Sparing or expanding? The effects of agricultural yields on farm expansion and deforestation in the tropics

January 20, 2023 - Author: Fernando Figueiredo Goulart, M. Jahi Chappell, Frédéric Mertens, Britaldo Soares-Filho

Does agricultural intensification lead to more deforestation in the tropics? Explore this topic in this article co-authored by Fernando Figueiredo Goulart, M. Jahi Chappell, Frédéric Mertens, and Britaldo Soares-Filho in the February 2023 edition of Biodiversity and Conservation.


Land Sparing predicts that agricultural intensification is the best way to meet productive, humanitarian and conservation goals, and the recent prominence of this strategy on conservation and agricultural agendas is notable. The basic idea is that, by producing more, agriculture intensification can spare natural habitats from further agriculture expansion. Nevertheless, some authors have suggested that intensifying and increasing productivity may actually lead to increasing expansion of agricultural lands (Jevons Paradox). We test the association between agricultural yield on farmland expansion and on deforestation between 2000 and 2015 in 122 nations along the tropics, and in the main tropical regions. To this end we used Generalized Linear Models, as well as Panel Data to verify the effects of agricultural yield and socioeconomic variables on farmland expansion and deforestation. Greater yield increases lead to higher deforestation rates in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and Caribbean and increasing yield average induces agriculture expansion in East Asia and Pacific, giving support to the Jevons Paradox hypothesis. On the other hand, we found a positive association between yield average and forest area change in the tropics, nevertheless, regression coefficients were very small, compared to other significant models. Therefore, Jevons Paradox seems to be more common than Land Sparing and increasing yields inducing deforestation rather than curbing it.

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Suggested Citation: 

F. F. Goulart, M. J. Chappell, and B. Soares-Filho. “Sparing or expanding? The effects of agricultural yields on farm expansion and deforestation in the tropics.” Biodiversity and Conservation, Early View.


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