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Fearnside, P.M. 1987. Causes of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. pp. 37-53 In: R.F. Dickinson (compilador) The Geophysiology of Amazonia: Vegetation and Climate Interactions. John Wiley & Sons, New York, U.S.A. 524 pp.


Copyright: John Wiley & Sons, New York, U.S.A.


The original publication is available from: John Wiley & Sons, New York, U.S.A.















                      Philip M. Fearnside

                      Department of Ecology

                      National Institute for

                        Research in the Amazon (INPA)

                      Caixa Postal 478

                      Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil



                   20 November 1984

              Revised:  14 April 1985


Paper presented at the United Nations University International Conference on Climatic, Biotic and Human Interactions in the Humid Tropics: Vegetation and Climate Interactions in Amazonia. 25 February ‑ 1 March 1985, São José dos Campos ‑ São Paulo, Brazil.


To appear in:  Dickinson, R.E. (ed.) Geophysiology of Amazonia  John Wiley and Sons, New York.

     The present rate and probable future course of forest clearing in Brazilian Amazonia is closely linked to the human use systems that replace the forest.  These systems, including the social forces leading to particular land use transformations, are at the root of the present accelerated pattern of deforestation and must be a key focus of any set of policies designed to contain the clearing process.  The present extent and likely changes in the various agricultural systems found in the region are reviewed elsewhere (Fearnside, nd-a).  Cattle pasture is by far the dominant land use in cleared portions of the terra firme (unflooded uplands), not only in areas of large cattle ranches, such as southern Pará and northern Mato Grosso, but also in areas initially felled by smallholders for slash-and-burn cultivation of annual crops, such as the Transamazon Highway colonization areas in Pará (Fig. 4.1).  Pasture is even dominant in areas like Rondônia where government programs have intensively promoted and financed cacao and other perennial crops (Léna, 1981; Furley and Leite, nd).  The forces leading to continued increase in pasture area, despite the low productivity and poor prospects for sustainability of this use system, are those that most closely affect the present rate of deforestation.


     The extent and rate of deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest is a subject of profound disagreement among both scholars and policy makers in Brazil and elsewhere.  Equally controversial is the question of whether or not potential future consequences of deforestation are sufficient to justify the immediate financial, social, and political costs of taking measures to contain the process.  The lack of effective policies to control deforestation in the Amazon today speaks for both the preference among decision makers for minimizing such concerns and the strength of forces driving the deforestation process.  Here it is argued that deforestation is rapid and its potential impact severe, amply justifying the substantial costs of speedy government action needed to slow, and at some point stop, forest clearing.




     The vast areas of as yet undisturbed forest in the Brazilian Amazon frequently lead visitors, researchers, and government officials to the mistaken conclusion that deforestation is a minor concern unlikely to reach environmentally significant proportions within the "foreseeable" future.  Such conclusions are unwarranted; they also have the dangerous effect of decreasing the likelihood that timely policy decisions will be made with a view to slowing and limiting the process of deforestation.  Not only is better monitoring information needed for describing the process, but also better understanding of underlying causes of deforestation.  Such understanding would allow more realistic projections of future trends under present and alternative policy regimes, and permit identification of effective measures to control the process.


     The most recent available survey of deforestation covering the entire Brazilian Amazon was made by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) based on LANDSAT satellite images taken in 1978 (Tardin et al., 1980).  The same study also interpreted images from 1975.  The survey's finding that only 1.55% of the area legally defined as Amazonia had been deforested up to 1978 contributed to the popular portrayal in Brazil of deforestation as an issue raised only by "alarmists."  The INPE figure underestimates clearing because of the inability of the technique to detect "very small" clearings and of the difficulty of distinguishing second growth from virgin forest.  For example, the Zona Bragantina, a 30,000 km2 region surrounding the town of Bragança in northeastern Pará that was completely deforested in the early years of this century (Egler, 1961; Sioli, 1973), is larger than the area indicated by 1975 images analyzed in the INPE study as deforested in Brazil's entire Legal Amazon, and is almost four times the area indicated as cleared in the state of Pará (Fearnside, 1982).  Regardless of any underestimation due to image interpretation limitations, the conclusion that the area cleared through 1978 was small in relation to the 4,975,527 km2 Legal Amazon is quite correct.


     Unfortunately, the small area cleared by 1978 is a far less important finding than another less publicized one apparent from the same data set (Carneiro et al., 1982): the explosive rate of clearing implied by comparing values for cleared areas at the two image dates analyzed, 1975 and 1978.  If the growth pattern over the region as a whole was exponential during this period, the observed increase in cleared area from 28,595.25 to 77,171.75 km2 implies a growth rate of 33.093% year-1, and a doubling time of only 2.09 years.  Deforestation rates vary widely in different parts of the region, being highest in southern Pará, northern Mato Grosso, and in Rondônia and Acre.  An analysis of a longer time series of LANDSAT images from one of these areas, Rondônia, is presented elsewhere (Fearnside, 1982).  Comparisons of cleared areas for 1973, 1975, 1976, and 1978 in two areas of government‑sponsored colonization by farmers with 100 ha lots, and in two areas dominated by 3000 ha cattle ranches, indicate that deforestation in these areas may have been progressing in an exponential fashion during the period, although data are too few for firm conclusions (Fearnside, 1982).


     LANDSAT image interpretation by the Brazilian government for the state of Rondônia as a whole (243,044 km2) indicates that cleared areas rose from 1,216.5 km2 in 1975 (Tardin et al., 1980) to 4,184.5 km2 in 1978 (Tardin et al., 1980) to 7,579.3 km2 in 1980 (Carneiro et al., 1982) to 13,955.2 km2 in 1983 (Brazil, Ministério da Agricultura, 1985; Fearnside and Salati, nd).  The cleared area therefore increased from 0.50% to 3.12% of Rondônia's total area in only five years, and jumped to 5.74% in the succeeding three years.  It should be remembered that limitations of the image interpretation methodology mean that the true cleared areas were probably larger than these numbers imply.  Even with this limitation, the clearing estimates reveal not only that deforestation proceeded rapidly throughout the period, but that it showed no signs of slowing as of 1980 (Fig. 4.2) and continued through 1983 at a faster-than-linear pace.


     LANDSAT data from 1980 images (Brazil, Ministério da Agricultura, IBDF, 1983) reveal that strong exponential growth in cleared areas over the 1975-1980 period also occurred in Mato Grosso and Acre, while increase was roughly linear in Pará, Maranhão and Goiás (Fearnside, 1984a, nd-b).  No 1980 data are yet available for Roraima, Amazonas or Amapá.


     Some of the forces behind deforestation are linked to positive feedback processes, which can be expected to produce exponential changes.  Roadbuilding, for example, is closely tied to the rate of arrival of new immigrants: more and better roads attract more immigrants, while the presence of a larger population justifies the construction of still more and better roads (Fig. 4.3).  In Rondônia the population has been growing even more rapidly than in other parts of the region because of the flood of new immigrants from southern Brazil (Fig. 4.2).  Projections of unchanging exponential rates for deforestation into the future, even in deforestation foci like Rondônia, are hazardous as anything but illustrations because there are many other factors affecting the process.  As the relative importance of different factors shifts in future years, some of the changes will serve to increase deforestation rates, while others will slow them.  Within completely occupied blocks of colonist lots, for example, clearing of virgin forest proceeds roughly linearly for about six years, after which a plateau is reached (Fearnside nd-c).  The rate at which an individual lot is cleared is increased by such events as the arrival of road access and turnover in the lot's occupants (Fearnside, 1980a, nd-c) (Fig. 4.3).


     At present, regional scale clearing statistics appear to be dominated by immigration, along with other forces that accelerate deforestation such as the positive effect of improved road access on market availability and land value appreciation.  In the future, the behavior of the population already established in the region should gain in relative importance.  Other reasons for an eventual slowing (but not halting) of clearing include poorer soil quality and inaccessability of remaining unoccupied land, the finite capacity of source areas to supply immigrants at ever increasing rates, decreased relative attractiveness of Amazonia after this frontier of unclaimed land "closes," and limits of available capital, petroleum and other inputs that would be necessary if rates of felling should greatly increase (Fearnside nd-d).  However, nothing short of a comprehensive program of government actions based on conscious decisions can be expected to contain deforestation before the region's forests are lost (Fearnside nd-b).


     The accelerating course of deforestation cannot be adequately represented by any simple algebraic formula such as the exponential equation, nor can its eventual slowing be expected to follow a smooth and symmetrical trajectory such as a logistic growth path.  The complex interacting factors bearing on the process are more appropriate for analysis with the aid of computer simulation (Fearnside, 1983a).  An idea can be gained of the relationships of the factors involved by examining more closely some of the causes of deforestation in Amazonia.




     Present causes of deforestation can be divided, somewhat artificially, into proximal causes (Table 4.1) and underlying causes (Table 4.2).  Proximal causes motivate land owners and claimants to direct their efforts to clearing forest as quickly as possible.  The underlying causes link wider processes in Brazil's economy either to the proximal motivations of each individual deforester, or to increases in numbers of deforesters present in the region.


     Some of the principal motives for deforestation apply most forcefully to large landholders, expecially those motives connected to government incentive programs.  These represent forces relatively easily controlled by governmental actions, as has already occurred to a small degree (see note, Table 4.1).  Deforestation is also linked to longstanding economic patterns in Brazil, such as high inflation rates, which have shown themselves to be particularly resistant to government control (Fig. 4.4).


     Changes in agricultural patterns in southern Brazil have had heavy impacts.  The rise of soybeans has displaced an estimated 11 agricultural workers for every one finding employment in the new production system (Zockun, 1980).  Sugarcane plantations, encouraged by the government for alcohol production, have likewise expelled smallholders.  Replacement of labor‑intensive coffee plantations with mechanized farms raising wheat and other crops, a trend driven by killing frosts and relatively unfavorable prices, has further swollen the ranks of Amazonian immigrants (Sawyer, 1982).


     Within Amazonia, most evident are the forces of land speculation (Fearnside, 1979a; Mahar, 1979), the magnifying effect of cattle pasture on the impact of population (Fearnside, 1983b), and the positive feedback relationship between roadbuilding and population increases (Fearnside, 1982).


     Profits from sale of agricultural production are added to speculative gains, tax incentives and other forms of government subsidy in making clearing financially attractive.  Small farmers often come to the region intent on making their fortunes as commercial farmers, but they gradually see the higher profits to be made from speculation as their neighbors sell their plots of land for prices that dwarf the returns realized from years of hard labor.  Agriculture then becomes a means of meeting living expenses while awaiting the opportunity of a profitable land sale and a move to a more distant frontier.  Although individual variability is high, most aspire to produce enough to live well by the standards of their own pasts while awaiting an eventual sale.  Farmers usually see such sales as providing the reward for "improvements" made on the land during their tenure, rather than as speculation.  Larger operators are more likely to begin their activities in the region with speculation in mind but are likewise always careful to describe themselves as "producers" rather than speculators.


     Subsistence production is always a contributor to forest clearing, although it is not presently the major factor that it is in many other rainforest areas, as in Africa (Myers, 1980, 1982).  The speculative and commercial motives for clearing in Amazonia mean that the relationship of commodity prices to clearing is positive for most of the farmers involved.  In areas of the tropics where cash crops are grown primarily for supplying subsistence needs, the relationship can be the reverse: a positive feedback loop exists whereby falling prices for a product mean that larger areas must be planted for the farmer to obtain the same subsistence level of cash income, while the resulting increased supply of the product further drives prices down (Gligo, 1980: 136; Plumwood and Routley, 1982).  For most Amazonian farmers, however, desire for cash so greatly exceeds the income-producing capacity of the farms that only the restraints of available labor and capital limit the areas cleared and planted (Fearnside, 1980b).


     Future deforestation trends should reflect changes in the balance of forces listed in Tables 4.1 and 4.2, as from declining impact of new arrivals relative to the resident population.  Future trends can also be expected to show the effects of projected major developments (Table 4.3).  As timber export, presently a negligible factor, becomes more important, outright deforestation will be supplemented by the often heavy disturbances following selective felling that presently characterize much of the forest conversion in Asia and Africa.  Charcoal production, expecially that derived from native forest, is foreseen as a major factor in the southeastern portion of the region in the coming decades.


     Large firms, such as lumber companies requiring marketable timber, or steel manufacturing industries requiring charcoal, pose the additional problem of playing more active and forceful roles in seeing that environmental conflicts of interest are resolved in their favor.  Chances are higher, as compared to the case of relatively small investors, that concessions will be made at the expense of previous governmental commitments to reserves of untouched forest.  This recently occurred in the case of timber concessions operating in the area now flooded by the Tucuruí Hydroelectric Dam: despite not having fulfilled its role in removing forest from areas to be flooded, the concessionnaire was reportedly granted logging rights to 93,000 ha in two nearby Amerindian reservations when commercially valuable tree species proved less common than anticipated in the reservoir area, according to the head of the firm involved (Pereira, 1982).


     Future deforestation appears likely to proceed at a rapid rate.  Although limited availability of fossil fuel, capital, and other resources should eventually force a slowdown, this cannot be counted on to prevent loss of large areas of forest.  Even at rates slower than those of the recent past, the forest could be reduced to remnants within a short span of years.  The deforestation process is subject to control and influence at many points.  Decisions affecting rates of clearing must be based on understanding of the causes of deforestation.  Such decisions are taken, either actively or by default.  They define areas to undergo agricultural or other development, and reserves where such development will be excluded.  Making timely choices of this kind depends on decision makers' conception of the likely course of deforestation.  Understanding the system of forces driving the process is also essential for evaluating the probable effectiveness of any changes contemplated.




     The negative consequences of deforestation (Fearnside nd-d) should give pause to planners intent on promoting forms of development requiring large areas of cleared rainforest.  Nevertheless, such plans continue to be proposed and realized.  Part of the problem is a lack of awareness among decision-makers of the magnitude of the eventual costs implied by these actions, but such lack of knowledge explains only a part of the reluctance to take effective actions to contain and slow deforestation.  At least as important is the distribution of the costs and benefits, both in time and space.  Most of the costs of deforestation will be paid only in the future, while the benefits are immediate.  Many of the costs are also distributed over society at large, while the benefits accrue to a select few.  In the many cases where land is controlled by absentee investors there is even less reason for negative consequences within the region to enter individual decisions.  In other cases the costs are highly concentrated, as when indigenous groups are deprived of their resource base, while the perhaps meagre benefits of clearing are enjoyed by a constituency that is both wider and more influential.


     Brazil's national government has the task of balancing the interests of different generations and interest groups.  At the same time, the Amazon has long suffered from exploitation as a colony whose products serve mainly to benefit other parts of the globe, most recently and importantly the industrialized regions of Brazil's Central‑South.  The unsustainable land uses resulting from this kind of "endocolonialism," as Sioli (1980) calls it, require that decision-making procedures guarantee the interests of the Amazon's residents when conflicts arise with more influential regions of the country.  Clear definitions of development objectives are essential as a prerequisite for any planning (Fearnside, 1983c).  I suggest that development alternatives be evaluated on the basis of benefits to the residents of the Amazon region and their descendants.  Coherent policies must include the maintenance of the human population below carrying capacity, the implantation of agronomically and socially sustainable agroecosystems, and limitations on total consumption and on the concentration of resources.  The inclusion of future generations of local residents in any considerations means that greater weight must be accorded the delayed costs implied by such potential consequences of deforestation as hydrological changes, degradation of agricultural resources, and sacrifice of as yet untappable benefits from rainforest.  The folly of present trends toward rapid conversion of rainforest to low-yielding and short-lived cattle pasture is evident, at least with respect to the long-term interests of Amazonia's residents (Fearnside, 1979b, 1980c; Goodland, 1980; Hecht, 1981).




     1.)  Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is proceeding rapidly.  The future course of rainforest clearing depends on a complex network of interacting factors.  Forces such as a positive feedback relationship between roadbuilding and land clearing can be expected to increase deforestation, while factors such as the increasing importance of resident population relative to the influx of immigrants should act to slow, but not stop, the process.  Rapid deforestation will probably continue in the coming years.


     2.)  Many government policies affect deforestation, including those related to land tenure, reserve protection, investment incentives, and inflation.


     3.)  Policies designed for the long‑term benefit of the Amazon's residents and their descendants must include measures to slow and contain deforestation.  Such measures must be based on sound understanding of the forces motivating deforestation, as well as a clear definition of development goals.  The current pace of deforestation in the region suggests that, if they are to be effective, any measures must be implemented quickly.




     I thank J.G. Gunn, D.H. Janzen, G.T. Prance, J.M. Rankin, and G.M. Woodwell for their valuable comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.



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Table 1. Proximal causes of deforestation



PRESENT         DEFOREST-     ‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 

MOTIVES         ATION           Small           Large                

                                Properties      Properties         



1.) Land        Clearing        Important in    Important in areas

    specula-    establishes     squatter areas  held by grileiros

    tion.       proprietary     and for tenta-  (land grabbers) as

                claims, raises  tively docum-   well as in legally

                resale value    ented colonists documented areas

                of land.        in official     (difficult to defend

                                settlement      from squatters).



2.) Tax         Businesses      Not a factor.   Important in projects

    incen‑      can avoid                       approved by the

    tives.      paying taxes                    Superintendency for

                owed on enter-                  the Development of

                prises else-                    Amazonia (SUDAM)

                where in Brazil                 (mostly in Pará)

                if money is in-                 or by the

                vested in                       Superintendency for

                Amazonian                       the Manaus Free

                ranches (Bunker,                Trade Zone (SUFRAMA)

                1980; de Almeida,               (in Amazonas).@7oa@8o

                1978; Fearnside,

                1979a; Mahar, l979).


    Tax         Higher taxes    Not important.  May become important.

    penalties.  on "unused"

                (i.e. un-

                cleared) land


                Ministério da


                INCRA, 1980).


3.) Negative    Financing of    Not a factor.   Important.  As with

    interest    government-                     tax incentives, most

    loans and   approved                        important in southern

    other       ranching pro-                   Pará.

    subsidies.  jects at nominal

                interest rates

                lower than



4.) "Chrono-    Government-     Not a factor.   Important in SUDAM and

    grams" for  approved                        SUFRAMA project areas,

    incenti-    ranching pro-                   but many ranches

    vated       jects must                      receive subsidies

    projects.   adhere to a                     without full

                schedule for                    compliance.

                clearing to    

                qualify for

                continued in-



5.) Special     Cacao, coffee,  Important in    Important for rela-

    crop        rubber, black   official        tively few large

    loans.      pepper, sugar   colonization    holdings, although

                cane, and       areas.          medium-sized holdings

                annual crops                    (500-2000 ha) benefit

                are financed in                 in Rondônia.

                some areas.    

                These crops

                would not be

                attractive with-

                out the favorable

                loan terms.


6.) Export‑     Beef, and to    Important among Important, although

    able        a lesser        small farmers   often larger holdings

    product-    extent cacao,   who depend      are integrated into

    tion.       upland rice,    on cash crop    more diversified

                and other       sales for       investment portfolios.

                crops, are      year-to-year    In the case of oper‑

                sold in other   survival.       ations largely

                regions or      Speculative     motivated by subsidies

                countries.      benefits come   and speculative oppor‑

                                as a windfall   tunities, sale of

                                for these,      production, even if

                                although a      meagre, adds to the

                                significant     profit from clearing.

                                number of lots

                                are owned by


                                speculators for

                                whom agricul-

                                tural produc-

                                tion is a minor



7.) Subsis-     Relatively      Minor, espec-   Not significant.

    tence       minor.          ially in gover-

    produc-                     ment coloniza-

    tion.                       tion areas,

                                where most

                                clearing is

                                for cash crop



New incentives for cattle ranches from the Superintendency for

Development of the Amazon (SUDAM) were suspended in 1979 for areas

classified as "high forest," but new projects continue to be

approved for "transition forest" areas, and the hundreds of pre-

viously approved projects in the high forest areas continue to

receive incentives for clearing, most of which has yet to be done.

Table 2.  Underlying causes of deforestation



   Cause                    Link to Deforestation



1.) Inflation.          a.) Speculation in real property, especially

                            pasture land.

                        b.) Increased attractiveness of low-interest

                            bank loans for clearing.


2.) Population          a.) Increased demand for subsistence pro-

    growth.                 duction (minor factor).

                        b.) Increased capacity to clear and plant,

                            both for subsistence and cash crops.

                        c.) Increased political pressure for road

                            building (feeds back to item 4).



.) Mechanization of    a.) Immigration of landless laborers (in-

    agriculture in          creasing felling both as squatters and

    southern Brazil         as workers on other properties).

    and absorption      b.) Immigration of smallholders to purchase

    of small holdings       land (both augment item 2).

    by large estates

    in the south and



4.) Road building and   a.) Immigration to Amazonia (feeds back to

    improvement.            item 2).

                        b.) Increased clearing by persons already



5.) Low land prices.    a.) Extensive land uses (e.g. pasture).

                        b.) Little concern for sustainability of


                        c.) Attraction of smallholders to immigrate

                            to Amazonia.

                        d.) Little motivation for landholders to

                            defend uncleared areas from squatters.

                        e.) Greater potential speculative gains.



.) National            a.) Tendency of Amazonian interior residents

    politics.               to support incumbent governments provides

                            incentive to increase political

                            representation of these areas by creating

                            new territories and states, justified by

                            population growth achieved through

                            colonization programs and highway


                        b.) During specific periods of social tension

                            in non-Amazonian portions of Brazil, as

                            in 1970, road building and colonization

                            programs in Amazonia have been seen as

                            ways to alleviate pressure for land reform

                            (e.g. Ianni, 1979).  The effect of

                            publicity surrounding the programs appears

                            to be more important than actual

                            population flow.


7.) International       Government leaders frequently justify road

    geopolitics.        building and colonization near international

                        borders as protecting the country from

                        invasion (Kleinpenning, 1975, 1977;

                        Tambs, 1974). These claims can be effective in

                        rationalizing government programs desired

                        for other reasons (Fearnside, 1984b;

                        Kleinpenning, 1977: 310).


8.) Concentration of    Displaces population when squatters' claims

    land tenure in      or small holdings are taken by large

    Amazonia.           ranches.  Displaced persons move to clear

                        new areas.


9.) Fear of forest.     Deep-seated psychological aversion to forest

                        and fear of dangerous animals impedes forested

                        land uses.  This fear is especially powerful

                        among recent arrivals from other regions

                        (e.g. Moran, 1980: 99).


10.) Status from        Longstanding Iberian tradition of according

     cattle.            higher social status to ranchers than farmers

                        leads to preference for pasture independent of

                        expected profit (Denevan, 1982; Smith, 1982:



11.) Availability of    Heavy discounting of expected future costs

     alternative        and returns for investments in the Amazon,

     investments        leading to little concern for sustain-

     elsewhere.         ability of production systems (see Clark

                        1973, 1976).


12.) Distribution of    Increases relative economic attractiveness

     environmental      to individual investors of land uses

     costs of           requiring large deforested areas, as

     deforestation      compared to intensive use of small clearings

     over society       or sustained management of standing forest

     at large.          (see Hardin, 1968).


13.) Unsustainable      Clearing more area to substitute for no‑

     land use choices   longer-productive land.

     for cleared



14.) Low labor          a.) Small population can clear and exploit

     requirement of         a large area.

     predominant land   b.) Little contribution to solving problems

     use (e.g.            of unemployment, underemployment, and

     pasture).              landlessness, which encourage further



15.) Low agricultural   a.) Increased area needed to supply subsis‑

     yields.                tence demand (relatively minor).

                        b.) Money from government subsidies spent

                            on unproductive ranches and other

                            projects fuels inflation by increasing

                            purchasing power of beneficiaries, with-

                            out contributing corresponding amounts of

                            production to the economy (feeds back to

                            item 1).

Table 3.  Expected additional motives for future deforestation.



        Motive                    Reason expected



1.) Timber export.      Expected to increase with coming end to

                        Southeast Asian rainforests now supplying

                        world markets (Fearnside and Rankin l982).


2.) Charcoal            Expected to increase for steel production

    production.         for the Grande Carajás Project, in south-

                        eastern Pará.  Both native forest harvest

                        and plantations are planned.


3.) Support of mineral  Expected to accompany developments at

    development         Carajás, Trombetas, Serra Pelada, and

    sites.              elsewhere.


4.) Hydroelectric       Planned projects at Balbina (Rio Uatumã)

    projects.           Samuel (Rio Jamari) and Itapunara (Rio Jari)

                        would total 4445 km2 of reservoir area

                        (Goodland, 1980), plus additional unknown

                        areas from 2 dams on the Rio Xingú and

                        up to 4 additional dams on the Rio Tocantins

                        (Goodland, 1980)@7oa@8o.  Existing dams in the

                        region at Curuá-Una (Rio Curuá-Una)

                        and Paredão, also known as Coary Nunes

                        (Rio Araguari), and Tucuruí (Rio Tocantins)

                        total 2539 km2.  Some new area will be cleared

                        by persons displaced by the dams, as well as

                        by expected support communities. Fluctuations

                        in released water volume, as at Balbina, will

                        also kill substantial forest areas downstream

                        of the dams.  Forest loss from hydroelectric

                        projects, however, is small when compared

                        with losses to ranching or other activities.




Ultimate goals for the Rio Tocantins and its tributaries reportedly call for construction of 8 large dams (including Tucuruí) plus 19 smaller ones, while the Rio Xingú would eventually have 9-10 large dams (Caufield l982).



Fig. 4.1.Brazil's "Legal Amazonia."


Fig. 4.2.Growth of population and deforested area in the state of Rondônia.  Deforested area is growing even more rapidly than population in this focus of rainforest clearing in Amazonia. Ten‑year interval populations are from census data compiled by the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics (IBGE) (Saunders, 1974; Brazil, Presidência da República, IBGE, 1982: 74); 1976 intercensal estimate is by IBGE (Mesquita and Egler, 1979: 73).  Deforestation estimates for 1975 and 1978 are from Tardin et al. (1980); 1980 estimate is from Brazil, Ministério da Agricultura IBDF (1983).


Fig. 4.3.Causal loop diagram of the relationship between roadbuilding and deforestation.  Signs by arrow heads indicate the direction of change that would result from an increase in the quantity at the tail of the arrow.  Roads and population form a positive feedback loop.  Roads also increase land values, leading the original colonists to sell their land top newcomers who clear more rapidly.  Improved transport for agricultural production makes farming more profitable, leading colonists to clear and plant larger areas.


Fig. 4.4.Causal loop diagram of the relationship of inflation to deforestation for cattle pasture.  High inflation leads to land speculation as a means of preserving the value of money.  Pasture is planted to secure these investments against squatters or other claimants.  The low production of beef from pastures on these soils means that the money invested in ranching is increasing the demand for products in the marketplace without contributing anything that can be bought.  The increase of demand over supply raises prices, contributing to still higher inflation.

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

Fig. 4