourses of diverse stakeholders (e.g. from farmers to National and International policy makers) in the governance arena. Research at the site level gave additional insights in to the performance of interventions. Socio-economic determinants of land management decisions complement a set of potential cultural determinants, namely place-based value data, to explain divergent performance. Using QCA, village level (e.g. connectivity, land use cover) remote data was analysed with proximate data to identify the configuration of conditions (proximate and remote) that create outcomes through multiple-causation.

Previously I focused my academic energy on improving the knowledge base regarding the performance of sustainable use reserves in the context of fire management in the Brazilian Amazon. I used multiple geographic scales of analysis - from large scale, Amazon wide, to micro-scale (household level) and appropriate methodologies (from earth observation to ethnography) to quantify the impact of reserve establishment on fire densities, and to quantify and explain the performance of fire management policy. I have worked with a global comparative research team to understand the equity, effectiveness and efficiency of REDD+, specifically focusing at the national policy level, using policy network analysis.

Currently, I am working in an interdepartmental research group with Dr. Bhaskar Vira, Prof. Andrew Balmford and Prof. David Coomes at the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute. The goal of this new research project is to test the emerging idea that if they are to be equitable and effective, efforts to safeguard (or restore) tropical forests must be linked to compensatory increases in agricultural outputs outside of forests.

Other Professional Activities

  • Member, Regent House, University of Cambridge
  • Vice Chair, Peatlands and Society Commission, International Peatlands Society.
  • Governing Body Fellow, Wolfson College
  • Senior treasurer, The Cambridge Indonesia Association
  • Member, Cambridge Conservation Forum

Key Publications

  • Carmenta, R., Coudel, E; Steward, A. (2018) Forbidden Fire: Does criminalizing fire hinder conservation efforts in swidden landscapes of the Brazilian Amazon? Geographical Journal. https://doi.org/10.1111/geoj.12255
  • Carmenta, R., Zabala, A., Daeli, W, Phelps, J. (2017). Perceptions across scales of governance and the Indonesian peatland fires. Global Environmental Change. doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2017.08.001
  • Gebara, M. F., May, P. H., Carmenta, R., Calixto, B.,Brockhaus, M., Gregorio, M. D. (2017). Framing REDD+ in the Brazilian national media: how discourses evolved amid global negotiation uncertainties. Climatic Change. doi:10.1007/s10584-017-1896-1. Selected for "Research Highights" paper with Nature Climate Change
  • Wijedasa, L. S., Jauhiainen, J., Könönen, M., Lampela, M., Vasander, H., LeBlanc, M. C., ...Carmenta, R, ... & Lupascu, M. (2016). Denial of long-term issues with agriculture on tropical peatlands will have devastating consequences. Global Change Biology. doi:10.1111/gcb.13516
  • Gaveau, D; Pirard, R, Salim, M; Prayoto, T, Yaen, H; Parks, S; Carmenta, R., (2016). Overlapping land claims limit the use of satellites to monitor No-Deforestation commitments and No-Burning compliance. Conservation Letters. doi:10.1111/conl.12256
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