, Volume 78, Issue 5, pp 833-850
Date: 23 Nov 2012

Mapping and spatial analysis of the soybean agricultural frontier in Mato Grosso, Brazil, using remote sensing data

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Abstract

The main pioneer frontier considered by geographers is the Amazonian pioneer frontier. The occupation of the Brazilian territory has been carried out through successive economic cycles. Currently, the expansion of soybean crops in Amazonia is considered as the last economic cycle involving new migrations to still unexplored areas. Mapping this frontier is necessary in order to better understand its drivers and think about efficient land use policies to struggle its progress. In this paper, we propose an innovative methodology for mapping the agricultural frontier in the Amazonian state of Mato Grosso (Brazil) using satellite data acquired during the 2000–2006 period. We assume that the frontier evolves through successive land-use stages such as wildlands, non-croplands, extensive croplands and intensive croplands areas. The transitions between two stages can then be monitored through land-use change analysis. A particular emphasis is given on three land-use transitions named “deforestation”, “economic” and “intensification sub-frontiers”. In order to adapt this model for the use of remote sensing data, we defined (1) a relevant spatial scale corresponding to an agrarian locality, (2) relevant indices to qualify the land-use types and (3) rules applied on land-use types to define the frontier’s location. Our results highlight the dynamic of the agricultural frontier towards northern areas. We identified four main agricultural regions with different levels of agricultural intensification. We finally discuss these results with respect to governmental policies and economics for a better understanding of the frontier’s dynamic.