Rural property size drives patterns of upland and riparian forest retention in a tropical deforestation frontier
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Deforestation in Brazilian Amazonia accounts for a disproportionate global scale fraction of both carbon emissions from biomass burning and biodiversity erosion through habitat loss. Here we use field- and remote-sensing data to examine the effects of private landholding size on the amount and type of forest cover retained within economically active rural properties in an aging southern Amazonian deforestation frontier. Data on both upland and riparian forest cover from a survey of 300 rural properties indicated that 49.4% (SD = 29.0%) of the total forest cover was maintained as of 2007. and that property size is a key regional-scale determinant of patterns of deforestation and land-use change. Small properties (<= 150 ha) retained a lower proportion of forest (20.7%, SD = 17.6) than did large properties (>150 ha; 55.6%, SD = 27.2). Generalized linear models showed that property size had a positive effect on remaining areas of both upland and total forest cover. Using a Landsat time-series, the age of first clear-cutting that could be mapped within the boundaries of each property had a negative effect on the proportion of upland, riparian, and total forest cover retained. Based on these data, we show contrasts in land-use strategies between smallholders and largeholders, as well as differences in compliance with legal requirements in relation to minimum forest cover set-asides within private landholdings. This suggests that property size structure must be explicitly considered in landscape-scale conservation planning initiatives guiding agro-pastoral frontier expansion into remaining areas of tropical forest. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.