The role of pasture and soybean in deforestation of the Brazilian amazon
The dynamics of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon are complex. A growing debate considers the extent to which deforestation is a result of the expansion of the Brazilian soy industry. Most recent analyses suggest that deforestation is driven by the expansion of cattle ranching, rather than soy. Soy seems to be replacing previously deforested land and/or land previously under pasture. In this study, we use municipality-level statistics on agricultural and deforested areas across the Legal Amazon from 2000 to 2006 to examine the spatial patterns and statistical relationships between deforestation and changes in pasture and soybean areas. Our results support previous studies that showed that deforestation is predominantly a result of pasture expansion. However, we also find support for the hypothesis that an increase of soy in Mato Grosso has displaced pasture further north, leading to deforestation elsewhere. Although not conclusive, our findings suggest that the debate surrounding the drivers of Amazon deforestation is not over, and that indirect causal links between soy and deforestation may exist that need further exploration. Future research should examine more closely how interlinkages between land area, prices, and policies influence the relationship between soy and deforestation, in order to make a conclusive case for 'displacement deforestation'