The rapid changes in land cover in the Amazon region, driven by governmental projects aimed to foster land occupation and economic activities, have been taking place over the Amazon ecosystems.
Although these deforestations have been closely monitored since 1978 with the help of remote sensing technology (e.g. Skole and Tucker, 1993), and significant attempts have been made in order to understand their causes and possible trends (e.g. Pfaff, 1999; Alves et al., 2003), the relationship between deforestation and land tenure remains largely unexplained.
Within this context, and assuming that land appropriation is a major driving force behind deforestation, a major goal of this study was to understand, on a large scale basis and through the integrated analysis of social and economical variables and deforestation data obtained via remote sensing imagery, the role of the land ownership structure on the Amazon deforestation. In particular, the deforestation distribution patterns along the years, and their spatial dependence on land appropriation, land concentration, and land use were investigated. Likewise, the current institutional context (i.e. governance) of the Amazon region and its geographical relation to potential deforestation hotspots was also evaluated.
This study, conducted in an area comprising 221 municipalities, in which 90% of the deforestation in the legal Amazon takes place, was to understand the role of the agrarian structure in the conversion of forest into pasture and agriculture fields. Linear regression results indicate that 54% to 62% of the variation in deforestation occurred between 1997 and 2004, respectively, are explained as a function of changes in the amount of appropriated land in 1995. Likewise, up to 80% of the deforestation can be well explained by the variation in land concentration. In fact, strong spatial correlations were found between deforestation hotspots and land appropriation and land concentration. On the other hand, these critical areas have insufficient governance, particularly at the federal level. As our results clearly demonstrate, strong governance and institutional integration, with emphasis on the territorial ordainment, are mandatory in order to reduce the rapid pace of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.
Science Theme: LC (Land Use and Land Cover Change)