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Archetypical pathways of direct and indirect land-use change caused by Cambodia’s economic land concessions

Nicholas R. Magliocca, Department of Geography, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA
Quy Van Khuc, Department of Geography, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA
Evan A. Ellicott, Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA
Ariane de Bremond, Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA; Global Land Programme, Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland


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In the global South, a rush of large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) is occurring by governments and transnational and domestic investors seeking to secure access to land in developing countries to produce food, biofuels, and other agricultural commodities. Complex interactions between regional and global market dynamics and local institutional, socioeconomic, and agro-ecological conditions can lead to widely varying causal processes, land-use change (LUC), and socioeconomic and environmental outcomes. Systematic understanding of how characteristics of LSLAs across multiple social and environmental contexts produce spillover effects on local communities, ranging from employment opportunities to displacement and indirect land-use change (iLUC), is lacking. We conceptualize agricultural commodity production and land-acquisition processes associated with LSLAs as catalyzing causal pathways of direct and indirect land-use changes. Using the case of economic land concessions (ELCs) in Cambodia, we employed a novel synthesis research approach combining remote sensing, spatio-temporal statistics, and case study meta-analysis to construct archetypical pathways of the causes, timing, and consequences of ELC-driven land change. Archetypical pathways generally diverged based on specialized or flex commodity crops and rates of direct LUC, and rapid rates of direct LUC tended to cause displacement and iLUC. In contrast, ELCs producing commodity crops associated with more gradual land-use change and/or organized local resistance lead to less iLUC. Systematic knowledge generated through synthesis of local causes and consequences of LSLA-driven land change is now possible and needed to better address the direct and indirect consequences of LSLAs for commodity crop production.

Key words

deforestation; matching; mixed methods; survival analysis; triangulation

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087