Ecological and social problems related to land management remain, including degradation of forests by the combination of human-induced fires and drought; impoverishment of aquatic ecosystems through the widespread application of agricultural chemicals and lack of stream restoration; and loss of indigenous peoples' livelihood options because of ecological degradation. Furthermore, forest conversion is expected to increase with increasing national and international demand for soya, beef and/or palm oil.
A major challenge for sustainable management of tropical agricultural landscapes is highlighted: to transform low-yield, high-deforestation production systems into high-yield, low-deforestation ones. Extensive tracts of land in Brazil's cattle ranching frontier, could undergo these transformations where approximately 200 million hectares of pasture sustain notoriously low cattle densities. Recent declines in MT's deforestation, coupled with increases in crop and cattle productivity, suggest that agriculture intensification could spare large tracts of land for tropical forest conservation.
Co-editor Ruth DeFries of Columbia University notes that "The experience in Brazil's southern Amazon illustrates that deforestation can be controlled simultaneously with increases in agricultural production, but
|Contact: Ian Vorster|
Woods Hole Research Center