Explaining the fragmentation in the Brazilian Amazonian forest

Arima, E. Y., Walker, R. T., Perz, S., & Souza Jr., C. 2015. Explaining the fragmentation in the Brazilian Amazonian forest. Journal of Land Use Science, 21.

Although vast literature exists on the drivers of tropical deforestation and its ecological consequences, less is known about how patterns of forest fragmentation emerge in the first place. The purpose of this paper is to address this issue for the Brazilian portion of the Amazon basin by analyzing the social processes generative of five specific patterns, including rectangular, fishbone, radial, dendritic, and what we refer to as ‘the stem of the rose.’ We argue that forest fragmentation patterns in the Brazilian Amazon are largely determined by the types and arrival times of the agents who engage in land clearing. We also argue that the patterns manifest in the landscape by virtue of road construction and agricultural property formation, which often occur in tandem. We conclude by placing our discussion within legal and institutional contexts, and observe that fragmentation stemming from formal colonization projects is more consistent with biodiversity conservation than that associated with a laissez-faire occupation. However, erosive impacts may be greater in topographically sensitive areas.

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