Pervasive transition of the Brazilian land-use system


Agriculture, deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and local/regional climate change have been closely intertwined in Brazil. Recent studies show that this relationship has been changing since the mid 2000s, with the burgeoning intensification and commoditization of Brazilian agriculture. On one hand, this accrues considerable environmental dividends including a pronounced reduction in deforestation (which is becoming decoupled from agricultural production), resulting in a decrease of 40% in nationwide greenhouse gas emissions since 2005, and a potential cooling of the climate at the local scale. On the other hand, these changes in the land-use system further reinforce the long-established inequality in land ownership, contributing to rural–urban migration that ultimately fuels haphazard expansion of urban areas. We argue that strong enforcement of sector-oriented policies and solving long-standing land tenure problems, rather than simply waiting for market self-regulation, are key steps to buffer the detrimental effects of agricultural intensification at the forefront of a sustainable pathway for land use in Brazil.

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Figure 1: Spatial distribution of agriculture in Brazilian biomes in 2000.
Figure 2: Trends in land-use change and agricultural expansion in Brazil during the 1990–2012 period.
Figure 4: Evolution of agrarian structure in Brazil between 1985 and 2006.
Figure 5: Greenhouse gas emissions associated with land use in Brazil3,76.
Figure 3: Biofuels, roads, protected areas and fire in Brazilian biomes.


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We thank E.L. Dalla Nora, A.O. Manzi and K.-H. Erb for their helpful comments on the manuscript.

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D.M.L., L.A.M., C.A.P., J.P.H.B.O., M.E.F. and C.A.N. designed the research. All authors contributed to the writing.

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Correspondence to David M. Lapola.

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Lapola, D., Martinelli, L., Peres, C. et al. Pervasive transition of the Brazilian land-use system. Nature Clim Change 4, 27–35 (2014).

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