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Regional models: cross-scale and intraregional interactions

This line of research aims at understanding and modeling land change processes in Amazonia at the regional scale, focusing on intra-regional and cross-scale interactions. This line of research started in 2002 in the broader context of the GEOMA network and a collaboration with the CLUE model team, in Wageningen University. The first result was Ana Paula Aguiar's PhD thesis, described below. This initial work shows how the connection to national markets plays a key role in explaining spatial patterns of deforestation, and in capturing the new frontiers in Central Amazonia (see Figure 1 below). Results point out that local governance policies applied only to one region, such as new protected areas or law enforcement actions, might favor occupation elsewhere, as Figure 2 illustrates.

Based on these first results, we have started new projects to improve our understating about the importance of market connectivity, intra-regional and scale interactions in land change processes in the Brazilian Amazonia, in collaboration with several Brazilian institutions. We have an on-going PhD Thesis (Giovana Mira de Espindola), also described below. Our team is involved in several case studies in different hot spots of change in Amazonia, which contribute to our broader understanding of regional level processes. We also collaborate in various external projects that aim at constructing regional level scenarios, including the Cenários Project (Science and Technology Ministry) and AgroAmbiente Project (EMBRAPA) (see List of external projects).

Figure 1: Simulation results: Deforestation in 2020

Figure 2: Sinulation results: potential “leakages” from local

Modeling land change in the Brazilian Amazonia: exploring intra-regional heterogeneity

Research Team

Dr. Ana Paula Dutra de Aguiar, Dr. Gilberto Câmara, Dr. Kasper Kok, Dr. Isabel Escada


The Brazilian Amazonia rain forest is under intense human pressure. To support policy-making for the region, we use a computer model adapted from the CLUE modeling framework to explore alternatives of land cover change in Amazonia. Our model uses 1997 data and projects change until 2020. We explore how alternative determining factors, policies and market constraints influence the process of land occupation in Amazonia. Previous work regarding deforestation in Amazonia has emphasized aspects such as distance to roads, and has disregarded the region’s enormous biophysical and socio-economical heterogeneity. The statistical analysis uses a spatially-explicit database (cells of 100 x 100 km2 and 25 x 25 km2) with 40 environmental, demographical, agrarian structure, technological, and market connectivity indicators as independent variables, and land-use (pasture, temporary and permanent crops, non-used agricultural land) patterns as dependent variables. The determinant factors of land patterns were identified regression models (spatial lag and multiple linear regressions) at multiple spatial resolutions for the whole region and for three sub-regions. Regression models results showed quantitatively that the relative importance and significance of land use determining factors greatly vary across the Amazon. Models emphasize policy-relevant factors, especially those related to connection to national markets, connection to ports, and protected areas. The models were used to build different exploration scenarios of land use change until 2020. Explorations include an analysis of the influence of different factors in the new Amazon frontiers dynamics, the possible impacts public policies, and increasing or decreasing demand. The main conclusions drawn from the scenario explorations are: (b) connection to national markets is the most important factor for capturing the spatial patterns of the new Amazonian frontiers; (b) it is the interaction between connectivity and other factors that influence the heterogeneous intra-regional dynamics; © these differences led to heterogeneous impact of policies across the region.

Papers and Reports

A.P. Aguiar. Modeling land change in the Brazilian Amazonia: exploring intra-regional heterogeneity . PhD Thesis, 2006.

A.P. Aguiar, G. Câmara, M.I.S. Escada, Spatial statistical analysis of land-use determinants in the Brazilian Amazon: exploring intra-regional heterogeneity. Ecological Modelling, vol 209(1-2):169–188, 2007.

G. Câmara, A. P. Aguiar, M. I. Escada, et al. Amazon Deforestation Models. Science, vol 307, 15 February 2005, pp. 1043-1044.

Modelling Deforestation and its Intraregional Interactions in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest

Research Team

Giovana Mira de Espindola, Dr. Leila Fonseca, Dr. Ana Paula Dutra de Aguiar, Dr. Gilberto Câmara


The Brazilian Amazon rainforest is a largely diverse region, in which subregions with different rates of change coexist, due the diversity of accessibility, ecological, socioeconomic and political conditions. In recent decades deforestation has prevailed owing mostly to private investments in agricultural expansion, associated with large-scale cattle ranching, small-scale subsistence farming and soybeans expansion. Deforestation rates changed from 1988 to 2007, the total deforested area in the region varied from about 11,000 sq km to more than 29,000 sq km a year. In 2004, the estimated rate dropped to 27,379 sq km, and in 2007 to 11,224 sq km. The lower rates since 2005 have been associated to control actions conducted by the Brazilian government, including law enforcement actions and the creation of protected areas, and partly to lower commodities prices in the international market. However, there is an expectation that rates may start to rise again in the period of 2008-2010, due to rise in the commodities prices and the expansion of biofuel. Therefore, the objective of this work is to understand the intraregional distribution of deforestation rates, using quantitative methods to evaluate the possible impacts of alternative policies and decision making processes. The hypotheses of this work are: (A) the current hotspots of deforestation contributed differently to deforestation rates variation, as they responded to market and policy conditions according to their specific socioeconomic context; and (B) localized deforestation control policies applied to one municipality, such as the creation of protected areas or localized law enforcement actions, might stimulate the occupation of other areas in the medium and long run. This proposal adds to previous works increasing the knowledge about the last decade deforestation rates variation, exploring the intraregional multiscale interactions of distinct socioeconomic and political contexts.

Papers and Reports

DE ESPINDOLA. Modelling deforestation and its intraregional interactions in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. (DOC, PPT). Thesis Proposal, 2008.

DE ESPINDOLA. Modelling deforestation and its intraregional interactions in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. (PPT). Presentation, 2009.

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