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      Cropland expansion changes deforestation dynamics in the southern Brazilian Amazon

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          Abstract

          Intensive mechanized agriculture in the Brazilian Amazon grew by >3.6 million hectares (ha) during 2001-2004. Whether this cropland expansion resulted from intensified use of land previously cleared for cattle ranching or new deforestation has not been quantified and has major implications for future deforestation dynamics, carbon fluxes, forest fragmentation, and other ecosystem services. We combine deforestation maps, field surveys, and satellite-based information on vegetation phenology to characterize the fate of large (>25-ha) clearings as cropland, cattle pasture, or regrowing forest in the years after initial clearing in Mato Grosso, the Brazilian state with the highest deforestation rate and soybean production since 2001. Statewide, direct conversion of forest to cropland totaled >540,000 ha during 2001-2004, peaking at 23% of 2003 annual deforestation. Cropland deforestation averaged twice the size of clearings for pasture (mean sizes, 333 and 143 ha, respectively), and conversion occurred rapidly; >90% of clearings for cropland were planted in the first year after deforestation. Area deforested for cropland and mean annual soybean price in the year of forest clearing were directly correlated (R(2) = 0.72), suggesting that deforestation rates could return to higher levels seen in 2003-2004 with a rebound of crop prices in international markets. Pasture remains the dominant land use after forest clearing in Mato Grosso, but the growing importance of larger and faster conversion of forest to cropland defines a new paradigm of forest loss in Amazonia and refutes the claim that agricultural intensification does not lead to new deforestation.

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          Farming and the fate of wild nature.

          World food demand is expected to more than double by 2050. Decisions about how to meet this challenge will have profound effects on wild species and habitats. We show that farming is already the greatest extinction threat to birds (the best known taxon), and its adverse impacts look set to increase, especially in developing countries. Two competing solutions have been proposed: wildlife-friendly farming (which boosts densities of wild populations on farmland but may decrease agricultural yields) and land sparing (which minimizes demand for farmland by increasing yield). We present a model that identifies how to resolve the trade-off between these approaches. This shows that the best type of farming for species persistence depends on the demand for agricultural products and on how the population densities of different species on farmland change with agricultural yield. Empirical data on such density-yield functions are sparse, but evidence from a range of taxa in developing countries suggests that high-yield farming may allow more species to persist.
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            Tropical deforestation and habitat fragmentation in the Amazon: satellite data from 1978 to 1988.

            Landsat satellite imagery covering the entire forested portion of the Brazilian Amazon Basin was used to measure, for 1978 and 1988, deforestation, fragmented forest, defined as areas less than 100 square kilometers surrounded by deforestation, and edge effects of 1 kilometer into forest from adjacent areas of deforestation. Tropical deforestation increased from 78,000 square kilometers in 1978 to 230,000 square kilometers in 1988 while tropical forest habitat, severely affected with respect to biological diversity, increased from 208,000 to 588,000 square kilometers. Although this rate of deforestation is lower than previous estimates, the effect on biological diversity is greater.
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              Modelling conservation in the Amazon basin.

              Expansion of the cattle and soy industries in the Amazon basin has increased deforestation rates and will soon push all-weather highways into the region's core. In the face of this growing pressure, a comprehensive conservation strategy for the Amazon basin should protect its watersheds, the full range of species and ecosystem diversity, and the stability of regional climates. Here we report that protected areas in the Amazon basin--the central feature of prevailing conservation approaches--are an important but insufficient component of this strategy, based on policy-sensitive simulations of future deforestation. By 2050, current trends in agricultural expansion will eliminate a total of 40% of Amazon forests, including at least two-thirds of the forest cover of six major watersheds and 12 ecoregions, releasing 32 +/- 8 Pg of carbon to the atmosphere. One-quarter of the 382 mammalian species examined will lose more than 40% of the forest within their Amazon ranges. Although an expanded and enforced network of protected areas could avoid as much as one-third of this projected forest loss, conservation on private lands is also essential. Expanding market pressures for sound land management and prevention of forest clearing on lands unsuitable for agriculture are critical ingredients of a strategy for comprehensive conservation.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                September 26 2006
                September 26 2006
                September 14 2006
                September 26 2006
                : 103
                : 39
                : 14637-14641
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.0606377103
                1600012
                16973742
                d0c88f0a-f8f2-4ad9-bb31-ccbbe2a85bd5
                © 2006
                Product
                Self URI (article page): http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0606377103

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