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Trends, drivers and impacts of changes in swidden cultivation in tropicalforest-agriculture frontiers
A global assessment
This meta-analysis of land-cover transformations of the past 10–15 years in tropical forest-agriculture frontiers world-wide shows that swidden agriculture decreases in landscapes with access to local, national and international markets that encourage cattle production and cash cropping, including biofuels. Conservation policies and practices also accelerate changes in swidden by restricting forest clearing andencouraging commercial agriculture. However, swidden remains important in many frontier areas where farmers have unequal or insecure access to investment and market opportunities, or where multifunctionality of land uses has been preserved as a strategy to adapt to current ecological, economic and political circumstances. In some areas swidden remains important simply because intensification is not aviable choice, for example when population densities and/or food market demands are low. The transformation of swidden landscapes into more intensive land uses has generally increased household incomes, but has also led to negative effects on the social and human capital of local communities to varying degrees.From an environmentalperspective, the transition from swidden to other land uses oftencontributes to permanent deforestation, loss of biodiversity, increased weed pressure, declines in soil fertility, and accelerated soil erosion. Our prognosis is that, despite the global trend towards land use intensification, in many areas swidden will remain part of rural landscapes as the safety component of diversified systems,particularly in response to risks and uncertainties associated with more intensive land use systems.