The conservation versus production trade-off: does livestock intensification increase deforestation? Evidence from the Brazilian Amazon

Produced as part of the Understanding green growth and climate-compatible development CCCEP research programme theme

More cattle, less deforestation? Land use intensification in the Amazon is an unexpected phenomenon. Theories of hollow frontier, speculative behaviour and boom-bust all share the prediction that livestock production will remain largely extensive. Yet between 1996 and 2006 productivity of cattle grew by an astounding 57.5% in the average Amazon municipality. Does rising land productivity of cattle increase deforestation? I use secondary data and spatial econometrics to look for evidence of a positive relation between cattle intensification and deforestation (‘rebound effect’). The reduced-form model I employ is based on a spatial econometric specification by Arima et al. (2011) and uses panel data at the municipality-level. I show that mounting productivity in consolidated areas has been associated with lower deforestation both in frontier and consolidated municipalities. This suggests that any process of out-migration spurred by the rising productivity is insufficient to have a positive impact on deforestation.