Daniel C. Nepstad, Ph.D.


Daniel C. Nepstad, Ph.D.
Daniel Nepstad
Chief Program Officer
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
Environmental Conservation Programs
Award year


Project Details

Nepstad used his fellowship to understand and reduce the incidence of fire in the Amazonian region and to develop a fire prevention course and curriculum for agricultural communities. He conducted research and advanced a policy dialogue that has moved Brazil closer to a scientifically-based, politically-feasible approach to the reduction of unwanted fires in Amazonia.

Part of the initiative included the development of a fire risk prediction model for the forests of Amazonia. Forested areas needing fire break protection during the burning season have been identified by generating maps of forests that are susceptible to ground fire using rainfall, soil texture, and measurements of fuel-load and fuel dry-down rates. Continued development of this model is now supported with additional funds from the U.S. National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Nepstad and his colleagues also discovered a promising approach to the reduction of fires in the Del Rei farm community in northeastern Amazonia. They established a community fire ordinance that requires community members to circumscribe their burns with fire breaks, to advise their neighbors of burn dates, to use back burns, and that prohibits burning upwind of the highly-flammable cattle pastures. Farmers whose fires escape into neighboring farms must pay for damages, as assessed by a community council. The Brazilian government is now multiplying the success of the Del Rei experience by requiring communities that receive agricultural loans to demonstrate that they have developed and implemented a fire ordinance. Other farming communities have also independently adopted similar fire management programs.


Daniel Nepstad works to empower the civil society of Amazonia to understand, defend, and sustainably manage their natural resources. His long-term goal is to build a collaborative program with Amazonian institutions to help organizations of farmers and forest residents implement sustainable forest utilization and management. Nepstad is assessing the ecological impacts of land use in the Brazilian Amazon and developing strategies for reversing these impacts through restoration of forest cover and agricultural productivity on degraded land. He is also analyzing the importance of deep-rooting in Amazonian forests and the changes in deep-soil processes, such as carbon storage and water uptake, that accompany different land uses. Prior to joining the Woods Hole Research Center, Nepstad worked with the National Wildlife Federation's International Program in Washington, D.C.


Woods Hole Research Center



Ph.D., Yale University
1989: Forest Ecology, Connecticut, USA

Master of Science, Michigan State University
1988: Botany, Michigan, USA

Bachelor of Arts, Kalamazoo College
1979: Biology, Michigan, USA


National Aeronautics and Space Administration
1990-Present: Principal Investigator

National Science Foundation
1990-Present: Principal Investigator on two grants

U.S. Agency for International Development
1990-Present: Principal Investigator


Marine Fellow
1994: Pew Fellows Program in Conservation and the Environment

Award in Tropical Botany
Women's Garden Clubs of America

Sterling Award
Yale Graduate School


National Wildlife Federation
International Program


  • Nepstad, D.C., A. Verissimo, A. Alencar, C. Nobre, E. Lima, P. Lefebvre, P. Schlesinger, C. Potter, P. Moutnho, E. Mendoza, M. Cochrane and V. Brooks. 1999. Large scale impoverishment of Amazonian forests by logging and fire. Nature 398:505-508
  • De Oliveira Carvalheiro, K. and D.C. Nepstad. 1996. Deep soil heterogeneity and fine root distribution in forests and pastures of eastern Amazonia. Plant and Soil 182(2): 279
  • Nepstad, D. C., C. Uhl and J.M.C.da Silva. 1996. A comparative study of tree establishment in abandoned pasture and mature forest of eastern Amazonia. Oikos 76(1): 25
  • Nepstad, D. 1994. Traditional uses of neotropical forests. Ecology 75:265-266
  • Nepstad, D. et al. 1994. Regulamento de Queimadas na Colonia Del Rey. Raragominas, Para, Brazil
  • Nepstad, D.C., C.R. de Carvalho and S. Vieira. 1994. The role of deep roots in the hydrological and carbon cycles of Amazonian forests and pastures. Nature 372(6507): 666
  • Brown, I.F., D. Nepstad, I. Pires, L. Luz and A. Alechandre. 1993. Carbon storage and land use in an extractive reserve: Serengal Porongaba, Acre, Brazil. Environmental Conservation 19:307-315
  • Moutinho, P, D.Nepstad, C.Uhl and K. Araujo. 1993. As formigase a recuperacao da floresta Amazonica. (Ants and the recuperation of Amazon forests.). Ciencia Hoje 88:59-60
  • Nepstad D. et al. 1993. Deforestation effects on water and carbon cycles in the Amazon Basin: The role of deep roots. Science

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