After forest governance reforms by the Brazilian government, Amazon deforestation rates dropped by almost 80% between 2004 and 2012. Since then, however, deforestation has slowly increased again, casting doubts on the long-term sustainability of past conservation policy achievements. Clearly, deforestation rates and the associated local drivers of land-use and land-cover change differ considerably across the region, and adapting public policies to dynamic local contexts and actor constellations remains a major challenge for decision-makers. This paper seeks to contribute to the related science-policy debate by applying frontier theory insights to map, quantify, and compare land-cover dynamics in the Brazilian Amazon between 2004 and 2015. Our theoretical framework performs well in explaining broad variations in scope, nature, and agents of land-use and land-cover change across different frontier regions. We observe two types of transformative processes at deforestation frontiers in the Amazonian context. First, recent frontier development is characterized by an intensification of cattle ranching, and an increasing share of agricultural activities in the production portfolio, which could be the result of better access to modern technologies and markets, combined with forest governance induced scarcity of land for expansion of historically dominant extensive pasture systems. Second, the share of medium and large-scale deforestation declines at first, but rebounds during the observation period in all frontier types after 2012. Further research is needed to better understand the role of the changing political environment in driving these medium and short-term transformations in land-use and land-cover change. Furthermore, policy-makers, international cooperation, and civil society must seek strong integration between value chain based governance measures and effective environmental law enforcement.
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Land Use Policy is an international and interdisciplinary journal concerned with the social, economic, political, legal, physical and planning aspects of urban and rural land use. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information from the diverse range of disciplines and interest groups which must be combined to formulate effective land use policies.
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