Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
311RB: Dynamics and governance of emerging and active commodity frontiers in tropics - Part B
Thursday, 25/Apr/2019:
1:30pm - 3:00pm

Session Chair: Ignacio Gasparri
Session Chair: Patrick Meyfroidt
Session Chair: Tobias Kuemmerle
Location: MB-220
Main Building, room 220, second floor, west wing, 154 (+22) seats
Session Topics:
How do we support transformation?

Session Abstract

Commodity frontiers are areas where the production of market-oriented agriculture and forestry expands rapidly over natural areas or subsistence-oriented land uses, often resulting in profound environmental and socio-economic impacts. These frontiers have been conceptualized as areas with an imbalance between abundant land and natural resources on the one hand, and comparatively scarce labor and capital to exploit these resources on the other. Commodity frontiers are also transition places, where processes of encounter between distinct modes of production and cultures take place, and where conflicts between land-use actors play out particularly heavily. Today, many active and emerging agricultural frontiers are found in the tropics, where some of the last remaining undeveloped land reserves occur, but where environmental and social costs of frontier expansion are typically stark.

This session will focus on emerging and active land-use frontiers in tropical regions. It will explore the patterns and causes of land-use and land-cover changes, linkages of these land trends with distant regions of production and consumption, the determinants of decision making of land-use agents, and conditions for transformative governance and land-use planning. We welcome contributions that address questions such as: Where are the emerging and the most dynamic active land use frontiers fuelled by commodities with rising demand? What are the rates, patterns, causes, and impacts of land system changes in these frontiers? How do local and distal agents make decisions, form coalitions, and mobilize to open up and shape new frontiers? How does the concept of frontiers help our understanding of land system dynamics? How do territorial policies such as land-use planning and land-use zoning function in rapidly changing frontiers? How do policy instruments interact with new forms of commodities supply-chain governance? How to improve pro-active governance of emerging frontiers towards more sustainable land systems?

Session Organizers: Ignacio Gasparri, Patrick Meyfroidt, and Tobias Kuemmerle

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Flash talk
ID: 619 / 311RB: 1
311R Dynamics and governance of emerging and active commodity frontiers in tropics
Keywords: agricultural commodity, borders, eco-regions, global drivers, land-use history

Divergences of land systems in South America’s primary soybean regions

María Piquer-Rodríguez1, Ignacio Gasparri1, Thomas Mitchell Aide2, Jordan Graesser3, Ricardo H. Grau1

1National University of Tucuman, IER-CONICET, Argentine Republic; 2University of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico; 3The University of Queensland, Australia

Different governance and land-use history of nations may result in diverging landscape configurations of ecoregions. Yet , global drivers can operate across countries and promote the homogeneization of land-use practices regardless of administrative borders.The soybean production in South America is an archetypical telecoupled agricultural commodity with high capacity to homogenise landscapes due to a strong global market, standard production systems and agents with high international mobility. Therefore, understanding how the interplay between global drivers and regional contexts influence the way agriculture commodity frontiers shape the landscape is important to plan natural-resource management at the country level. In this analysis, we evaluate the development patterns of the eight ecoregions of South America that include existing or emerging soybean frontiers. We calculated divergences between 2001-2014 using Euclidean distances among pairs of soybean-national-ecoregions (i.e., the section of an ecoregion with significant soybean production that lies within a country) by evaluating changes in demographic, land management and land use variables (e.g. population, accessibility, fires, cropland area). Our results show that global drivers of commodities homogenize different ecoregions within one country, e.g., the Pampas and Espinal ecoregions in Argentina and Chiquitania and Chaco ecoregions in Bolivia. We also observed that different land-use histories of nations can result in diverging landscapes even within the same ecoregion (e.g. the Atlantic forest ecoregion in Paraguay and Brazil). Divergence in development patterns tended to be intermediate in those soybean-national-ecoregions when soybean colonization did not occur long time ago (e.g., the Chaco in Argentina and Bolivia). We also discuss divergences of other commodity frontiers in South America such as mining. Our results point out the importance of regional contexts and the power of global drivers in shaping commodity frontiers in South America.

Full talk
ID: 530 / 311RB: 2
311R Dynamics and governance of emerging and active commodity frontiers in tropics
Keywords: soy, Brazil, deforestation, supply chain governance, leakage

The role of soy expansion in driving Brazilian deforestation: prospects for effective supply chain governance

Javier Godar1, Ben Ayre2, Mairon G. Bastos5, Toby A. Gardner1, Michael Lathuillière1, Pernilla Löfgren1, Jorge E. Tizado4, Erasmus zu Ermgassen3

1SEI, Sweden; 2Global Canopy, UK; 3Louvain University, Belgium; 4University of León, Spain; 5Chalmers University, Sweden

South America’s forests are under increasing pressure from agricultural expansion, primarily driven by cattle and soybean production. Despite recent research on the role of soy in driving land use change, there is a poor understanding of the interplay between producers on the ground and downstream traders and buyers in shaping soy expansion and its associated sustainability implications. This is particularly the case for relatively new soy frontiers, including the MATOPIBA region of the Brazilian Cerrado, which have not benefitted from the combination of government interventions and market initiatives that have reduced deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.

We use hitherto untapped datasets on per shipment exports, crop area maps, domestic demand and asset-level taxation to create a uniquely high-resolution map of the spatio-temporal dynamics of Brazilian soy expansion and exports ( These maps make explicit the links between municipalities of soy production and the downstream traders and countries between 2003-2017. Sourcing dynamics across different production regions and biomes are analyzed for these supply chain actors, as well as corporate investments and production patterns since the 1970s, to understand the relationship between sourcing and land use change per actor at municipal level. We use these data to explore: i) the role of soy expansion in driving land use change and deforestation in Brazil; ii) push and pull factors of soy expansion and associated sustainability implications, including observed differences in deforestation dynamics, territorial governance and characteristics of traders and countries of consumption; and (iii) the potential existence of leakage effects (specially from the Amazon to the MATOPIBA region), where regional differences in environmental enforcement could displace soy expansion into less regulated areas. Finally, we discuss these results in the face of key public and private sustainable supply chain policies in place, and examine the prospects for more effective supply chain governance.

Full talk
ID: 773 / 311RB: 3
311R Dynamics and governance of emerging and active commodity frontiers in tropics
Keywords: Stickiness, global agricultural supply chains, sustainability mechanisms

Stickiness in global commodity trade: How to measure persistence and why it matters?

Tiago Reis1, Patrick Meyfroidt1, Erasmus zu Ermgassen1, Javier Godard2,3, Toby Gardner2,3, Chris West2,4

1Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium; 2Stockholm Environment Institute, Sweden; 3Trase Initiative; 4The University of York

International trade linkages are complex, involve many actors, and have important consequences for land use and socio-economics of producing regions. More specifically, agricultural supply chains are a key driver of global change in a telecoupled world. Trade patterns and relationships can be a determinant factor for land use decisions, the development of countries, and environmental degradation. Therefore, analysing the stickiness in trading of agricultural commodities becomes an important step to improve the knowledge on (i) how agricultural supply chains change across time, (ii) how they adapt to changing contexts and (iii) how trading patterns affect land use. So far, we have a poor understanding of the stickiness of trading in agricultural supply chains - i.e. how consistent over time the linkages are between certain actors (e.g. traders, importing markets) and the producing regions from which they source. Understanding stickiness matters because it can contribute to the design of new policies and interventions that differentiate actors that show a persistent trading connection with one region from those who have volatile relationships. In this analysis, we used Trase's data for the Brazilian soy supply chain to measure one dimension of stickiness in agricultural supply chains, which is the persistence of flows of soy from municipalities to exporting companies and then countries of consumption over 2005-2016. We used network analyses to characterize the topological overlap and temporal correlation coefficient of the network structure of each node. Our results allow identifying municipalities, companies and importing countries with persistent versus nonpersistent sourcing and supplying patterns. Based on this empirical analysis, we propose a wider analytical framework for all agricultural supply chains. This approach opens opportunities to evaluate the economic, social and environmental implications of volatility in agricultural supply chains. We discuss the implications for potentially undesirable land-use change and spillover effects of policy interventions.

Full talk
ID: 521 / 311RB: 4
311R Dynamics and governance of emerging and active commodity frontiers in tropics
Keywords: Beef, Brazil, Deforestation, Supply Chain, Transparency

High-resolution mapping of cattle supply chains: quantifying the role of distal and domestic markets in land use change in Brazil

Erasmus zu Ermgassen1, Javier Godar2, Patrick Meyfroidt1, Michael Lathuillière2, Ben Ayre3, Clement Suavet2, Andre Vasconcelos3, Arnaldo Carneiro3, Toby Gardner2

1Université Catholique de Louvain; 2Trase; 3Global Canopy

Despite its evident economic and environmental importance, the market dynamics of the cattle sector in Brazil remain poorly understood. The Brazilian cattle industry contributes 7% of Brazil’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and supplies >200 million consumers at home and abroad. Cattle ranching is also, however, closely intertwined with deforestation – more than two-thirds of native vegetation cleared in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes have been converted to pasture. In this project, part of the Trase initiative (, we have brought together multiple complementary datasets, including 15 million records of inter-farm and farm-to-slaughterhouse animal movements, land use maps, business tax registrations, food safety inspections, and international trade data, to provide unprecedented insight into the Brazilian cattle industry and its impacts on land use. First, we constructed a nationwide inventory of the location and ownership of slaughterhouses in Brazil. Second, we adapted methods from input-output economics to map the flow of cattle between properties within and between different regions (municipalities) in Brazil and we linked these flows to data on deforestation, thereby estimating the deforestation embedded in supply chains of individual slaughterhouses and meat-packing companies. We then linked these results to customs data, to trace the deforestation associated with cattle ranching to the domestic and international markets consuming those cattle products. We also provide an improved understanding of the market dynamics of the sector, in particular the regional dominance of different meat-packing companies, and stark regional differences in the efficiency and productivity of cattle production, including the ages at which animals are slaughtered. Our methods, which can also be applied to other Latin American countries, help bring transparency and accountability to complex, international cattle supply chains and show how distal and domestic markets drive land use change in Brazil’s agricultural frontiers.

Full talk
ID: 704 / 311RB: 5
311R Dynamics and governance of emerging and active commodity frontiers in tropics
Keywords: Brazil, deforestation, supply chains, impact evaluation

Impacts of the Amazon soy moratorium

Robert Heilmayr, Lisa Rausch, Jacob Munger, Holly Gibbs

University of California, Santa Barbara, United States of America

Over the past 15 years, multiple innovative policies have contributed to one of the great conservation successes of the 21st Century – an 80% reduction in the rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Among the most prominent of these policies is the Amazon Soy Moratorium (ASM), an agreement by major grain traders not to buy soy grown on recently deforested land. The ASM inspired widespread adoption of similar zero-deforestation commitments in other landscapes and supply chains, but little is known about its impact on forest conservation due to a mosaic of overlapping conservation policies. Here we apply econometric methods of causal inference using remotely sensed data on land use change to quantify the ASM’s impact on deforestation within Brazil’s Arc of Deforestation. We show that the ASM has reduced deforestation and forest to soy conversion between 2006 and 2016. We further show that the ASM’s success has depended upon important complementarities with public institutions including public property registries and forest monitoring. Our results highlight that the soy sector’s commitment to zero-deforestation production has been an important contributor to the mix of policies that have reduced deforestation in the Amazon.

Full talk
ID: 777 / 311RB: 6
311R Dynamics and governance of emerging and active commodity frontiers in tropics
Keywords: zero-deforestation commitments, supply chain governance, leakage, Brazil, soy

Monitoring zero-deforestation commitments at scale using high-resolution supply chain data

Erasmus zu Ermgassen1, Ben Ayre2, Jonathan Green3, Toby Gardner3, Mairon Bastos Lima4, Javier Godar3, Michael Lathuillière3

1Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium; 2Global Canopy, UK; 3SEI, Sweden; 4Chalmers University, Sweden

Zero-deforestation commitments (ZDCs) are an emergent form of supply chain governance whereby companies commit to eliminate sourcing from recently deforested land. While there is mounting support for the adoption of ZDCs, evidence of their effectiveness is scarce. There is limited information on the steps being taken towards implementation, the changes being made to commodity sourcing patterns and the impacts via direct and indirect land-use change. Here we introduce a novel approach to monitoring the progress of ZDCs in international commodity supply chains using the high-resolution supply chain data available from Trase ( Combining per-shipment trade records with asset-level data and agricultural census statistics, Trase delineates the sub-national sourcing patterns, and associated impacts of commodity traders and consumer markets. In doing so, it enables a unique assessment of changes in deforestation risk associated with the supply chains of committed and non-committed companies and consumer markets across entire production regions.

We demonstrate the monitoring and evaluation capabilities of Trase by assessing ZDCs in the Brazilian soy sector. We find that a growing proportion of soy is being traded under a ZDC, and that coverage differs significantly between biomes – notably, the Amazon benefits from higher ZDC coverage (>90% of exports) than the neighbouring Cerrado (<40%), where most direct conversion of forests for soy is currently taking place. While we document a growing number of soy traders who have adopted ZDCs, we also report increases in the market share and deforestation from companies without such commitments. We also evaluate commitments made by national governments. Overall we find no systematic difference between the deforestation risk profiles of Amsterdam declaration signatories and other major soy traders, or between committed and non-committed companies. Finally, we reflect on the continued challenges of monitoring ZDCs and make a call for increased standardisation of commitments and reporting.

Full talk
ID: 754 / 311RB: 7
311R Dynamics and governance of emerging and active commodity frontiers in tropics
Keywords: cropland, frontier, field, Southern Cone, Landsat

Commodity crops and frontier agricultural dynamics in central South America

Jordan Graesser1,2, Radost Stanimirova2, Mark Friedl2

1University of Queensland; 2Boston University

Across South America, agricultural expansion has been a principal driver of deforestation. In the Southern Cone (SC) border region of Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay, the rapid increase of commodity crop production has fuelled agricultural expansion and changes in landscape and farming dynamics. For example, grazing systems have been transplanted by cropland while large-scale crop production has become the mainstay of SC frontiers. In this talk, we discuss the emergence of large-scale agriculture across the northern SC region within the context of regional land use patterns and drivers across SC. Using annual Landsat-scale land cover estimates since 2000, we analyze rates of agricultural expansion and changes in farming dynamics at the field level. Our estimates consist of 18 years of more than a dozen crop species (such as soybeans, maize, and sugarcane) that are tied to individual field parcels delineated by spatial-temporal image segmentation. These datasets reveal frontier agricultural patterns in the region, such as the growing presence of commodity crops and industrial-scale farming, and the divergence of frontier field-level patterns from traditional practices. For example, fields used for commodity production (e.g., soybeans) tend to be larger than those used for other purposes. Regardless of the crop being grown, frontier farming in SC tends to occur at larger scales than traditional counterparts. The ground-level details here complement other regionally focused studies, and by tracking agricultural systems at the field level, contribute to further analyses of how frontier systems stabilize or transform over time. Further, these findings can also help shape our understanding of how the scale of cropland production helps determine the response of frontier ecosystems to new drivers of change.

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