Schaeffer and Rodrigues list a plethora of socioeconomic and societal factors that likely influence Amazonian deforestation, many of which we have previously assessed in detail (1–9). Nonetheless, despite the seeming complexity of deforestation drivers, it is dangerous to obscure the central role of new highway and infrastructure expansion in promoting rapid forest loss.
New deforestation drivers in
Moreover, Brazilian plans for infrastructure expansion in
In addition, Schaeffer and Rodrigues misunderstand the key role
of highways and roads in promoting past deforestation, especially during the
1990s. Contrary to their claims, the 1990s did see significant expansion of
highways and roads, such as paving of the 800 km-long Manaus-Boa Vista Highway
(BR-174) that is promoting dramatic changes in central Amazonia, highway paving
in Acre and Mato Grosso, and a proliferation of many secondary roads ramifying
out from existing highways. Moreover, highway and road construction not only
has an immediate impact on deforestation, as they imply, but also longer and
more pervasive effects that persist for many years.
Finally, it is vital to emphasize that new highways and roads
exacerbate many current development pressures. By continually opening up new
frontiers for colonization, such projects promote land speculation, weakening
incentives for more sustainable land uses, such as perennial crops and
plantations (3, 5, 6). Abundant, cheap
land means that destructive, fire-based agriculture, such as cattle ranching
and slash-and-burn farming, will continue to thrive. In Brazilian Amazonia, an
area the size of
1. P. M. Fearnside, in The Future of
2. P. M. Fearnside, Ambio 8, 537 (1993).
3. W. F. Laurance, Trends Ecol. Evol. 13, 411 (1998).
4. L. V. Ferreira et al., Áreas Protegidas ou Espaços Ameaçados? (World Wide Fund for Nature, Brasília, Brazil, 1999).
5. W. F. Laurance et al., Science 291, 438 (2001).
6. P. M. Fearnside, Environ. Conserv. 28, 23 (2001).
7. W. F. Laurance, A. K. M. Albernaz, C. Da Costa, Environ. Conserv. 28, 305 (2001).
8. W. F. Laurance et al., J. Biogeogr. 29, 737 (2002).
9. P. M. Fearnside, Environ. Manage. 30, 748 (2002).