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Article

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

Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA
Academic Editor: Vanessa Winchester
Land 2021, 10(11), 1113; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10111113
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. View Full-Text
Keywords: land use/cover change (LUCC); livelihoods; deforestation; tropics; Latin America; agricultural frontier; population; environment; migration; human-environment relations; human dimensions of global environmental change; conservation land use/cover change (LUCC); livelihoods; deforestation; tropics; Latin America; agricultural frontier; population; environment; migration; human-environment relations; human dimensions of global environmental change; conservation
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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. https://doi.org/10.3390/land10111113

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. https://doi.org/10.3390/land10111113

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. https://doi.org/10.3390/land10111113

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