Journal article Open Access

Agricultural land use dynamics in the Brazilian Amazon based on remote sensing and census data

Espindola, Giovana; Aguiar, Ana; Pebesma, Edzer; Camara, Gilberto; Fonseca, Leila

The potential impact of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon on greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere calls for policies that take account of changes in forest cover. Although much research has focused on the location and effects of deforestation, little is known about the distribution and reasons for the agricultural uses that replace forest cover. We used Landsat TM-based deforestation and agricultural census data to generate maps of the distribution and proportion of four major agricultural land uses throughout the Brazilian Amazon in 1997 and 2007. We built linear and spatial regression models to assess the determinant factors of deforestation and those major agricultural land uses – pasture, temporary agriculture and permanent agriculture – for the states of Pará, Rondônia, and Mato Grosso. The data include 30 determinant factors that were grouped into two years (1996 and 2006) and in four categories: accessibility to markets, public policies, agrarian structure, and environment. We found an overall expansion of the total agricultural area between 1997 and 2007, and notable differences between the states of Pará, Rondônia, and Mato Grosso in land use changes during this period. Regression models for deforestation and pasture indicated that determinant factors such as distance to roads were more influential in 1997 than in 2007. The number of settled families played an important role in the deforestation and pasture, the effect was stronger in 2007 than 1997. Indigenous lands were significant in preventing deforestation in high-pressure areas in 2007. For temporary and permanent agricultures, our results show that in 1997 the effect of small farms was stronger than in 2007. The mapped land use time series and the models explain empirically the effects of land use changes across the region over one decade.

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