What Drives Intensification of Land Use at Agricultural Frontiers in the Brazilian Amazon? Evidence from a Decision Game

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Land-use change results from the decisions of diverse actors in response to economic and political contexts. Identification of underlying decision-making processes is key to understanding land-use patterns, anticipating trends, and designing effective environmental governance mechanisms. Here, we use a scenario-based decision game to examine hypothetical land-use decisions among four groups of rural producers in the municipalities of Sinop, Guarantã do Norte and Novo Progresso in the Brazilian Amazon. We simulate changes in agricultural prices, production cost, and frequency of environmental monitoring (in situ inspections) to understand how land-use decisions are made and change with shifts in economic and governance incentives. Hypothetical land-use decisions vary across scenarios, but not across study sites; environmental law enforcement influence land decisions, but not to the extent of dominating market factors and not for all types of producers. Decision games cannot substitute approaches to explain behavioral responses from observational data. However, they can provide immediate feedback on behavioral hypotheses before comprehensive observational data becomes available and support the development of models for land-use policy planning at local and regional scales.

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