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Settlement Formation and Land Cover and Land Use Change: a case study in the Brazilian Amazon

Marcellus M. Caldas, Kansas State University, caldasma@msu.edu (Presenting)
Robert T. Walker, Michigan State University, rwalker@msu.edu
Cynthia S. Simmons, Michigan State University, simmo108@msu.edu
Steve Aldrich, Mchigan State University, aldric30@msu.edu
Matricardi Eraldo, Secretaria de Meio Ambiente-RO, matricard@msu.edu

Land reform in Brazil has moved into the reaches of the Amazon, affecting the environment in colonization areas throughout the basin. Research addressing the causes of Amazonian deforestation, to which the dissertation seeks to contribute, has implicated many factors, ranging from the role of markets in the south of Brazil to the size of individual farming households. Much remains to be learned, however, about the impact of land reform on this massive process of environmental degradation. As has been pointed out, social theoretic comprehension of land cover and land use change has been limited, both in studies of deforestation in the Amazon basin and elsewhere. This paper seeks to comprehend land cover and land use change in Amazônia by direct reference to the underlying social and institutional circumstances that have contributed to it. Specifically, poor farmers, who have grown disillusioned with the Brazilian government’s promise of land redistribution, have taken it upon themselves to form settlements, or assentamentos, in what has been referred to as direct action land reform, or DALR. The paper addresses a particular type of DALR presently affecting the most vulnerable parts of the Amazon forest, which is found on terra devoluta (unclaimed, public lands). The goal of the paper is to comprehend the social processes leading to spontaneously-formed assentamentos in terra devoluta, and to assess associated impacts on Amazonian deforestation. This entails two specific objectives, namely to (1) undertake a case study of newly formed assentamentos where we have already identified a number of key informants, and to (2) conduct a remote sensing analysis of deforestation occurring in this assentamento and others like it, found in the region.

Science Theme:  LC (Land Use and Land Cover Change)

Session:  2C: Regional Land Use Change

Presentation Type:  Oral

Abstract ID: 5

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