Perspectives for multifunctional landscapes in the Amazon: Analyzing farmers’ strategies, perceptions, and scenarios in an agricultural frontier

Daniel Pinillos

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Sustainable food production requires approaches that reconcile agricultural production with the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, biodiversity, and associated ecosystem services. In tropical agroecosystems the expansion of the agricultural frontier usually signifies the loss of forest cover in detriment of natural capital and ecosystem services. In the Brazilian Amazon region, extensive cattle ranching was introduced in the 1960s mainly for the purpose of securing land ownership at the expense of forest cover. However, between 2004 and 2012, policy measures, public-private coalitions and declining market trends for commodities induced a 70% reduction in deforestation in the Amazon. In the municipality of Paragominas (19,342 km²) in the eastern Amazon region, this process began in 2008 after the Green Municipality Initiative forged a pact among the rural society to end large-scale deforestation and monitor private forests within landholdings (i.e., Legal Reserves). These zero-deforestation measures have stimulated agricultural intensification in the region to increase production in already open areas as clearing of forest was constrained. Nevertheless, since 2014 deforestation rates in the Amazon have been on the rise again, casting doubts on the long-term effectiveness of command-and-control measures to decouple agriculture from deforestation due to their sensitivity to political fluctuations. Moreover, besides deforestation, forest degradation and fragmentation persists in the region.

Therefore, it is unclear which pathways can sustain and further improve synergies between forest conservation and rural development in the eastern Amazon region. Specifically, it is unclear what types of land-use spatial arrangements can reconcile forest conservation and agricultural production and there is no clarity on what farming systems emerge as a result of reduced access to land. To address these knowledge gaps, we applied the Functional Land Management framework to derive a spatially explicit diagnose of the landscape in terms of ecosystem services and trade-offs at the municipal scale. We then developed a typology of medium and large rural landholdings, and a typology of landholders’ perceptions regarding forest conservation (i.e., legal reserves) and agricultural intensification. Lastly, we generated anticipatory land-use scenarios at the municipal scale to assess the effect of hybrid land sparing-sharing configurations on aboveground biomass and soil carbon storage. Our findings suggest that given the influence of global markets and the diversity of perceptions, intensification patterns and trade-offs, enhancing landscape multifunctionality in Paragominas will depend to a large extent on landscape and local governance processes that are able to revalorize forests as an integral part of socio-economic development. Our results can inform the on-going policy developments in Paragominas eliciting an innovative governance process where the spatial allocation of areas suitable for agricultural intensification and forest conservation are taking a central role in the discussion to develop pathways for multifunctional landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Schulte, Rogier, Promotor
  • Corbeels, M., Promotor, External person
  • Bianchi, Felix, Co-promotor
  • Poccard-Chapuis, R., Co-promotor, External person
Award date1 Mar 2021
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463956826
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


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