Next Article in Journal
Coupling Coordination Analysis of Livelihood Efficiency and Land Use for Households in Poverty-Alleviated Mountainous Areas
Next Article in Special Issue
The ‘Bush Capital’—A Review of 100+ Years of Integrative Spatio-Temporal Planning for a City in the Landscape and Nature in the City
Previous Article in Journal
Spatially Explicit Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping for Participatory Modeling of Stormwater Management
Previous Article in Special Issue
Forest Restoration at Berenty Reserve, Southern Madagascar: A Pilot Study of Tree Growth Following the Framework Species Method
Font Type:
Arial Georgia Verdana
Font Size:
Aa Aa Aa
Line Spacing:
Column Width:

A Review of Small Farmer Land Use and Deforestation in Tropical Forest Frontiers: Implications for Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods

David López-Carr
Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA
Land 2021, 10(11), 1113;
Submission received: 15 August 2021 / Revised: 18 October 2021 / Accepted: 19 October 2021 / Published: 21 October 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Forest Ecosystems: Protection and Restoration)


Forest conversion for agriculture is the most expansive signature of human occupation on the Earth’s surface. This paper develops a conceptual model of factors underlying frontier agricultural expansion—the predominant driver of deforestation worldwide—from the perspective of small farm households—the majority of farmers globally. The framework consists of four causal rubrics: demographic, socioeconomic, political–economic, and ecological. Following this approach, the article explores the current state of knowledge on tropical deforestation in tropical agricultural frontiers with a focus on Latin America, the region of greatest deforestation worldwide during recent decades. Neo-Malthusian arguments notwithstanding, in many tropical nations, deforestation has proceeded unabated in recent years despite declining rural populations. However, evidence from the global-to-household scale suggests that population size and composition are also related to farm forest conversion. Existing particularist or behaviorialist theories sometimes fail to capture key geographical and temporal dimensions, yet studies support the notion that certain cultural, individual, and household characteristics are crucial determinants of forest clearing. Conversely, while institutional arguments sometimes fail to emphasize that the ultimate land use change agents are local resource users, their livelihood decisions are shaped and constrained by policies governing economic subsidies, and market and infrastructure development. Further, although ecological change is usually modeled as an outcome in the deforestation literature, increasingly acute climate change and natural farm endowments form a dynamic tabula rasa on which household land use decisions are enabled. To more fully comprehend frontier forest conversion and to enhance protection and conservation while promoting vital local livelihoods, future research may fruitfully investigate the interaction of demographic, social, political, economic, and ecological factors across spatial scales and academic disciplines.

1. Introduction

Forest conversion for agriculture inscribes the most extensive signature of human activity on planet Earth. The planet’s intact old-growth forests have dwindled to approximately one-fifth of their original cover. Over a third of tropical forests have been eliminated with a net rate of 5.5 million hectares annually between 2010 and 2015; in 2019 alone an area the size of Holland was extirpated across tropical zones [1]. Understanding human-environment dynamics has increasingly been recognized as a research priority of the global environmental change community, yet what is known about tropical deforestation, despite hundreds of research articles across the social and physical sciences, remains limited by disjoined case studies at the micro scale, and by gross estimates of varying reliability relating forest cover to human drivers at the macro scale.
Some land use and land cover change (LUCC) literature describes the determinants of tropical deforestation as pertaining to underlying and proximate causes [2,3,4,5]. From the research on tropical deforestation explicitly modeling proximate causes [3,6,7], three primary types of land use are noted: (1) agricultural expansion, (2) timber extraction, and (3) infrastructure development. Agricultural expansion, often facilitated by the other two land uses, emerges as the number one cause of deforestation on the planet, particularly in Latin America [1,3,8,9]. Whereas proximate causes are found locally—where LUCC is occurring—underlying causes tend to be further removed temporally and geographically (e.g., [3,10,11]).
Conceptual LUCC models framed in proximate and underlying causes have provided a helpful heuristic for conceptualizing the phenomenon of tropical deforestation (e.g., [2,3,6,12,13]). However, they require modification to address the more specific phenomenon of LUCC caused by frontier agriculture. This modification is expedient, given the disproportionate share of the forest clearing attributed to this phenomenon in recent decades [9,14,15]. While in recent years the share of deforestation attributed to large-scale export agriculture has increased (e.g., [5,9]), virtually all of the elimination of closed old-growth forest occurs along agricultural frontiers where such forests still exist. To date, the first step in this process is often the settlement by migrant farm families and the opening of land for crops and pasture.
Regarding deforestation conceptual models, some notable changes are necessary in order to develop a working framework of frontier LUCC. First, proximate determinant models sometimes confuse outcomes with drivers. In this paper, frontier deforestation is conceptualized as an outcome (as opposed to all deforestation as in, e.g., [3]) and the immediate causes of frontier forest conversion are considered as independent drivers of the phenomenon.
Second, traditional LUCC models have underrepresented the importance of physical geographical dynamics as drivers of ecological change. It is not, for example, considered a category of influence regarding environmental change in the (e.g., [3,12]) framework. Yet unfavorable environmental conditions can lead to extensive farming to compensate for declining yields, or to intensification if farm expansion is constrained. Therefore, in the framework proposed here, ecological conditions are modeled as a separate category of independent factors.
Third, while infrastructure expansion (e.g., urbanization and road building) represents a proximate cause of forest clearing in itself, recent models fail to emphasize that infrastructure development has a much greater role in tropical deforestation as a distal cause facilitating agricultural colonization, which then leads to forest conversion. Similarly, although urban expansion is a proximate cause of forest conversion, it claims a modicum of the world’s total share of tropical deforestation and is therefore excluded from this conceptual model (urbanization relates to frontier forest conversion more as a distal cause, through demand for sowing more land in crops and pasture either on the frontier itself, or more likely, in long-established agricultural regions, which creates land pressures that foments frontier migration).
Fourth, the LUCC literature too often commits the ecological fallacy of conflating processes operating across different scales. This paper attempts to separate household factors (e.g., microeconomic and behavioral variables) from structural (macro) economic or political–institutional (most of which, as noted with an asterisk in Figure 1, are measurable at the community level or greater). Following these modifications, the proximate causes of frontier forest conversion are framed as nested within four categories: demographic, political–economic, socioeconomic, and ecological (Figure 1). A necessary underlying cause of frontier deforestation (i.e., migration) is modeled under the same rubric.
Households that ultimately migrate to an agricultural frontier and clear forests to farm the land have done so only after exhausting or spurning other available options [16,17]. Frontier farming is not an ultimate outcome, and these households will continue to make decisions based on the degree to which available options enable or constrain their motives. Much LUCC and peasant studies literature investigates agricultural intensification, as indicated by the arrow pointing from Land Management to Agricultural Intensification. When referring to deforestation, the agricultural frontier literature examines the link represented by the arrow between Land Management and Agricultural Extensification (expansion of farmland—the opposite of intensification). Disciplines parse these topics, but households do not. Households can, and do, respond to demographic, political–economic, socioeconomic, and ecological conditions by acting in one or several ways, simultaneously or sequentially over time (i.e., multi-phasically, see, e.g., [18]). At the household level, deforestation is an outcome of agricultural extensification—most dramatically following rural–rural migration [7,19,20].
Following the conceptual models described above, in the following section there will be a review of the literature germane to the primary proximate cause of tropical deforestation, particularly in Latin America: small farmer agricultural expansion. The factors affecting forest conversion are framed by demographic, political–economic, socioeconomic, and ecological factors at the household and community levels. The conclusion consists of a consideration of the significance of the present state of knowledge on frontier LUCC to future research and policy efforts supporting forest conservation and rural development. Since a large share of the frontier deforestation worldwide occurs in Latin America, and the great complexities surrounding the phenomenon are somewhat simplified by controlling for regional effects, this review focuses on frontier deforestation in tropical regions of Central and South America.

2. Proximate Determinants of Small Farmer Land Use in Tropical Agricultural Frontiers

2.1. Demographic Factors

While it is clear that demographic factors interact with economic processes of supply and demand to explain much of global deforestation, less is understood about the relative influence of demographic vs economic drivers. A recent article goes so far as to claim that population-driven deforestation will lead to the collapse of sustainable human populations [21]. Regression analysis has suggested that population growth is positively related to agricultural expansion in Latin America [22], especially in areas of high poverty such as Central America and in the Andean nations [9]. However, along with economic processes, spatial and temporal discontinuities obfuscate links between population and environment interactions. Global and regional-level evidence of a positive link between population and deforestation would appear inconsistent with trends at the national level among many Latin American nations during recent decades, where rural populations have declined yet deforestation has continued, in some instances even accelerated [7,9,20].
Does this pattern cast doubt on global population-deforestation findings? Data remains inexact at the macro-scale due to inconsistent resolution and a continued inability to confidently match spatial pattern to process. Nevertheless, this apparent discrepancy is most likely explained by scale; a very small percentage of the global population—frontier farmers—are the agents of (if not directly responsible for, given their precarious political–economic situation) a disproportionate amount of the world’s deforestation. Yet increasingly, forest conversion occurs not along a small-farmer settlement frontier but rather on large ranches and plantations where rural population density is low and declining as technical advances in productivity replace labor. Finally, population growth in urban areas and population-dense, forest-scarce rural regions can foment frontier deforestation through demand for forest and food products [6,9,15,23,24]. Increasingly, this demand is coming from abroad [9,11,24]. However, again, the agents of forest clearing in large parts of the Latin American and African tropics are not urban consumers or large export-oriented intensive farmers; they are small farmers in remote rural regions where large tracts of forest remain. Additionally, if rural populations are declining in most Latin American nations, how then is population associated with frontier forest clearing? As I will now discuss, in-migration, household size, household composition, and population density combine with economic and other factors to act in complex ways towards the retreat of frontier forests.

2.1.1. Frontier In-Migration

Rural–rural migration is not merely a demographic factor involved in forest clearing, it is a prerequisite to small-farm frontier deforestation [7,25]. Migration will remain a key driver of frontier LUCC. The potential for most future deforestation will not be on lands already settled, but rather on lands yet to be colonized beyond the forest fringe. Thus, an important point neglected in the literature is that demographic, ecological, and political–economic pressures elsewhere initially foment migration to the frontier.
In addition to promoting young and large households, resource abundance and labor scarcity characteristic of a frontier environment encourage in-migration—the primary source of agricultural frontier population increase. What is not yet fully understood is why some people from certain places choose to migrate to rural destinations as opposed to seeking other means of improving household security and well-being—such as migrating to urban areas, engaging in off-farm employment, or altering land management strategies. Whereas household size and composition have direct impacts at the farm level, the effects of colonization on already established farms is different than farmer colonists clearing unoccupied forest to create new ones.
Examples of rapid forest conversion at the regional scale following colonization are particularly abundant in the Latin American deforestation literature from the 1980s through the 2000s [3]. Most of the regions’ forest clearing has occurred in the Amazon basin. This process is well documented in Brazil (e.g., [26,27,28]). In the Ecuadorian Amazon, populations grew at annual rates exceeding 6% through the 1970s and 1980s—more than double the national average—as agricultural colonists claimed over one-third of the Ecuadorian Amazon region [29,30]. Central America shares a similar history of frontier colonization. The region suffered the highest rates of deforestation of any major world region during the 1990s. Much of the deforestation has been centered in the Maya Forest of northern Guatemala, Belize, and southern Mexico [31,32,33]. In Guatemala’s Petén (the heart of the Maya Forest, representing 40% of Guatemala’s national territory), fully half of the vast department’s forestland had been cleared by agricultural colonization between the 1970s and the mid-1990s [34]. Increasingly, the migration connection has become more complex, with some second-generation colonists migrating to the US and sending remittances home, which in turn has distinct land change effects in origin areas yet to be fully understood [35].

2.1.2. Household Size

Although most of the accelerated population growth characteristic of agricultural frontiers results from in-migration, a large share is attributed to the exceptionally high-fertility of frontier migrants (e.g., [36,37]). High fertility in the remote frontier results from a combination of low demand for, and supply of, contraception options [38]. Among the scant statistical analyses of surveys collected from settler households with detailed population and land use data, studies from the Ecuadorian Amazon [37,38,39], Costa Rica [40], and Guatemala’s Petén [41], found household size was negatively associated with forest cover on the farm.
Similar findings emerge from a pair of recent African studies. A statistical analysis of rural farm households in Tanzania found that larger families were associated with a greater demand for subsistence crops for household consumption as well as with more labor for clearing land to raise crops (e.g., [36]). A similar result was found through a regression analysis of over 500 households in central Malawi, with population size and poverty being the primary predictors of deforestation at the farm level [42]. Although these studies controlled for some household life cycle features, the relation between household demography and forest clearing is not simply a linear function of population size, but is part of a household maturation process, or family life cycle, associated with discontinuous pulses of forest clearing [37,43].

2.1.3. Household Demographic Life Cycle

Following Chayanovian peasant household theory [44], household age and sex composition affects labor availability and, therefore, land use and forest conversion [25,29,35,37,45]. Forest clearing tends to be high during the initial years of settlement as (typically) young families establish a farm, clearing forest for the production of subsistence grains, and to delimit farm boundaries to rebuff the squatter designs of new settlers [46]. As the household life cycle develops, maturing children augment household labor supply, while accumulated capital encourages adding perennials and/or cattle to the farm portfolio. Both processes can either increase or decrease the impacts of household demography on forest conversion, depending on the relative emphasis on each [16,37,45,47].

2.1.4. Population Density

Traditional frameworks of small farm household responses to population density (e.g., [48,49]) are essentially inapplicable to the frontier context. For frontier settlers at the edge of subsistence, many sorts of intensification are inefficient or risky [50,51]. And yet, population density plays a critical role in forest conversion [36,52,53,54]. Thus, during the early phase of frontier colonization, increasing population density leads mainly to agricultural extensification. As the frontier develops, transportation infrastructure improves, market integration increases, and land is consolidated among the “haves” and fragmented among the “have-nots”. As predicted by peasant intensification theories in more population-dense rural environments, population growth on the frontier leads to an increased labor-to-land ratio and dwindling forest cover, invariably followed by fallow compression and the use of agricultural inputs. However, contrary to the peasant land use literature, intensification on the frontier also frequently accompanies continued forest conversion when wealthy households simultaneously intensify and expand farm holdings—often for cattle ranching [55,56,57,58]. Where land consolidation is minimized by communally governed land and population density is attenuated by out-migration, as in parts of southern Mexico, fallow systems may remain a part of the agricultural mosaic and contribute to biodiversity [59,60]. Applying intensification efforts, informed from agricultural economics theory, without providing convincing incentives to do so on the ground, may not be a panacea for coupling conservation with rural sustainable development on the frontier where extensive land use remains attractive relative to other potential investments in land and labor.
As urbanization proceeds in earnest and fertility plummets in most regions of the globe (with notable exceptions such as the African Sahel), rural population should continue to decline. What is not known is what this process will mean for forest transitions. The globe’s apparently inexorable demographic transition will not necessarily relieve population pressures on the tropical forest canopy. On the contrary, with increased economic globalization, reduced agricultural tariffs will likely encourage the continued expansion of cropland on large export-oriented agricultural lands. This will displace rural farmers, increase the number of rural inhabitants at risk for frontier migration, and promote the continued retreat of frontier forests. The magnitude and spatial distribution of these trends will ultimately be a function not so much of population dynamics, but rather of political and economic processes.

2.2. Political–Economic Factors

2.2.1. Neoclassical Economics

Most scholars agree that population is an intermediate variable rather than an ultimate cause of environmental change. For example, population growth would have a radically different—though not necessarily more benign (see, e.g., [61])—impact on forest ecologies if frontier settlers were beekeepers. Indeed, there are numerous cases in which population appears a less important determinant of deforestation than economic and political factors [62,63]. From a neoclassical perspective, land degradation results not from economic growth, but from market inefficiencies that undervalue natural resources and ignore long-term costs and externalities. In theory, an efficiently operating free market should benefit from population growth through an increase in both laborers and consumers, by way of reduced labor costs, and enhanced profit margins from greater economies of scale. Further, manufactured products can replace natural resources, while technology and human adaptation can evolve to more efficiently reap nature’s bounty [64,65]. Natural resource scarcity can also attend a rise in demand, thus compelling the innovation of cheaper substitutes [64,66].
However, neoclassical economic approaches foggily mirror economic reality in several respects. First, resource substitution is not a given; it is not known whether innovation will forever compensate for increasing population growth and mounting consumption. Second, even in a “properly” functioning economy, short-term resource degradation may result during the lag between the demand for resource substitutes, or improved technology for resource use, and the adoption of new systems of production (e.g., [65,67,68]). Finally, if cheap substitutes for depleted resources are developed rapidly, environmental degradation may be considered an economically efficient use of resources (e.g., [69]). But then the question becomes meta-economical: is it ethically expedient to systematically destroy natural environments in the name of economic growth?

2.2.2. Macroeconomic Factors

Colonization fronts across the tropics are testament that impure capitalist economies have not optimally conserved natural resources but have occasioned systems of swift—even terminal—exploitation [22,70]. Thus, political–economy theory may represent a more appropriate macro-economic heuristic for peripheral economies. In many regards, the internal economies of developing world nations mimic the core-periphery relationship they share with the developed world. This relationship has a spatial and temporal dimension.
Relative to the spatial dimension, consistent with international core-periphery models and globalization, developing countries have attempted to augment export earnings through agricultural expansion. As agricultural production is increasingly entwined in global commerce flows, prices for products and for investments in the means of production affect farmer decisions to expand or reduce cropland. This effect can be large. In a study from Mexico, from 1970 to 1985, maize and fertilizer prices were found to have the highest level of association with the expansion of cropped land [71]; see also [72]. The authors noted that the high cost of fertilizers may have decreased deforestation in market-oriented agricultural regions but increased it on the frontier; high costs of purchasing inputs served to catalyze frontier migration.
Thus, macroeconomic factors, apparently unrelated to frontier farmers largely marginalized from the global economy, can still lead to frontier forest conversion through incentives to expand export holdings which ultimately pushes small farmers to peripheral lands [20,22,73]. Some supply chains, for example, entail high deforestation with little benefit to small rural producers [74]. Some authors argue that tropical deforestation is part of the development process in which developing countries remain indebted to donor nations [75,76,77]. The Brazilian Amazon is a case where several authors have connected deforestation to debt owed to Western banks (e.g., [56,78,79,80]). However, this research has not been compellingly corroborated elsewhere (e.g., [81,82]).
A temporal dimension of core-periphery development is the purported Kuznetz curve association between economic development and forest transitions. According to this theory, forest impacts in early stages of peripheral economic growth are low, become accelerated during development, and are again attenuated at later stages of development when primary resource extraction is moved to a new, developing region [83,84,85,86]. This relation appears to apply to most tropical regions [22,83]. Such a relationship is evident, for example, in a comparison of deforestation over time in two Latin American countries of similar size and physical attributes: the “developing” El Salvador and the “developed” Puerto Rico [87].

2.2.3. Policy Incentives

In virtually all cases of frontier deforestation, road construction and other politically-sponsored activities play a prominent role. Indeed, one of the major criticisms of the popular “IPAT” formula of environmental change is the failure to include political and institutional factors. According to the I = PAT equation, environmental impact (I) is affected by population (P), affluence (A), and technology (T) [88]. Satellite imagery has indicated particularly high deforestation adjacent to roads throughout Latin America [89,90]; this has been documented, for example, in Brazil [91,92,93,94,95]; in Guatemala [34]; in Costa Rica [96]; in Ecuador [97]; and in Mexico [31,98]. Conversely, the importance of road access is highlighted in Bolivia where a dearth of roads and low population density has favored relatively lower deforestation [99,100,101]. Although roads impact protected and non-protected areas alike [102], Milien et al. (2021) [103] show that a protected area designation can reduce road-related impacts.
Nevertheless, road-building itself causes little deforestation relative to the land use stimulated around roads following in-migration. Formal policies in the form of taxes, credits, economic development plans—including finance, trade, investment, population, and land policies—are nearly always involved with deforestation at some level (and these will be affected also given the level of market integration following road construction and improvement). Some formal policies that promote forest clearing are indirect. For example, policies favoring urban consumers, such as the artificial depression of prices for basic grains produced by marginalized households on the frontier, may compel a response of agricultural extensification by the frontier settler [104].
Other policies more directly foster frontier forest conversion. For example, the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) in Brazil provided plots larger than 100 ha, as well as credit and food allowances, to early migrant farmers [26,80]. Tax incentives for cattle fanned a speculative land boom, with land in some areas appreciating at 100% per annum in real value [105,106]. Agricultural extension agents tended to promote a limited number of crops and to discourage diversified cropping—after all, their orientation is towards commercial agriculture—despite the importance of diversification in balancing diets and limiting susceptibility to pests, plagues, and crop failure [107]. Low gasoline prices further subsidized the use of chainsaws, road building, and agricultural machinery [108]. Meanwhile, loans from the Bank of Brazil favored farmers felling primary forest; yields were higher than those obtained from converted secondary forests [105]. Similar colonization laws in other parts of the Amazon (e.g., [109]) and in Central America (e.g., [110]) have also promoted rapid deforestation.
Property arrangements and land pricing distortions critically impact forest clearing throughout Latin America [22,111,112,113,114,115] as well as Asia [116,117]. When public lands are not valued in the same manner as private lands, the cost of public resource use is not incurred by the individual, but by the larger community. Such a land management system may lead to overexploitation of shared resources and, ultimately, to a “tragedy of the commons” [118,119,120]. Forests are artificially cheap to the squatter farmer who constantly faces the threat of new colonists invading his land, of park guards relocating him, or of absentee landowners reclaiming his land. Such uncertainties encourage land “mining”—rapacious land use for immediate benefit [92,113,121]. When a farmer is unsure if today’s investments will be his to reap tomorrow, expansive agriculture replaces strategies of farm conservation (e.g, [113,114,122]). Indeed, since the possession of a land title is usually a prerequisite to obtaining credit, squatters may be unable to invest in land conservation strategies even if they wish to do so [109,110,113]. Most forestland in the tropics is public and administration is difficult to enforce. Maintaining a large amount of forest is risky, as it advertises unused land to invading squatters. Informal tenurial regimes that arise in this environment may promote deforestation as a means to establish land claims [51,113,116,123,124]. These land claims are not generally established to safeguard against the expansionist designs of neighbor farmers (informal tenure at the community level usually recognizes such claims); rather, these are to dissuade new in-migrants from homesteading.
In a regression analysis of forest clearing in Latin America from 1961 to 1994, improved property rights were associated with slower rates of forest conversion [22]. Case studies throughout the region support this finding [50,51,113,114,125,126,127,128,129,130,131]. For example, land tenure security was positively associated with the percent of a farmer’s holdings in forests remaining within household farms in the Ecuadorian tropical forests [46]; see also [132]. Similarly, in Honduras, Humphries (1998) [133] reported that, in the absence of formal titles, early arrivals to the Honduran agricultural frontier established claims to land directly through forest clearing. However, highlighting the importance of local contexts, in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve, title was an important step towards sustainable development in reserve buffer zones [134], while in areas of greater land availability within the Reserve core zone, title was used as leverage for obtaining credit, which invariably was used to purchase cattle, thus leading to forest conversion [43,135]. Yet in the Amazon, land governance is considered by some researchers as a precondition to decreasing forest clearing [114]. Land titling in itself is unlikely to result in attenuation of pressures on tropical forests in the absence of incentives to leverage credit through farm ownership for intensive land uses, such as the planting of perennials rather than for extensive land uses such as cattle ranching.
Governments and non-government organizations (NGOs) spearheading land titling efforts must realize that secure land ownership enables farmers to broaden their suite of land management strategies—whether beneficial or deleterious to the environment. When development agencies promote technical assistance, yields can be enhanced while reducing pressures on the forest [114,136,137,138] and where park boundaries are enforced (e.g., as in Costa Rica, [139]). For example, in the tropical Andes, Cuenca et al. (2018) [140] demonstrated that thousands of hectares were spared deforestation due to the implementation of a government conservation program. Similarly, some research finds that government interventions spurring rural electrification reduces deforestation due to the lower demand for forest-based electricity substitutes (e.g., [141]).
Conversely, poor administration of frontier lands will tend to lead to accelerated forest conversion [142,143]. For example, following governance reforms, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon dropped by almost 80% between 2004 and 2012, since rebounding following relaxed government oversight and even incentives to deforest [144,145,146].
Corruption can also drive deforestation. Using panel data of Brazilian municipal-level deforestation and election data from 2002 to 2012, Pailler (2018) [147] found that deforestation rates increased 8–10% in election years with an incumbent mayor running for re-election. Rather than forest conversion being linked to democratically vetted government incentives, the link observed was to corruption and campaign financing, demonstrating the extent to which weak governmental institutions can have perverse impacts on forest cover.
While human population pressures on tropical forests operate through formal and informal political and economic processes, these pressures only explain part of the story. Where and when forest conversion occurs is often scale and place sensitive. When are small farmers pushed to the frontier as large plantation owners consolidate land, and when are they absorbed by plantation owners as workers or by urban labor markets? When do economic interests coincide with government decisions to build roads? When do land tenure regimes promote forest conservation rather than forest conversion? Ultimately, while enabled and constrained by macro-scale political and economic factors, farm households with independent agency make decisions to clear forest. Social and microeconomic characteristics associated with forest clearing at the farm level need to be incorporated in a full investigation of human impacts on tropical forests.

2.3. Socioeconomic Factors

2.3.1. Small Farmer Livelihoods

Economic and political theories insufficiently account for the broad range of small farmer responses to diverse environments. The decision whether a farm household decides to clear more forest or to reforest is typically part of a “mosaic of land uses across a landscape” consonant with a diverse livelihoods profile [148]. In addition, higher landscape diversity has been observed in the Brazilian Amazon to accompany reforestation in recent years as farmers avail themselves of better access to modern technologies and markets which allow for intensification of a portion of the farm while permitting some fallow land to return to forest [144].
One key factor in land use involves decisions regarding market versus subsistence production. The hybrid commodity and subsistence farmer is typical on the frontier. Such farmers tend to be risk averse, rather than risk takers [149,150]. The frontier agriculturists’ first aim is family security rather than profit maximization [151]. Thus, a frontier farmer may be chary to replace traditional production strategies with new ones characterized by higher potential yields, but greater risk.
Nevertheless, some studies of frontier peasant households suggest that farmers work their land not merely for security and utility maximization, but to the extent that their available land, labor, and other resources allow [46]. Many Central American frontier farmers, for example, have remained risk-averse in sticking with one “tried and true” crop, as evident in the case of maize in the frontiers of the Maya forests [152,153]. However, frontier farmers are often vigorously market-oriented, producing a host of cash crops such as cocoa, coffee, and black pepper in tandem with subsistence staples, e.g., [46,136,154], and even intensifying livestock production [144].
The socioeconomic realities of the frontier sometimes hamper efforts to couple mutually reinforcing sustainable rural development with forest conservation. Poverty can be a driver of deforestation, especially among subsistence farmers where there is also rapid population growth—the two often accompany one another–such as in the early stages of frontier formation (e.g., [11,42]). However, successful frontier farmers tend to deforest more than their poorer neighbors [41,46,155]. Land consolidation by livestock ranchers on the frontier drives much of the forest conversion in Latin America. Indeed, of the earth’s total land area (of which approximately half is arable), approximately one-third is in agriculture and fully two-thirds of this is dedicated to livestock (FAO 2021).
However, even when shifting from sustainable forest extraction (e.g., the case of Bolivia [156,157]), the first stage of deforestation usually involves the activity of small farmers expanding existing agricultural fields. A typical story involves land consolidation followed by farm and forest conversion to pasture, pushing small farmers to convert forests for basic grain production in new frontiers. Colonists will harvest two or three crops in exchange for clearing the forest for cattle ranchers as the process begins anew. This process was described by Stewart (1994) [80] in Brazil, by Jones (1990) [110] throughout Central America, and more recently in remote areas of Central America and Andean nations [9].

2.3.2. Farm Space, Time Dimensions, and Frontier LUCC

Distance of settlements to a road and to a market are strong predictors of deforestation at the farm level. Agriculture that is produced in any given place is presumed to be a function of the relative value of the crop on different portions of land [158,159]. Controlling for exogenous factors, economic rent should decrease with distance to the market, creating a series of rings around the market in which the next outward ring represents a less intensive form of land use than the preceding one [158,159]. This model is generally supported by the predominantly extensive use of frontier land throughout the Latin American tropics relative to the intensive land use in regions more closely connected to markets. In the Ecuadorian Amazon, for example, Pichón (1997) [46] found that farms further than 9 km from the road had, on average, 79% forest cover compared with less than 50% for farms less than 3 km. Similar findings are reported in the Brazilian Amazon (Fujisaka et al. 1996; Barber et al. 2014; [144] and elsewhere in Latin America [34,73,94,98,101].
Since earlier colonists are at an advantage in selecting the land most accessible to a road, distance to the road is associated with the relative number of years a plot has been farmed. Harking back to Von Thunen [158], more accessible, older plots of land are more valuable and are unlikely to remain “idle”; in addition, farmers simply have had more time to clear forest on older plots, as evident in several regions, including the Ecuadorian [46,73] and Brazilian Amazon [144] regions.

2.3.3. Education, Origin Characteristics, Perception, Ethnicity

Farmers’ decisions to grow crops for subsistence, or for market, and their relative success in doing so is not merely a result of economically efficient allocations to land and labor or simply a function of VonThunian location theory. Land use is shaped by farmers’ perceptions that fire aspirations. These are molded by learned behavior whether through cultural mores passed down through ethnic traditions, by social networks, or by formal education. Recent research has pointed to the role of culture as a driver of human induced environmental change [160] and of land use/cover change [161].
Because deforestation patterns can vary with local cultural practices, perception of land use and deforestation is ultimately an important driver of land use behavior [162]. For example, in Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve, Mexico, nearly two thirds of respondents believed they were responsible for deforestation, compared with less than one third of indigenous villagers [163]. This suggests the importance of perception of agency in managing land use and conservation. Similarly, cultural values associated with deforestation have been quantified in the Brazilian Amazon, including a culture with a proclivity towards cattle ranching [164]. The community scale must be included here, as indigenous communities have shown success in conserving forest land that impacts household land use towards decreased deforestation [165,166].
Education has been found to influence the frontier farmers’ management skills and consumption aspirations (e.g., [167,168,169]). In the Ecuadorian Amazon, educational achievement of the household head was negatively associated with the percent of land in forest and positively related to land in pasture [46]. Murphy et al. (1997) [170] hypothesized this is because formal education poorly captures the skills and knowledge needed for success on the frontier; however, education was positively associated with soil conservation strategies in El Salvador, suggesting an attenuated impact on deforestation [171]. Garzón et al. (2020) [172] argue that education focused on ecological restoration can play an important role in decreasing frontier deforestation in the Colombian Amazon. Gimah and Bodo (2019) [173] come to a similar conclusion in Nigeria, asserting that environmental education can reduce deforestation and habitat loss.
If the concept of education is expanded beyond the formal type, to the extent more intensive farming is part of the learned (from origin communities) farming culture among frontier colonists, deforestation may be reduced (e.g., [80,125,174]). For example, Almeida (1992) [136] found that colonists from southern Brazil to the Pará frontier grew more perennials, sowed less pasture, and generally produced crops more intensively than other colonists—largely attributed to a greater experience in these strategies in the more developed south.
Ethnicity and frontier land use have been examined by several authors with mixed results. On the one hand, many successful colonist farming adaptations have come from indigenous groups in the Amazon [175,176]. Colonists along the trans-Amazonian highway, who followed the advice of mixed-race locals (caboclos) selected farms of higher soil quality and produced twice the yield per hectare of other colonists—reducing pressures on the forest [177]. Similarly, in Ecuador, Rudel and Horowitz (2013) [73] found that Shuar Indians cleared considerably less forest than colonists, partially because they had much less access to credit and were less likely to adopt cattle, unlike the neighboring Quichua [178]. In this case then, while the research question was framed around differences in land use among indigenous groups, the real issue was differential access to credit. In Guatemala’s Petén, it has been debated (inconclusively) whether Q’eqchí Maya are more destructive of the forest than Ladino (mixed European and indigenous) colonists [43,179]. Finally, in western Belize, Steinberg (1998) reports that Mopan Maya land use has become ecologically destructive, marked by dramatically decreased fallow land and crop diversity as the Maya have been incorporated into the nation’s market economy.
An ethnic-political driver of forest change emerges where certain ethnic groups are favored over others, resulting in various outcomes including land use/cover change. For example, in Malawi, areas with a large faction representing the same ethnicity as the president benefitted from more subsidized fertilizer. They were therefore able to intensify more successfully, and consequently deforested less compared with areas with other predominant ethnicities [180]. Similar links between ethnicity and power relations relating to forest cover change is reported from Kenya [181].
While the myth of the noble indigenous farmer hoeing rows of endemic crops in harmony with local ecosystems reflects as much of an essentialist straw-man as does the rapacious white cattle rancher, cultural traditions associated with learned behavior in origin communities, whether through ethnic traditions or dynamic social networks, impact land use decisions and must be considered in any informed research and policy concerning frontier land use and forest conservation.
This paper has discussed demographic, political–economic, and household-level socioeconomic links to frontier deforestation. Factors relating to frontier land use interact in complex ways across spatial scales and depend on local contexts. It still remains far from achieving a meta-theory of frontier deforestation given the vast contingencies of space, place, time, and individual agency. No one factor operates independently from others, and none is meaningful independent of the physical geographical context. Comprising the fourth category of analysis in the conceptual framework proposed here, ecological characteristics are not merely outcomes of human modification of the earth, they are also important independent variables affecting human land use. After all, forest conversion is ultimately constrained by the relative virtues of the natural resource base on which farmers will inscribe their livelihoods.

2.4. Ecological Factors

The importance of ecological dynamics to agricultural change is noted by theorists who consider land use—and ultimately land degradation—as a function of dynamic environmental contexts (e.g., [182,183,184,185]). Good soil, low relief, and high water availability favor forest conversion to agriculture; however, since most such areas throughout most of tropical Latin America were denuded of forests centuries ago, most cases of recent forest conversion involve poor soil. This invariably leads to pasture creation, land degradation, and a continuation of a vicious cycle of frontier forest destruction [63,92,186]. Deforestation can impact soil function for years, including nutrient and carbon storage and recycling, erosion proclivity, and water drainage and filtration. Reforestation can reverse many of these effects, but restoration can take decades. If done appropriately, however, revitalizing impoverished soils through inputs can help reduce deforestation in situ and elsewhere [5,187].
In the early stages of frontier settlement, the best quality agricultural lands are selected first by large landholders or they are acquired during land consolidation when smallholders (including those with the initial fortune of finding good land) are forced off the land. Thus, agricultural extensification by small farmers often occurs on relatively poor soils and steep slopes, which may accelerate conversion rates to compensate for diminished yield capacity [184,188,189]. Large landholders may compensate small farmers for clearing land with the intention of later introducing cattle or market crops. Small farmers may remain and produce subsistence crops and often later introduce cattle, or they may rent from another landholder, or sell to another landholder.
In the latter stages of frontier development, land consolidation is associated with the sowing of pasture and soil compaction, which makes forest conversion irreversible and spurs further deforestation as soils are leached and land is abandoned [178,189,190]. A principal reason for soil degradation is that pasture impedes fallow re-growth, spurring the continued conversion of primary forest to maintain soil fertility [191]. Such soil degradation was largely responsible for the abandonment of up to 80% of pastureland in Brazil’s Amazonia by the early 1980s [192], leading to the conversion of adjacent forests and those in new frontiers following migration [136].
Institutional planning forms a key link in the soil degradation-frontier LUCC connection. Colonization settlements are often planned hastily and with little regard for soil fertility or topography [107,189]. Roads are rarely built to coincide with the best soils for farming; for instance, poor planning in road construction has resulted in the failure to access the approximately 3% of soils in the Brazilian Amazon region thought to be sustainable for small farming with low and medium levels of technology [136].
Other ecological factors must also be considered when examining the determinants of deforestation in the bio-diverse tropics. Climate threatens to change the pace of deforestation for various reasons [9,193].
Aide et al. (2013) [9] show that northern-central Mexico and Northeast Brazil experienced reforestation during the first decade of the 21st century linked to increased rainfall consistent with human-induced climate change during the prior decade. Similarly, Pricope et al. (2013) [4] found climate change induced reduced rainfall connections to forest degradation in the African Horn region.
Other ecological processes affecting deforestation include disease and pest problems, which are much greater than in temperate regions [184,185]. In a diverse forest, same-species plants are spaced far apart, making it difficult for infestations to spread [80,184,194,195]. The preponderant reliance on one or two crops, typical of many frontier farming systems, strips the ecosystem of natural defenses against pests and diseases. Conversely, diverse cropping systems are more resilient than monocropping to pest and disease incidence. This has been recurrently found, most recently for systems revolving around grains such as rice and maize [195] and for agroforestry systems such as those with cacao [194].
Another sort of pest is linked to deforestation. Malaria is endemic in many humid frontiers (Martine 1990; Hahn et al., 2014; [185]). Besides diminishing quality of life, malaria and other infections typical on the frontier such as gastrointestinal illnesses also cut into labor capacity, which can lead to declining yields and farm abandonment [196] and therefore, in some instances, reduce deforestation [185].
Ecological conditions form the tabula rasa on which frontier farmers will inscribe their livelihoods and land use decisions. These decisions are enabled and constrained by demographic, political–economic, and socioeconomic factors. The literature on frontier LUCC highlights the array of contingencies relating to space and place that hamper robust predictions of when and where forest clearing may occur. Despite continued population growth in the developing world, the percentage of the population serving as direct agents of forest clearing is declining yearly. Thus, political interventions to conserve tropical forests are as plausible now as ever. The next section will briefly review the major findings of this paper and propose a conceptual integration for informing research designs towards improving understanding of human-environment interactions that bear on efforts to improve rural livelihoods and conserve precious tropical ecosystems.

3. Discussion: Implications for Protection and Restoration

This paper has reviewed some of the literature regarding demographic, economic, political, household, and ecological factors associated with deforestation along tropical agricultural frontiers. These have been separated into discrete classes—only to clarify the contribution of each—with the intention of maintaining sensitivity to the inherently interconnected nature of the four categories. Nevertheless, despite relatively uniform conditions on the frontier in some regards, contradictions to theory are replete in the case study literature. Although the scholarly LUCC community has identified key factors relating to forest clearing, there has not been meaningful movement beyond the deforestation myths debunked decades ago in Hecht and Cockburn’s (1989) [26] cogent narrative on deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. We remain far from achieving a meta-theory of frontier deforestation, let alone of deforestation writ large. We are also far from prognosticating what this all means for conservation, protection, and restoration and human livelihoods. Perhaps such a goal is misplaced. Research suggests that efforts to achieve an all-encompassing theory will continue to pay attention to local context, to the mélange of physical and human geographies unique to each place, and to the fluid nature of space—especially when considering highly mobile human agents of change such as frontier migrants. The continued spate of research articles on the subject speaks to its importance, yet also suggests that key questions remain as to how, when, and where the political, socioeconomic, demographic, and ecological processes conspire to determine tropical deforestation. Nevertheless, the contours of some important spatially and temporally recurrent trends can be delineated.

3.1. Demographic Processes

Although a host of factors contribute to farmers’ land use decisions on the frontier, a spatially and temporally recurrent demographic process underlying the first pulse of much of the globe’s deforestation in tropical farm-forest frontiers is rural–rural migration (and accompanying high natural population growth) to forest margins and forest conversion to agriculture by poor colonists. This is usually followed by land consolidation by large ranch and plantation owners, a process of increasing note in recent years. It is the complex suite of determinants of this agricultural conversion process, the dominant driver of deforestation worldwide, that inspired this review and conceptual framework.
Population and forest cover change are rarely joined by a simple linear relation across scales. Neo-Malthusian arguments would appear inconsistent with the fact that, despite declining rural populations in many Latin American nations in recent years, deforestation proceeded unabated. The explanation is simple, requiring only a geographically acute analytical lens. The population responsible for frontier forest conversion is a tiny fraction of all rural inhabitants; indeed, they represent a small portion of all migrants! If frontier forest clearing increases, either frontier farmers are clearing more forest or more migrant farmers are moving to the frontier. Neither of these outcomes necessitates overall (at the national scale) rural population growth. Conversely, Boserupian theory would predict that population pressures will induce technological innovations that lead to land intensification, slowing the incorporation of forests into farmland. However, on the frontier there is little population pressure to induce such intensification; indeed, in many cases it is the wealthiest farmers with the least population pressures but with greater market ambitions that intensify crop production. Increasingly, frontier dynamics are being played out on a global scale with farmer remittances and corporate investments flowing abroad into once nearly inaccessible regions (e.g., [11]).

3.2. Socioeconomic Livelihood and Political Processes

Economic and institutional arguments sometimes fail to recognize that the ultimate decision-makers who affect population and land use change are local resource users—even if their decisions are partly constrained by factors beyond their control. Road building is a necessary but insufficient cause of tropical deforestation. Road construction in itself causes little forest clearing; migration enabled by road construction has resulted in massive deforestation. For people to settle inhospitable remote areas, roads notwithstanding, something must be occurring in migrant origin areas to initially push them to the frontier. Similarly, once on the frontier, land insecurity and ample forestland sometimes encourages a rapacious “mining” of the land by settlers, followed by abandonment and the colonization of a new farm plot. However, granting frontier farmers land tenure will not in itself foster a conservationist ethos among farmers even as it increases the value of their land and extends their investment horizon farther into the future. Case studies illustrate that land tenure also unlocks credit from lending agencies, leading to cattle adoption and suddenly accelerated forest conversion. Policies enable and constrain land use decisions; they do not predict them.

3.3. Ecological, Geographic and Temporal Dimensions

Existing particularist or behaviorialist theories sometimes fail to capture key geographical and temporal dimensions or are not appropriate to agricultural frontiers. Cultural mores and learned experiences brought to the frontier affect land use following settlement; however, these aspirations are constrained by global and regional political–economic processes and local geographical conditions. How this develops will be place specific and rarely can be founded in broad generalities. For example, it cannot be claimed that indigenous farmers are more conservationist than farmers of European or mixed ancestry when evidence (e.g., from Guatemala and Ecuador) demonstrates that indigenous households are forest-demanding in resource-poor circumstances, but less so in others (and indigenous protected areas have had notable success). Similarly, sometimes intensive land uses learned in origin areas are maintained, as observed in parts of Brazil’s Pará state [136]. In other instances, a culture of cattle ranching, as in Guatemala’s Petén [135] and some regions of the Amazon [164,197], is exported to the frontier. No overarching theory will tell when this will, or will not, happen, yet any conceptual or empirical model must take into account cultural and social forces from origin and destination areas potentially affecting land use on the frontier.
Finally, the importance of ecological degradation in spurring further forest conversion is sometimes ignored, particularly as it relates to agricultural extensification on the frontier following out-migration. What is the connection? Good soil and flat topography attracts farm settlement. However, poor soil and steep, erosion-prone topography can spur farm abandonment and forest clearing elsewhere (e.g, [5,9,11]). These ecological priors, along with increasingly dynamic climate change, will also, therefore be important predictors of future potential restoration.

4. Conclusions

Aspects of the human-environment interface remain poorly understood using conventional frameworks insufficiently sensitive to local human and physical geographies, e.g., where remote sensing insufficiently replaces proximate sensing. Further research, informed by geographical, political, economic, social, and ecological processes and examined at multiple scales, is necessary to craft appropriate policy solutions to attenuate frontier forest conversion, restore and protect degraded lands, and ameliorate farm household livelihoods [65,198,199]. Although a large literature now exists on the wide range of demographic, economic, social, and ecological processes driving frontier forest conversion, disciplinary rigidity precludes the incorporation into research designs of the full suite of these cross-disciplinary factors. Economists study labor investments and market price fluctuations; demographers investigate fertility, migration, and life cycle features; ecologists examine environmental change; and political scientists research institutional processes governing resource use. Effective measurement of the relative strength of these factors will fruitfully incorporate integrated conceptual models, mixed methods and novel statistical and computational modeling approaches [200,201,202].
Regarding the issue of scale, the direction of association can be reversed when moving across spatial resolutions as illustrated in the relation between population and forest clearing. Rural population declined in many Latin American nations accompanied by continued high rates of forest clearing. At the local scale, the site of forest conversion, deforestation was positively related to population growth, yet the overall decline in rural population was a result of this process coinciding with a more general trend towards urbanization and international migration [11]. This is no paradox; it is simply an illustration of the importance of scale-dependency and of multi-scale political–economic factors. Reconciling scale and disciplinary deficiencies will inform improved research designs. This is ultimately necessary to better understand the greatest human impact on nature of all time, with the aim of effecting change beneficial to humans and nature.
Conservation and rural livelihoods need not be mutually exclusive. However, in order to reconcile potential competition between the two, a dual approach may be appropriate. First, identifying the population who most depends on rural livelihoods and has a proportionately large potential impact on and stake in conservation is critical. Locating the solution in people first helps us understand land change drivers, socio-cultural, demographic, and political—economic, within the context of livelihood choices. Second, the small farmer needs to be framed also within larger contexts encompassing land change science and sustainability.
On this second point, small scale farmers are not the only driver of deforestation. Additionally, not all small farmers are alike. To understand their relative role, the Drivers–Pressure–State–Impact–Response (DPSIR) framework could be particularly useful when nesting small farmers within a multi-scale institutional framework [203]. Similarly, to understand land change drivers writ large (and not just the role of small farmers), a land system science approach may be more suitable (e.g., [204]). “Middle-range” theory of land system change recognizes the gap between the surfeit of empirical studies and relative dearth of theory [74]. This gap remains, as an all-encompassing land change theory has remained elusive. Yet context can be generalized to describe causal chains of land change when bounding the range of phenomena that drive land change to a finite set of predominant categories. Pertinent to a “middle-range” framework in this paper, a focus on small farmers on agricultural frontiers fails to fully capture some of the issues of spillover, including land use displacement, and tele-connections, including spatially complex supply and demand pushes and pulls in an increasingly global economy. This is a limitation to this paper but also a potentially fruitful way forward for future integrated frameworks.
To more fully comprehend frontier forest conversion, restoration, and human livelihood potentials in forest frontiers, future research may fruitfully investigate the interaction across spatial scales and academic disciplines of demographic, social, political, economic, and ecological factors facing households as they aspire to enhance their livelihoods. Researchers could successfully embrace integrated conceptual and methodological designs. Rural livelihood and forest restoration and conservation policies will ultimately only be as informed as the research which illuminates our understanding of where, how, and why people use land.


The following research funding enabled the development of this manuscript: UCSB Senate Faculty Research Grants, a National Institutes of Health Award (HD049008); and a National Science Foundation Grant (BCS-0525592).

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.

Data Availability Statement

Not applicable.


The author wishes to recognize the help of Thomas Whitmore, Richard Bilsborrow, William Pan and Alisson Barbieri for comments on earlier drafts of the paper.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


  1. Krogh, A. State of the Tropical Rainforest; Rainforest Foundation: Oslo, Norway, 2020; 32p. [Google Scholar]
  2. Meyer, W.B.; Turner, B.L. Land-use/land-cover change: Challenges for geographers. GeoJournal 1996, 39, 237–240. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  3. Geist, H.J.; Lambin, E.F. What Drives Tropical Deforestation? A Meta-Analysis of Proximate and Underlying Causes of Deforestation Based on Sub-National Case Study Evidence; LUCC International Project Office: Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 2001; 116p. [Google Scholar]
  4. Pricope, N.; Husak, G.; Lopez-Carr, D.; Funk, C.; Michaelsen, J. The climate-population nexus in the East African Horn: Emerging degradation trends in rangeland and pastoral livelihood zones. Glob. Environ. Chang. 2013, 23, 1525–1541. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  5. Turner, B.; Meyfroidt, P.; Kuemmerle, T.; Müller, D.; Chowdhury, R.R. Framing the search for a theory of land use. J. Land Use Sci. 2020, 15, 489–508. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  6. Kaimowitz, D.; Angelsen, A. Economic Models of Tropical Deforestation: A Review; Centre for International Forestry Research: Jakarta, Indonesia, 1998. [Google Scholar]
  7. Carr, D. Population and deforestation: Why rural migration matters. Prog. Hum. Geogr. 2008, 33, 355–378. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  8. Pacheco, P. Agricultural expansion and deforestation in lowland Bolivia: The import substitution versus the structural adjustment model. Land Use Policy 2006, 23, 205–225. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  9. Aide, T.M.; Clark, M.L.; Grau, H.R.; López-Carr, D.; Levy, M.A.; Redo, D.; Bonilla-Moheno, M.; Riner, G.; Andrade-Núñez, M.J.; Muñiz, M. Deforestation and Reforestation of Latin America and the Caribbean (2001–2010). Biotropica 2013, 45, 262–271. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  10. Allan, T.; Meyer, W.B.; Turner, B. Changes in Land Use and Land Cover: A Global Perspective. Geogr. J. 1996, 162, 107. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  11. López-Carr, D.; Burgdorfer, J. Deforestation Drivers: Population, Migration, and Tropical Land Use. Environ. Sci. Policy Sustain. Dev. 2013, 55, 3–11. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed] [Green Version]
  12. Lim, C.L.; Prescott, G.W.; De Alban, J.D.T.; Ziegler, A.D.; Webb, E.L. Untangling the proximate causes and underlying drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in Myanmar. Conserv. Biol. 2017, 31, 1362–1372. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  13. Rueda, X.; Velez, M.A.; Moros, L.; Rodriguez, L.A. Beyond proximate and distal causes of land-use change: Linking Individual motivations to deforestation in rural contexts. Ecol. Soc. 2019, 24. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  14. Achard, F.; Gallego, J.; Richards, T.; Malingreau, J.P.; Eva, H.D.; Stibig, H.J.; Mayaux, P. Determination of deforestation rates of the world’s humid tropical forests. Science 2002, 297, 999–1002. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  15. Lopez-Carr, D.; Ryan, S.J.; Clark, M. Global economic and diet transitions drove Latin American and Caribbean forest change during the first decade of the century. EcoEvoRxiv. 2021. Available online: (accessed on 15 October 2021).
  16. Bilsborrow, R.E.; Geores, M. Population Change and Agricultural Intenisification in Developing Countries. Population and Environment: Rethinking the Debatel; Arizpe, L., Major, D.C., Stone, P., Eds.; Routledge: New York, NY, USA, 1994. [Google Scholar]
  17. López-Carr, D. Agro-ecological determinants of rural out-migration to the Maya biosphere reserve, Guatemala. Environ. Res. Lett. 2012, 7, 045603. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  18. Davis, K. The theory of change and response in modern demographic history. Popul. Index 1963, 29, 345–366. [Google Scholar]
  19. Aide, T.M.; Grau, H.R. Ecology. Globalization, migration, and Latin American ecosystems. Science 2004, 305, 1915–1916. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  20. Ervin, D.; Lopéz-Carr, D.; Riosmena, F.; Ryan, S.J. Examining the relationship between migration and forest cover change in Mexico from 2001 to 2010. Land Use Policy 2020, 91, 104334. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  21. Bologna, M.; Aquino, G. Deforestation and world population sustainability: A quantitative analysis. Sci. Rep. 2020, 10, 1–9. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  22. Barbier, E.B. Agricultural Expansion, Resource Booms and Growth in Latin America: Implications for Long-run Economic Development. World Dev. 2004, 32, 137–157. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  23. Carr, D.L.; Bilsborrow, R.E. Population and Land Use/Cover Change: A Regional Comparison between Central America and South America. J. Geogr. Educ. 2001, 43, 7–16. [Google Scholar]
  24. Meyfroidt, P.; Lambin, E.F. Forest transition in Vietnam and displacement of deforestation abroad. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2009, 106, 16139–16144. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  25. Caviglia-Harris, J.L.; Sills, E.O.; Mullan, K. Migration and mobility on the Amazon frontier. Popul. Environ. 2013, 34, 338–369. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  26. Hecht, S.; Cockburn, A. The Fate of the Forest; Harper Collins: New York, NY, USA, 1989. [Google Scholar]
  27. Wood, C.H.; Porro, R. (Eds.) Deforestation and Land Use in the Amazon; University of Florida: Gainesville, FL, USA, 2002. [Google Scholar]
  28. Ewers, R.M.; Laurance, W.F. Scale-dependent patterns of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Environ. Conserv. 2006, 33, 203–211. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  29. Murphy, L.L.; Marquette, C.; Pichón, F.J.; Bilsborrow, R. Land use, household composition, and economic status of settlers in Ecuador’s Amazon: A review and synthesis of research findings, 1990–1999. In Proceedings of the University of Florida, Center for Latin American Studies 48th Annual Conference: “Patterns and Processes of Land Use and Forest Change in the Amazon, Gainesville, FL, USA, 23–26 March 1999. [Google Scholar]
  30. Sierra, R. Traditional resource-use systems and tropical deforestation in a multi-ethnic region in North-West Ecuador. Environ. Conserv. 1999, 26, 136–145. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  31. Geoghegan, J.; Villar, S.C.; Klepeis, P.; Mendoza, P.M.; Ogneva-Himmelberger, Y.; Chowdhury, R.R.; Turner, B.; Vance, C. Modeling tropical deforestation in the southern Yucatán peninsular region: Comparing survey and satellite data. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 2001, 85, 25–46. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  32. Klepeis, P.; Turner, B.L. Integrated land history and global change science: The example of the Southern Yucatan Peninsular Region project. Land Use Policy 2001, 18, 27–39. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  33. Turner, B.L., II; Geoghegan, J.; Foster, D. Integrated Land-Change Science and Tropical Deforestation in the Southern Yucatán: Final Frontiers; Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK; New York, NY, USA, 2004; 320p. [Google Scholar]
  34. Sader, S.A.; Reining, C.; Sever, T.; Soza, C. Human Migration and agricultural expansion: An impending threat to the Maya Biosphere Reserve. J. For. 1997, 95, 27–32. [Google Scholar]
  35. VanWey, L.K. The Power of Home: Remittances to Families and Communities. Immigr. Int. Money Flows 2007, 123, 123–146. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  36. Makunga, J.; Misana, S.B. The Extent and Drivers of Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Masito-Ugalla Ecosystem, Kigoma Region, Tanzania. Open J. For. 2017, 07, 285–305. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  37. Sellers, S. Family planning and deforestation: Evidence from the Ecuadorian Amazon. Popul. Environ. 2017, 38, 424–447. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  38. Carr, D.L.; Pan, W.; Bilsborrow, R.E. Declining fertility on the frontier: The Ecuadorian Amazon. Popul. Environ. 2007, 28, 17–39. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  39. Pan, W.K.; Walsh, S.J.; Bilsborrow, R.E.; Frizzelle, B.; Erlien, C.M.; Baquero, F. Farm-level models of spatial patterns of land use and land cover dynamics in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 2004, 101, 117–134. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  40. Rosero-Bixby, L.; Palloni, A. Population and deforestation in Costa Rica. Popul. Environ. 1998, 20, 149–185. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  41. Carr, D.L. Forest Clearing Among Farm Households in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. Prof. Geogr. 2005, 57, 157–168. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  42. Munthali, M.G.; Davis, N.; Adeola, A.M.; Botai, J.O.; Kamwi, J.M.; Chisale, H.L.W.; Orimoogunje, O.O.I. Local Perception of Drivers of Land-Use and Land-Cover Change Dynamics across Dedza District, Central Malawi Region. Sustainability 2019, 11, 832. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  43. Carr, D.L. Proximate Population Factors and Deforestation in Tropical Agricultural Frontiers. Popul. Environ. 2003, 25, 585–612. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed] [Green Version]
  44. Chayanov, A.V. The Theory of Peasant Economy; University of Wisconsin Press: Madison, WI, USA, 1986. [Google Scholar]
  45. Walker, R.; Perz, S.; Caldas, M.; Silva, L.G.T. Land use and land cover change in forest frontiers: The role of household life cycles. Int. Reg. Sci. Rev. 2002, 25, 169–199. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  46. Pichón, F.J. Settler households and land-use patterns in the Amazon frontier: Farm-level evidence from Ecuador. World Dev. 1997, 25, 67–91. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  47. Perz, S.G. Household demographic factors as life cycle determinants of land use in the Amazon. Popul. Res. Policy Rev. 2001, 20, 159–186. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  48. Boserup, E. Population and Technological Change: A Study of Long-Term Trends; The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL, USA, 1965. [Google Scholar]
  49. Brush, S.B.; Turner, B., II. The Nature of Farming Systems and Views of Their Change. Comparative Farming Systems; Turner, B., II, Brush, S.B., Eds.; The Guilford Press: New York, NY, USA, 1987. [Google Scholar]
  50. Fearnside, P. Deforestation in Brazilian Amzonia: The Effect of Population and Land Tenure. Ambio 1993, 22, 537–545. [Google Scholar]
  51. Kaimowitz, D. Land Tenure, Land Markets, and Natural Resource Management by Large Landowners in the Petén and the Northern Transversal of Guatemala. In Proceedings of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, USA, September 1995. [Google Scholar]
  52. Armenteras, D.; Rudas, G.; Rodriguez, N.; Sua, S.; Romero, M. Patterns and causes of deforestation in the Colombian Amazon. Ecol. Indic. 2006, 6, 353–368. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  53. Ellis, E.C.; Ramankutty, N. Putting people in the map: Anthropogenic biomes of the world. Front. Ecol. Environ. 2008, 6, 439–447. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  54. Nzunda, E.F.; Midtgaard, F. Spatial relationship between deforestation and protected areas, accessibility, population density, GDP and other factors in mainland Tanzania. For. Trees Livelihoods 2017, 26, 245–255. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  55. Angelsen, A.; Kaimowitz, D. Intoduction: The role of agricultural technologies in tropical deforestation. In Agricultural Technologies and Tropical Deforestation; Angelsen, A., Kaimowitz, D., Eds.; CABI/CIFOR: 1-18; CAB International: New York, NY, USA, 2001. [Google Scholar]
  56. Hecht, S. Logics of Livestock and Deforestation: The Case of Amazonia; Routledge: London, UK, 2019; pp. 7–25. [Google Scholar]
  57. Perz, S.G. Social Determinants and Land Use Correlates of Agricultural Technology Adoption in a Forest Frontier: A Case Study in the Brazilian Amazon. Hum. Ecol. 2003, 31, 133–165. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  58. Vosti, S.; Carpentier, C.; Witcover, J.; Valentim, J. Intensified small-scale livestock systems in the western Brazilian Amazon. In Agricultural Technologies and Tropical Deforestation; Angelsen, A., Kaimowitz, D., Eds.; CABI/CIFOR: 113-134; CAB International: New York, NY, USA, 2001. [Google Scholar]
  59. Abizaid, C.; Coomes, O.T. Land use and forest fallowing dynamics in seasonally dry tropical forests of the southern Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. Land Use Policy 2004, 21, 71–84. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  60. Chowdhury, R.R. Household Land Management and Biodiversity: Secondary Succession in a Forest-Agriculture Mosaic in Southern Mexico. Ecol. Soc. 2007, 12, 31. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  61. Brown, J.C. Responding to deforestation: Productive conservation, the World Bank, and beekeeping in Rondonia, Brazil. Prof. Geogr. 2001, 53, 106–118. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  62. Carr, D.L. The Role of Population Change in Land Use and Land Cover Change in Rural Latin America: Uncovering Local Processes Concealed by Macro-level Data. In Land Use Changes in Comparative Perspective; Himiyama, M.H.Y., Ichinose, T., Eds.; Science Publishers: Enfield, UK; Plymouth, UK, 2002. [Google Scholar]
  63. Carr, D.L.; Suter, L.; Barbieri, A. Population Dynamics and Tropical Deforestation: State of the Debate and Conceptual Challenges. Popul. Environ. 2005, 27, 89–113. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  64. Jolly, C.L. Four theories of population change and the environment. Popul. Environ. 1994, 16, 61–90. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  65. Christman, Z.; Pearsall, H.; Schmook, B.; Mardero, S. Diversification and adaptive capacity across scales in an emerging post-frontier landscape of the Usumacinta Valley, Chiapas, Mexico. Int. For. Rev. 2015, 17, 111–123. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  66. Simon, J. What are the Real Population and Resource Problems? In The Ultimate Resource; Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ, USA, 1981. [Google Scholar]
  67. Grainger, A.; Francisco, H.A.; Tiraswat, P. The impact of changes in agricultural technology on long-term trends in deforestation. Land Use Policy 2003, 20, 209–223. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  68. Nietschmann, B. Ecological Change, Inflation, and Migration in the Far Western Caribbean. Geogr. Rev. 1979, 69, 1–24. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  69. Dixon, J.A.; Sherman, P.B. Economics of Protected Areas. Ambio 1991, 20, 68–74. [Google Scholar]
  70. Rozon, C.; Lucotte, M.; Davidson, R.; Paquet, S.; Oestreicher, J.S.; Mertens, F.; Passos, C.J.S.; Romana, C. Spatial and temporal evolution of family-farming land use in the Tapajós region of the Brazilian Amazon. Acta Amaz. 2015, 45, 203–214. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  71. Barbier, E.B.; Burgess, J.C. Economic analysis of deforestation in Mexico. Environ. Dev. Econ. 1996, 1, 203–239. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  72. Dyer, G.A.; Taylor, J.E. The Corn Price Surge: Impacts on Rural Mexico. World Dev. 2011, 39, 1878–1887. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  73. Rudel, T.; Horowitz, B. Tropical Deforestation: Small Farmers and Land Clearing in Ecuadorian Amazon; Columbia University Press: New York, NY, USA, 2013. [Google Scholar]
  74. Meyfroidt, P. Trade-offs between environment and livelihoods: Bridging the global land use and food security discussions. Glob. Food Secur. 2018, 16, 9–16. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  75. Kahn, J.R.; McDonald, J.A. Third-world debt and tropical deforestation. Ecol. Econ. 1995, 12, 107–123. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  76. Shandra, J.M.; Shircliff, E.; London, B. World Bank lending and deforestation: A cross-national analysis. Int. Sociol. 2011, 26, 292–314. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  77. Wibowo, D.H.; Byron, R.N. Deforestation mechanisms: A survey. Int. J. Soc. Econ. 1999, 26, 455–474. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  78. Moran, E. Private and Public Colonisation Schemes in Amazonia. In The Future of Amazônia: Destruction or Sustainable Development; Goodman, D., Hall, A., Eds.; St. Martin’s Press: New York, NY, USA, 1990; pp. 70–89. [Google Scholar]
  79. St-Laurent, G.P.; Gélinas, N.; Potvin, C. REDD+ and the agriculture frontier: Understanding colonists’ utilization of the land. Land Use Policy 2013, 31, 516–525. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  80. Stewart, D. After the Trees: Living on the Transamazonian Highway; University of Texas Press: Austin, TX, USA, 1994. [Google Scholar]
  81. Angelsen, A.; Culas, R. Debt and Deforestation: A Tenuous Link; Working Paper No. 10; Christian Michelsen Institute: Bergen, Norway, 1996. [Google Scholar]
  82. Shafik, N. (Ed.) Macroeconomic Causes of Deforestation Barking up the Wrong Tree? The Causes of Tropical Deforestation the Economic and Statistical Analysis of Factors Giving Rise to the Loss of the Tropical Forests; University College London Press Ltd.: London, UK, 1994. [Google Scholar]
  83. Assa, B.S.K. The deforestation-income relationship: Evidence of deforestation convergence across developing countries. Environ. Dev. Econ. 2021, 26, 131–150. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  84. Bray, D.B. Forest Cover Dynamics and Forest Transitions in Mexico and Central America: Towards a “Great Restoration”? In Reforesting Landscapes; Landscape Series; Springer International Publishing: Berlin/Heidelberg, Germany, 2009; Volume 10, pp. 85–120. [Google Scholar]
  85. Mather, A.S.; Needle, C.L. The relationships of population and forest trends. Geogr. J. 2000, 166, 2–13. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  86. Pfaff, A.; Walker, R. Regional interdependence and forest “transitions”: Substitute deforestation limits the relevance of local reversals. Land Use Policy 2010, 27, 119–129. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  87. Koop, G.; Tole, L. Measuring differential forest outcomes: A tale of two countries. World Dev. 1997, 25, 2043–2056. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  88. Commoner, B. Making Peace with the Planet; Pantheon Books: New York, NY, USA, 1990. [Google Scholar]
  89. Davidson, E.A.; de Araújo, A.C.; Artaxo, P.; Balch, J.K.; Brown, I.F.; Bustamante, M.M.; Coe, M.T.; DeFries, R.S.; Keller, M.; Longo, M.; et al. The Amazon Basin in Transition. Nature 2012, 481, 321–328. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  90. Rudel, T.K. Shrinking Tropical Forests, Human Agents of Change, and Conservation Policy. Conserv. Biol. 2006, 20, 1604–1609. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  91. Alves, D.S. Space-time dynamics of deforestation in Brazilian Amazônia. Int. J. Remote Sens. 2002, 23, 2903–2908. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  92. Moran, E.F.; Brondizio, E.; Mausel, P.; Wu, Y. Integrating Amazonian Vegetation, Land-Use, and Satellite Data. Biosci. 1994, 44, 329–338. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  93. Pfaff, A.S. What Drives Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon?: Evidence from Satellite and Socioeconomic Data. J. Environ. Econ. Manag. 1999, 37, 26–43. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  94. Rudorff, B.F.T.; Adami, M.; Aguiar, D.A.; Moreira, M.A.; Mello, M.P.; Fabiani, L.; Amaral, D.F.; Pires, B.M. The Soy Moratorium in the Amazon Biome Monitored by Remote Sensing Images. Remote Sens. 2011, 3, 185–202. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  95. Skole, D.; Tucker, C. Tropical Deforestation and Habitat Fragmentation in the Amazon: Satellite Data from 1978 to 1988. Sci. 1993, 260, 1905–1910. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  96. Sader, S.A.; Joyce, A.T. Deforestation Rates and Trends in Costa Rica, 1940 to 1983. Biotropica 1988, 20, 11. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  97. Sierra, R. Dynamics and patterns of deforestation in the western Amazon: The Napo deforestation front, 1986–1996. Appl. Geogr. 2000, 20, 1–16. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  98. Nelson, G.C.; Hellerstein, D. Do roads cause deforestation? Using satellite images in econometric analyses of land use. Am. J. Agric. Econ. 1997, 79, 80–88. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  99. Kaimowitz, D. Factors determining low deforestation: The Bolivian Amazon. Ambio 1997, 26, 537–540. [Google Scholar]
  100. Steininger, M.K.; Tucker, C.J.; Townshend, J.R.G.; Killeen, T.J.; Desch, A.; Bell, V.; Ersts, P. Tropical deforestation in the Bolivian Amazon. Environ. Conserv. 2001, 28, 127–134. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  101. Marsik, M.; Stevens, F.; Southworth, J. Amazon deforestation: Rates and patterns of land cover change and fragmentation in Pando, northern Bolivia, 1986 to 2005. Prog. Phys. Geogr. Earth Environ. 2011, 35, 353–374. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  102. Paiva, P.F.P.R.; Ruivo, M.D.L.P.; Júnior, O.M.D.S.; Maciel, M.D.N.M.; Braga, T.; De Andrade, M.M.N.; Junior, P.C.D.S.; Da Rocha, E.S.; De Freitas, T.P.M.; Leite, T.V.D.S.; et al. Deforestation in protect areas in the Amazon: A threat to biodiversity. Biodivers. Conserv. 2019, 29, 19–38. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  103. Milien, E.J.; Rocha, K.D.S.; Brown, I.F.; Perz, S.G. Roads, deforestation and the mitigating effect of the Chico Mendes extractive reserve in the southwestern Amazon. Trees For. People 2021, 3, 100056. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  104. Deininger, K.W.; Minten, B. Poverty, Policies, and Deforestation: The Case of Mexico. Econ. Dev. Cult. Chang. 1999, 47, 313–344. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  105. Mahar, D.J. Government Policies and Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon Region; World Bank: Washington, DC, USA, 1989. [Google Scholar]
  106. Moran, E.F. Deforestation and land use in the Brazilian Amazon. Hum. Ecol. 1993, 21, 1–21. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  107. Bunker, S.G. Underdeveloping the Amazon: Extraction, Unequal Exchange, and the Failure of the Modern State; University of Illinois Press: Champaign, IL, USA, 1984. [Google Scholar]
  108. Southgate, D.; Whitaker, M. Promoting Resource Degradation in Latin America: Tropical Deforestation, Soil Erosion, and Coastal Ecosystem Disturbance in Ecuador. Econ. Dev. Cult. Chang. 1992, 40, 787–807. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  109. Pichón, F.J. Agricultural Settlement and Ecological Crisis in the Ecuadorian Amazon Frontier. A Discussion of the Policy Environment. Policy Stud. J. 1992, 20, 662–678. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  110. Jones, J.R. Colonization and Environment: Land Settlement Projects in Central America; United Nations University Press: Tokyo, Japan, 1990. [Google Scholar]
  111. Angelsen, A. Policies for reduced deforestation and their impact on agricultural production. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2010, 107, 19639–19644. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed] [Green Version]
  112. Bray, D.B.; Ellis, E.A.; Armijo-Canto, N.; Beck, C.T. The institutional drivers of sustainable landscapes: A case study of the ‘Mayan Zone’ in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Land Use Policy 2004, 21, 333–346. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  113. Lipscomb, M.; Prabakaran, N. Property rights and deforestation: Evidence from the Terra Legal land reform in the Brazilian Amazon. World Dev. 2020, 129, 104854. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  114. Reydon, B.P.; Fernandes, V.B.; Telles, T.S. Land governance as a precondition for decreasing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Land Use Policy 2020, 94, 104313. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  115. Roebeling, P.C.; Hendrix, E.M. Land speculation and interest rate subsidies as a cause of deforestation: The role of cattle ranching in Costa Rica. Land Use Policy 2010, 27, 489–496. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  116. Robinson, B.E.; Holland, M.B.; Naughton-Treves, L. Does Secure Land Tenure Save Forests? A Review of the Relationship between Land Tenure and Tropical Deforestation; CCAFS Working Paper; 2011; Volume 7, Available online: (accessed on 15 October 2021).
  117. Wannasai, N.; Shrestha, R.P. Role of land tenure security and farm household characteristics on land use change in the Prasae Watershed, Thailand. Land Use Policy 2008, 25, 214–224. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  118. Frischmann, B.M.; Marciano, A.; Ramello, G.B. Retrospectives: Tragedy of the Commons after 50 Years. J. Econ. Perspect. 2019, 33, 211–228. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  119. Hardin, G. The tragedy of the commons. Science 1968, 162, 1243–1248. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  120. Ostrom, E. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action; Cambridge University Press: New York, NY, USA, 1990. [Google Scholar]
  121. McDonald, M. Security, the Environment and Emancipation: Contestation over Environmental Change; Routledge: London, UK, 2011. [Google Scholar]
  122. Mahar, D.; Schneider, R. Incentives for tropical deforestation: Some examples from Latin America. In The Causes of Tropical Deforestation; Brown, K., Pearce, D.W., Eds.; University College London Press: London, UK, 1994. [Google Scholar]
  123. Barbier, E.B. The economic determinants of land degradation in developing countries. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 1997, 352, 891–899. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  124. Southgate, D.; Sanders, J.; Ehui, S. Resource Degradation in Africa and Latin America: Population Pressure, Policies, and Property Arrangements. Am. J. Agric. Econ. 1990, 72, 1259–1263. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  125. Stonich, M. The dynamics of social processes and environmental destruction: A Central American case study. Popul. Dev. Rev. 1989, 15, 269–297. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  126. Southgate, D. The Causes of Land Degradation along “Spontaneously” Expanding Agricultural Frontiers in the Third World. Land Econ. 1990, 66, 93. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  127. Schmink, M. The Socioeconomic Matrix of Deforestation. In Population and the Environment: Rethinking the Debate; Arizpe, L., Ed.; Westview: New York, NY, USA, 1994; pp. 253–271. [Google Scholar]
  128. Mendelsohn, R.; Balick, M. Private property and rainforest conservation. Conserv. Biol. 1995, 9, 1322–1323. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  129. Clark, C. Seeking Legitimacy: The Story of Land Tenure in the Petén, Guatemala; Fulbright Foundation: Flores, Petén, Guatemala, 1996. [Google Scholar]
  130. Deacon, R.T. Deforestation and Ownership: Evidence from Historical Accounts and Contemporary Data. Land Econ. 1999, 75, 341. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  131. Araujo, C.; Bonjean, C.A.; Combes, J.-L.; Motel, P.C.; Reis, E.J. Property rights and deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Ecol. Econ. 2009, 68, 2461–2468. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  132. Pohle, P.; Gerique, A.; Park, M.; Sandoval, M.F.L. Human ecological dimensions in sustainable utilization and conservation of tropical mountain rain forests under global change in southern Ecuador. In Environmental Science and Engineering; Springer: Singapore, 2010; pp. 477–509. [Google Scholar]
  133. Humphries, S. Milk Cows, Migrants, and Land Markets: Unraveling the Complexities of Forest-to-Pasture Conversion in Northern Honduras. Econ. Dev. Cult. Chang. 1998, 47, 95–124. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  134. Gould, K.A. Land regularization on agricultural frontiers: The case of Northwestern Petén, Guatemala. Land Use Policy 2006, 23, 395–407. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  135. Carr, D.L. A comparison of Ladino and Q’eqchi Maya land use and land clearing in the Sierra de Lacandón National Park, Petén, Guatemala. Agric. Hum. Values 2004, 21, 67–76. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  136. Almeida, A. The Colonization of the Amazon; University of Texas Press: Austin, TX, USA, 1992. [Google Scholar]
  137. Barbieri, A.F.; Pan, W. People, Land, and Context: Multilevel Determinants of Off-farm Employment in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Popul. Space Place 2013, 19, 558–579. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  138. Smith, P. Delivering food security without increasing pressure on land. Glob. Food Secur. 2013, 2, 18–23. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  139. Sánchez-Azofeifa, A.; Busch, C.; Daily, G.C.; Pfaff, A.S.P. Integrity and isolation of Costa Rica’s national parks and biological reserves: Examining the dynamics of land-cover change. Biol. Conserv. 2003, 109, 123–135. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  140. Cuenca, P.; Robalino, J.; Arriagada, R.; Echeverría, C. Are government incentives effective for avoided deforestation in the tropical Andean forest? PLoS ONE 2018, 13, e0203545. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed] [Green Version]
  141. Tanner, A.M.; Johnston, A.L. The Impact of Rural Electric Access on Deforestation Rates. World Dev. 2017, 94, 174–185. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  142. Meyer, A.; van Kooten, G.C.; Wang, S. Institutional, social and economic roots of deforestation: A cross-country comparison. Int. For. Rev. 2003, 5, 29–37. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  143. Blom, B.; Cummins, I.; Ashton, M.S. Large and Intact Forests: Drivers and Inhibitors of Deforestation and Forest Degradation. In Managing Forest Carbon in a Changing Climate; Springer Science and Business Media LLC: Berlin/Heidelberg, Germany, 2012; pp. 285–304. [Google Scholar]
  144. Schielein, J.; Börner, J. Recent transformations of land-use and land-cover dynamics across different deforestation frontiers in the Brazilian Amazon. Land Use Policy 2018, 76, 81–94. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  145. dos Santos, A.M.; da Silva, C.F.A.; de Almeida Junior, P.M.; Rudke, A.P.; de Melo, S.N. Deforestation drivers in the Brazilian Amazon: Assessing new spatial predictors. J. Environ. Manag. 2021, 294, 113020. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  146. Junior, C.H.L.S.; Pessôa, A.C.M.; Carvalho, N.S.; Reis, J.B.C.; Anderson, L.O.; Aragão, L.E.O.C. The Brazilian Amazon deforestation rate in 2020 is the greatest of the decade. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 2021, 5, 144–145. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  147. Pailler, S. Re-election incentives and deforestation cycles in the Brazilian Amazon. J. Environ. Econ. Manag. 2018, 88, 345–365. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  148. Ota, L.; Herbohn, J.; Gregorio, N.; Harrison, S. Reforestation and smallholder livelihoods in the humid tropics. Land Use Policy 2020, 92, 104455. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  149. Lipton, M. The Theory of the Optimizing Peasant. J. Dev. Stud. 1968, 4, 327–351. [Google Scholar]
  150. Roumasset, J. Rice and Risk; North Holland Press: Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1976. [Google Scholar]
  151. Ortiz, S. Uncertainties in Peasant Farming; Atholone Press: London, UK, 1973. [Google Scholar]
  152. Lambert, D.P. Crop diversity and fallow management in a tropical decidous forest shifting cultivation system. Hum. Ecol. 1996, 24, 427–455. [Google Scholar]
  153. Steinberg, M.K. Political Ecology and Cultural Change: Impacts on Swidden-fallow Agroforestry Practices among the Mopan Maya in Southern Belize. Prof. Geogr. 1998, 50, 407–417. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  154. Walker, R. Farming Systems and Economic Performance in the Brazilian Amazon. In Congresso Brasileiro Sobre Sistemas Agroforestais, Porto Velho, Anais. Colombo: EMBRAPA-CNPF; (EMBRAPA.CNPF Documentos, 27); 1994; Available online: (accessed on 15 October 2021).
  155. Chakravarty, S.; Ghosh, S.K.; Suresh, C.P.; Dey, A.N.; Shukla, G. Deforestation: Causes, Effects and Control Strategies; 2012; Available online: (accessed on 15 October 2021).
  156. Merry, F.; Hildebrand, P.; Pattie, P.; Carter, D. An analysis of land conversion from sustainable forestry to pasture: A case study in the Bolivian Lowlands. Land Use Policy 2002, 19, 207–215. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  157. Müller, R.; Müller, D.; Schierhorn, F.; Gerold, G.; Pacheco, P. Proximate causes of deforestation in the Bolivian lowlands: An analysis of spatial dynamics. Reg. Environ. Chang. 2012, 12, 445–459. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  158. Von Thünen, J.H. Isolated State; An English Edition of Der Isolierte Staat; Pergamon Press: New York, NY, USA, 1966. [Google Scholar]
  159. Peet, R.J. The Spatial Expansion of Commercial Agriculture in the 19th Century: A von Thunen Interpretation. Econ. Geogr. 1969, 45, 283–301. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  160. Caldas, M.M.; Sanderson, M.R.; Mather, M.; Daniels, M.D.; Bergtold, J.S.; Aistrup, J.; Stamm, J.L.H.; Haukos, D.; Douglas-Mankin, K.; Sheshukov, A.Y.; et al. Opinion: Endogenizing culture in sustainability science research and policy. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2015, 112, 8157–8159. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed] [Green Version]
  161. Waroux, Y.L.P.D.; Garrett, R.D.; Chapman, M.; Friis, C.; Hoelle, J.; Hodel, L.; Hopping, K.; Zaehringer, J.G. The role of culture in land system science. J. Land Use Sci. 2021, 1–17. Available online: (accessed on 15 October 2021). [CrossRef]
  162. Twongyirwe, R.; Bithell, M.; Richards, K.S. Revisiting the drivers of deforestation in the tropics: Insights from local and key informant perceptions in western Uganda. J. Rural. Stud. 2018, 63, 105–119. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  163. Durand, L.; Lazos, E. The Local Perception of Tropical Deforestation and its Relation to Conservation Policies in Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve, Mexico. Hum. Ecol. 2008, 36, 383–394. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  164. Hoelle, J. Quantifying cultural values associated with deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. J. Land Use Sci. 2018, 13, 166–181. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  165. Nepstad, D.; Schwartzman, S.; Bamberger, B.; Santilli, M.; Ray, D.; Schlesinger, P.; Lefebvre, P.; Alencar, A.; Prinz, E.; Fiske, G.; et al. Inhibition of Amazon Deforestation and Fire by Parks and Indigenous Lands. Conserv. Biol. 2006, 20, 65–73. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  166. Dawson, N.M.; Coolsaet, B.; Sterling, E.J.; Loveridge, R.; Nicole, D.; Wongbusarakum, S.; Sangha, K.K.; Scherl, L.M.; Phan, H.P.; Zafra-Calvo, N.; et al. The role of Indigenous peoples and local communities in effective and equitable conservation. Ecol. Soc. 2021, 26. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  167. Moran, E. Colonization in Transamazonia and Rondonia. In Frontier Expansion in Amazonia; Schmink, M., Woods, C.H., Eds.; University of Florida Press: Gainesville, FL, USA, 1984. [Google Scholar]
  168. Godoy, R.; Groff, S.; O’Neill, K. The Role of Education in Neotropical Deforestation: Household Evidence from Amerindians in Honduras. Hum. Ecol. 1998, 26, 649–675. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  169. van Vliet, N.; Mertz, O.; Heinimann, A.; Langanke, T.; Pascual, U.; Schmook, B.; Adams, C.; Schmidt-Vogt, D.; Messerli, P.; Leisz, S.; et al. Trends, drivers and impacts of changes in swidden cultivation in tropical forest-agriculture frontiers: A global assessment. Glob. Environ. Chang. 2012, 22, 418–429. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  170. Murphy, L.; Bilsborrow, R.; Pichón, F. Poverty and prosperity among migrant settlers in the Amazon rainforest frontier of Ecuador. J. Dev. Stud. 1997, 34, 35–65. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  171. Sain, G.E.; Barreto, H.J. The adoption of soil conservation technology in El Salvador: Linking productivity and conservation. J. Soil Water Conserv. 1996, 51, 313–321. [Google Scholar]
  172. Garzón, N.V.; León, C.H.R.; Ceccon, E.; Pérez, D.R. Ecological restoration-based education in the Colombian Amazon: Toward a new society–nature relationship. Restor. Ecol. 2020, 28, 1053–1060. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  173. Gimah, B.G.; Bodo, T. Creation of awareness through environmental adult education as a solution to the problem of habitat loss in Ogoni, Rivers State, Nigeria. Int. J. Adv. Res. Publ. 2019, 3, 22–28. [Google Scholar]
  174. Lambin, E.F.; Meyfroidt, P. Global land use change, economic globalization, and the looming land scarcity. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2011, 108, 3465–3472. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  175. Posey, D.A. A Preliminary report on diversified management of tropical forest by the Kayapó Indians of the Brazilian Amazon. In Ethnobotany in the Neotropics; Prance, G.T., Kallunki, J.A., Eds.; New York Botanical Garden: New York, NY, USA, 1984; pp. 112–126. [Google Scholar]
  176. Works, M.A.; Denevan, W.M.; Padoch, C. Swidden-Fallow Agroforestry in the Peruvian Amazon. Geogr. Rev. 1989, 79, 251. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  177. Moran, E. Government-Directed Settlement in the 1970s: An Assessment of Transamazon Highway Colonization. In The Dilemma of Amazonian Development; Moran, E., Ed.; Westview Press: Boulder, CO, USA, 1983; pp. 297–317. [Google Scholar]
  178. MacDonald, T. Indigenous responses to an expanding frontier: Jungle Quichua economic conversion to cattle ranching. In Cultural Transformations and Ethnicity in Modern Ecuador; Whitten, N., Ed.; University of Illinois Press: Urbana, IL, USA, 1981. [Google Scholar]
  179. Atran, S.; Medin, D.; Ross, N.; Lynch, E.; Coley, J.; Ek’, E.U.; Vapnarsky, V. Folkecology and commons management in the Maya Lowlands. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 1999, 96, 7598–7603. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed] [Green Version]
  180. Abman, R.; Carney, C. Agricultural productivity and deforestation: Evidence from input subsidies and ethnic favoritism in Malawi. J. Environ. Econ. Manag. 2020, 103, 102342. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  181. Albertazzi, S.; Bini, V.; Lindon, A.; Trivellini, G. Relations of power driving tropical deforestation: A case study from the Mau Forest (Kenya). Belgeo. Rev. Belg. De Géographie 2018, 2. Available online: (accessed on 15 October 2021). [CrossRef]
  182. Turner, B., II; Hanham, R.; Portoraro, A. Population Pressure and Agricultural Intensity. Ann. Assoc. Am. Geogr. 1977, 37, 384–396. [Google Scholar]
  183. Blaikie, P.; Brookfield, H. Land Degradation and Society; Methuen: London, UK, 1987. [Google Scholar]
  184. Denevan, W.M.; Fearnside, P.M. Human Carrying Capacity of the Brazilian Rainforest. Geogr. Rev. 1987, 77, 479. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  185. MacDonald, A.J.; Mordecai, E.A. Amazon deforestation drives malaria transmission, and malaria burden reduces forest clearing. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2019, 116, 22212–22218. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  186. Hecht, S. Deforestation in the Amazon Basin: Magnitude, Dynamics, and Soil Resource Effects. Stud. Third World Soc. 1985, 13, 61–100. [Google Scholar]
  187. Cerri, C.E.P.; Maia, S.M.F.; Cherubin, M.R.; Feigl, B.J.; Lal, R. Reducing Amazon Deforestation through Agricultural Intensification in the Cerrado for Advancing Food Security and Mitigating Climate Change. Sustainability 2018, 10, 989. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  188. Spera, S. Agricultural Intensification Can Preserve the Brazilian Cerrado: Applying Lessons from Mato Grosso and Goiás to Brazil’s Last Agricultural Frontier. Trop. Conserv. Sci. 2017, 10, 1940082917720662. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  189. Carrero, G.C.; Fearnside, P.M.; Valle, D.R.D.; Alves, C.D.S. Deforestation Trajectories on a Development Frontier in the Brazilian Amazon: 35 Years of Settlement Colonization, Policy and Economic Shifts, and Land Accumulation. Environ. Manag. 2020, 66, 966–984. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  190. Walker, R. Deforestation and Economic Development. Can. J. Reg. Sci./Rev. Can. Des Sci. Reg. 1993, 16, 481–497. [Google Scholar]
  191. Smith, J.; Lombardi, I.; Sabogal, C.; Diaz, A.; van de Kop, P.; Reategui, K. Dynamics of secondary forests in slash-and-burn farming: Interactions among land use types in the Peruvian Amazon. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 1999, 76, 85–98. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  192. Hecht, S. Cattle Ranching in the Eastern Amazon: Environmental and Social Implications. In The Dilemma of Amazonian Development; Moran, E.F., Ed.; Westview Press: Boulder, CO, USA, 1983; pp. 155–188. [Google Scholar]
  193. Fearnside, P.M. Are climate change impacts already affecting tropical forest biomass? Glob. Environ. Chang. 2004, 14, 299–302. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  194. Armengot, L.; Ferrari, L.; Milz, J.; Velásquez, F.; Hohmann, P.; Schneider, M. Cacao agroforestry systems do not increase pest and disease incidence compared with monocultures under good cultural management practices. Crop. Prot. 2020, 130, 105047. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  195. Dissanayake, S.P.; Gunaratne, L.H.P.; Sivanathewer, T.; Ginigaddara, G.A.S. Comparative Analysis of Sustainability in Paddy Monoculture and Paddy-Maize Rotation Farming Systems in Sri Lanka. Trop. Agric. Res. 2021, 32, 265. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  196. Henriques, M. The Colonization Experience in Brazil. Land Settlement Policies and Population Redistribution in Developing Countries: Achievements, Problems, and Prospects; Oberai, A., Ed.; Praeger: New York, NY, USA; Westport, CT, USA; London, UK, 1988; pp. 317–354. [Google Scholar]
  197. Loker, W.M. The Human Ecology of Cattle Raising in the Peruvian Amazon: The View from the Farm. Hum. Organ. 1993, 52, 14–24. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  198. Rindfuss, R.R.; Entwisle, B.; Walsh, S.J.; Mena, C.F.; Erlien, C.M.; Gray, C.L. Frontier Land Use Change: Synthesis, Challenges, and Next Steps. Ann. Assoc. Am. Geogr. 2007, 97, 739–754. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  199. Chowdhury, R.R.; Turner, B.L. Reconciling Agency and Structure in Empirical Analysis: Smallholder Land Use in the Southern Yucatán, Mexico. Ann. Assoc. Am. Geogr. 2006, 96, 302–322. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  200. Vance, C.; Iovanna, R. Analyzing spatial hierarchies in remotely sensed data: Insights from a multilevel model of tropical deforestation. Land Use Policy 2006, 23, 226–236. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  201. Young, O.R.; Lambin, E.F.; Alcock, F.; Haberl, H.; I Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, S.; McConnell, W.J.; Myint, T.; Pahl-Wostl, C.; Polsky, C.; Ramakrishnan, P.S.; et al. A Portfolio Approach to Analyzing Complex Human-Environment Interactions: Institutions and Land Change. Ecol. Soc. 2006, 11, 31. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  202. Cheong, S.-M.; Brown, D.G.; Kok, K.; Lopez-Carr, D. Mixed methods in land change research: Towards integration. Trans. Inst. Br. Geogr. 2012, 37, 8–12. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  203. Ness, B.; Anderberg, S.; Olsson, L. Structuring problems in sustainability science: The multi-level DPSIR framework. Geoforum 2010, 41, 479–488. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  204. Turner, B.L.; Lambin, E.F.; Verburg, P.H. From land-use/land-cover to land system science. Ambio 2021, 50, 1291–1294. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
Figure 1. Factors affecting the proximate cause of deforestation in an agriculture colonization frontier: Colonist farmer land use (adapted from [7]).
Figure 1. Factors affecting the proximate cause of deforestation in an agriculture colonization frontier: Colonist farmer land use (adapted from [7]).
Land 10 01113 g001
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Share and Cite

MDPI and ACS Style

López-Carr, D. A Review of Small Farmer Land Use and Deforestation in Tropical Forest Frontiers: Implications for Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods. Land 2021, 10, 1113.

AMA Style

López-Carr D. A Review of Small Farmer Land Use and Deforestation in Tropical Forest Frontiers: Implications for Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods. Land. 2021; 10(11):1113.

Chicago/Turabian Style

López-Carr, David. 2021. "A Review of Small Farmer Land Use and Deforestation in Tropical Forest Frontiers: Implications for Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods" Land 10, no. 11: 1113.

Note that from the first issue of 2016, this journal uses article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Metrics

Back to TopTop