Land speculation and conservation policy leakage in Brazil

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The Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado biomes have been subject to strong pressure from agricultural expansion over the past decades. It is frequently claimed that the associated tree cover loss was partly driven by land speculation. In the mid-2000s, the Brazilian government implemented an innovative policy regime to combat deforestation with a strong focus on the Amazon region. While there is solid evidence that the new environmental governance approach was effective in reducing Amazon forest loss, some research indicates that leakage effects have contributed to increasing land conversion in the Cerrado. In this paper, we contribute to investigating these hypotheses using land market data covering the period from 2001 to 2012. Based on land rent and hedonic valuation theory, we use a first difference panel regression analysis to decompose forestland prices into land rent, conversion costs, and speculative attributes. We then assess whether, where, and to what extent conservation policy shocks affect forestland prices over time. Our measures of speculation and conservation are significant in all our model specifications. Our findings suggest that land prices represent an indicator for spatially and temporally shifting land demand and related speculative behavior, and the presence of conservation policy leakage in Brazil.

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