Forests in lowland Bolivia suffer from severe deforestation caused by different types of agents and land use activities. We identify three major proximate causes of deforestation. The largest share of deforestation is attributable to the expansion of mechanized agriculture, followed by cattle ranching and small-scale agriculture. We utilize a spatially explicit multinomial logit model to analyze the determinants of each of these proximate causes of deforestation between 1992 and 2004. We substantiate the quantitative insights with a qualitative analysis of historical processes that have shaped land use patterns in the Bolivian lowlands to date. Our results suggest that the expansion of mechanized agriculture occurs mainly in response to good access to export markets, fertile soil, and intermediate rainfall conditions. Increases in small-scale agriculture are mainly associated with a humid climate, fertile soil, and proximity to local markets. Forest conversion into pastures for cattle ranching occurs mostly irrespective of environmental determinants and can mainly be explained by access to local markets. Land use restrictions, such as protected areas, seem to prevent the expansion of mechanized agriculture but have little impact on the expansion of small-scale agriculture and cattle ranching. The analysis of future deforestation trends reveals possible hotspots of future expansion for each proximate cause and specifically highlights the possible opening of new frontiers for deforestation due to mechanized agriculture. Whereas the quantitative analysis effectively elucidates the spatial patterns of recent agricultural expansion, the interpretation of long-term historic drivers reveals that the timing and quantity of forest conversion are often triggered by political interventions and historical legacies.
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Regional Environmental Change 11(3): 445-459
Muller, R.; Muller, D.; Schierhorn, F.; Gerold, G.; Pacheco, P.