Brazil Gains in Food Production Coincided With Drop in Deforestation

A new study of land use in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso shows that deforestation rates decreased significantly from 2006 to 2010 even as agricultural production in the region reached an all-time high. The study found that growers in Mato Grosso, where more than a third of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon occurred in the 1980s, have increasingly used previously cleared pasture land. Using satellite data and government statistics on deforestation and production, researchers from Columbia University calculated that 26 percent of the increase in soy production within Mato Grosso from 2001 to 2005 was the result of cropland expansion into forested areas, accounting for 10 percent of total deforestation; during the second half of the decade, however, soy expansion accounted for just 2 percent of total deforestation. According to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this shift coincided with a drop in commodity markets, as well as a series of high-profile policy initiatives to reduce deforestation and improved methods in monitoring illegal clearing, including satellite-based tracking systems.