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Environmental Licensing and Land Aggregation: An Agent-Based Approach to Understanding Ranching and Land Use in Rural Rondônia

Andrew Reid Bell, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan

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Abstract

Agricultural development and climate change will be two of the major stressors on the Amazon natural-human system in the decades to come. Environmental licensing for rural properties is being implemented in several states in the Brazilian Amazon with the goal of restoring forests in agricultural landscapes and mediating the impacts of these stressors. This study presents an agent-based model of ranching and land exchange, informs it with empirical results from social research in the Ji-Paraná River Basin, Rondônia, Brazil, and investigates the social, economic, and environmental outcomes that can be expected as a result of environmental licensing in the context of climate change. Model results informed by these data suggest that although an environmental licensing scheme with monitoring and enforcement may increase the level of forested land in ranching landscapes, it may do so at the expense of the small producer. To the extent that effective monitoring and enforcement exist, a focus on larger holdings will help to mediate this negative social impact. These results suggest that a middle ground can be found in cases where current environmental goals conflict with legacies of past colonization and resource-use regimes.

Key words

agent-based modeling; Amazon; coupled natural-human system; environmental licensing; farm structural change; land-use change
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087