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Globalization and Land-Use Transitions in Latin America

H. Ricardo Grau, Universidad Nacional de Tucuman; CONICET
Mitchell Aide, University of Puerto Rico

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Abstract

Current socioeconomic drivers of land-use change associated with globalization are producing two contrasting land-use trends in Latin America. Increasing global food demand (particularly in Southeast Asia) accelerates deforestation in areas suitable for modern agriculture (e.g., soybean), severely threatening ecosystems, such as Amazonian rain forests, dry forests, and subtropical grasslands. Additionally, in the coming decades, demand for biofuels may become an emerging threat. In contrast, high yields in modern agricultural systems and rural–urban migration coupled with remittances promote the abandonment of marginal agricultural lands, thus favoring ecosystem recovery on mountains, deserts, and areas of poor soils, while improving human well-being. The potential switch from production in traditional extensive grazing areas to intensive modern agriculture provides opportunities to significantly increase food production while sparing land for nature conservation. This combination of emerging threats and opportunities requires changes in the way the conservation of Latin American ecosystems is approached. Land-use efficiency should be analyzed beyond the local-based paradigm that drives most conservation programs, and focus on large geographic scales involving long-distance fluxes of products, information, and people in order to maximize both agricultural production and the conservation of environmental services.

Key words

agriculture; deforestation; ecological transition; forest transition; globalization; land-use change; Latin America
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087