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Loggers and Forest Fragmentation: Behavioral Models of Road Building in the Amazon Basin

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Although a large literature now exists on the drivers of tropical deforestation, less is known about its spatial manifestation. This is a critical shortcoming in our knowledge base since the spatial pattern of land-cover change and forest fragmentation, in particular, strongly affect biodiversity. The purpose of this article is to consider emergent patterns of road networks, the initial proximate cause of fragmentation in tropical forest frontiers. Specifically, we address the road-building processes of loggers who are very active in the Amazon landscape. To this end, we develop an explanation of road expansions, using a positive approach combining a theoretical model of economic behavior with geographic information systems (GIS) software in order to mimic the spatial decisions of road builders. We simulate two types of road extensions commonly found in the Amazon basin in a region showing the fishbone pattern of fragmentation. Although our simulation results are only partially successful, they call attention to the role of multiple agents in the landscape, the importance of legal and institutional constraints on economic behavior, and the power of GIS as a research tool.

Keywords: Amazonia; land-use change; least-cost path

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, Michigan State University, and Instituto do Homem e Meio Ambiente da Amazônia (IMAZON), Brazil 2: Department of Geography, Michigan State University 3: Department of Sociology, University of Florida

Publication date: September 1, 2005

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