Brazil: Economic development rainforest creates opposite affect


The argument for deforestation has always been that the economic benefits to local communities are too great to overlook. But now a new study in the current issue of Science suggests that’s not true. A team of researchers from Portugal, France and Britain studied nearly 300 Brazilian municipalities on the frontier of the Amazonian rain forest, assessing their development levels — based on income, life expectancy and literary rates — before deforestation and afterward. Researchers found that logging forests and converting the land to pasture and agriculture initially raised development levels in a burst of prosperity. But in the years that followed deforestation, that bubble of prosperity popped, and development levels declined until on average the communities were no better off than they had been before the trees were destroyed. (Read “The Amazon Gets Less and Less Green.”)

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It’s not hard to see why deforestation pays off, at least initially. As trees are cleared, they can be sold for timber — and the buzz of activity surrounding deforestation attracts migrants who capitalize on newly available land, timber and minerals. As the human population increases, so does the demand for roads and other transportation that can connect once isolated communities with valuable markets, and vice versa. That also leads to better access to education and health care, which helps boost literacy rates and life-expectancy levels. Eventually, development levels in newly deforested communities can match and even exceed the Brazilian average.


But those improvements are transitory. The denser population quickly uses up the new natural resources, as timber is sold, and the Amazonian soil, never rich to begin with, is rapidly exhausted. (The researchers note that by the early 1990s, more than 75% of the land that had been deforested up to then had been converted to pasture — and that one-third of that territory had already been abandoned.) Per-capita income, life expectancy and literacy rates all drop, as jobs disappear and the better-educated, better-off migrants move onto the next frontier. “In net terms,” the authors write, “people in municipalities that have cleared their forests are not better off than those in municipalities who have not.” (See a graphic of the effects of climate change on the world by 2020.)Please value the writer & producer of these words by paying a visit to:,8599,1904174,00.html?iid=tsmodule

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