Evolution of land use in the Brazilian Amazon: From frontier expansion to market chain dynamics

Luciana S. Soler*, Peter H. Verburg, Diógenes S. Alves

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Agricultural census data and fieldwork observations are used to analyze changes in land cover/use intensity across Rondônia and Mato Grosso states along the agricultural frontier in the Brazilian Amazon. Results show that the development of land use is strongly related to land distribution structure. While large farms have increased their share of annual and perennial crops, small and medium size farms have strongly contributed to the development of beef and milk market chains in both Rondônia and Mato Grosso. Land use intensification has occurred in the form of increased use of machinery, labor in agriculture and stocking rates of cattle herds. Regional and national demands have improved infrastructure and productivity. The data presented show that the distinct pathways of land use development are related to accessibility to markets and processing industry as well as to the agricultural colonization history of the region. The data analyzed do not provide any indication of frontier stagnation, i.e., the slowdown of agricultural expansion, in the Brazilian Amazon. Instead of frontier stagnation, the data analyzed indicate that intensification processes in consolidated areas as well as recent agricultural expansion into forest areas are able to explain the cycle of expansion and retraction of the agricultural frontier into the Amazon region. The evolution of land use is useful for scenario analysis of both land cover change and land use intensification and provides insights into the role of market development and policies on land use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)981-1014
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2014


  • Accessibility
  • Amazon
  • Brazil
  • Deforestation frontier
  • Land distribution
  • Land use

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