Fire destruction in the Brazilian Amazon is causing serious negative impacts on the proper functioning of its ecosystems. This is mainly due to its effects on land cover, land use, biodiversity, climate changes and forest ecosystems. Fire is regularly used in the Amazon to deforest and prepare agricultural land and pasture. Due to its low cost, fire is strongly linked to land use patterns adopted in the region. Paradoxically fire itself is also one of the greatest threats to the Amazon ecosystems when, having escaped from human control, it accidentally burns forests, animals and material goods. This paper focuses on human activity in the Brazilian Amazon land use systems as the main source of fire ignition. More specifically, the presented models assess the decision-making process for land use and the implications of fire as a chosen technique as well as how it is seen as a risk to be prevented or not. Agriculture and extensive cattle ranching are the activities to be assessed in the context of household economic, physical and social context, in order to reveal the rationale that lies at the roots of Amazonian household behaviour with respect to fire. Additionally, this paper aims to contribute to regional public policies discussions where intensification is touted as a raison d’aitre. Old frontiers should benefit from government investments in infrastructure, preventing the opening of new frontiers and the expansion of extensive land use practices. An alternative for Amazonian landholders is to engage in the environmental services market, more specifically carbon sequestration activities.
Science Theme: LC (Land Use and Land Cover Change)