Land use spillovers of bioeconomy-driven trade shocks under imperfect environmental law enforcement

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Green growth strategies and bioeconomic technological innovation affect global demand and supply of agricultural and forestry-based commodities. What trade-mediated impacts has this fledging transformation on land-use change at ecologically sensitive tropical forest margins? Standard global trade models only provide impact assessments at aggregate regional scales, implicitly assuming either perfect or zero environmental enforcement. However, emerging empirical impact evaluations suggest that conservation policies only partially constrain illegal land conversion with highly variable effectiveness in space. We present a spatially explicit cropland allocation tool simulating imperfectly functioning conservation policies. We shock cropland allocation with a land demand scenario derived from a multi-regional input-output model to assess land-use spillovers under two common policy scenarios of imperfect environmental enforcement under spatial heterogeneity: (1) protection of specific flagship biomes through protected area networks or (2) cost-efficient enforcement in accessible zones immediately threatened by illegal agricultural expansion. Both scenarios result in land use spillover effects, but combining the two strategies does not generally perform better than flagship biome protection alone. Outcomes depend on country-specific spatial distributions of returns to cropland expansion, law enforcement costs, and environmental service provision. In closing, we discuss the implications of our findings for land-use governance in a globalized bioeconomy.

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