Much of the literature on common-pool resources has focused on elucidating the social mechanisms and local institutions that lead to the regulation of common-pool resources. There is much less information about how management regimes translate into environmental impacts or how environmental impacts influence the emergence of management decisions. We use quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate the link between forest condition, agricultural change and the emergence of common-pool resource management regimes in two indigenous Kichwa communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon. We show that forest condition is linked to agricultural production and that the perception of common-pool resource scarcity influences the emergence of management regimes. We argue that population pressure, market forces and resource scarcity, which are usually associated with measures of agricultural change can also promote the emergence of common-pool resource management regimes. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.