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Agricultural land use change and associated driving forces over the past 180 years in two municipalities of the Brazilian Cerrado

  • Murilo Rodrigues de Arruda
  • Maja Slingerland
  • José Zilton Lopes Santos
  • Ken E. Giller


This paper aims to test the hypothesis that a single driving force from the local, national, or global level is capable of triggering land use changes, including large scale deforestation, within a historical context. To reach this goal we describe and explain the driving forces from the global to farm level that have shaped agricultural land uses, as a case study, over 180 years in the municipalities of Quirinópolis and Gouvelândia in the Brazilian Cerrado. Through secondary data, field surveys, and interviews with farmers and other stakeholders involved with agricultural production, we identified four distinct periods in which drastic or little land use occurred. The evidence found supports our hypothesis. Two drastic land use changes occurred in Quirinópolis and Gouvelândia. The first one was the replacement of about 400,000 ha of original vegetation by pastures and crops between 1965 and 1985 triggered by the availability of abundant subsidized rural credits for farmers; the second one was initiated in 2005 with the replacement of 100,000 ha of pastures and cropping area by sugarcane, which was driven by the sudden domestic and world demand for sugar and ethanol.


Agriculture Cattle Crops Sugarcane Cerrado Case study 



We are grateful to the Agência Goiana de Assistência Técnica and Extensão Rural – EMATER-GO/Quirinópolis, especially to Carlos Ulisses Leal Brito and Vicente de Paulo Rodrigues de Arruda for their support with the data collection and field work. We also thank Wageningen University for its support of this research and Editage for English language editing and publication support.


This work was supported by the program Competing Claims on Natural Resources, an interdisciplinary research program funded by the International Research & Education Fund (INREF) of Wageningen University in The Netherlands from 2006 to 2011, and by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Murilo Rodrigues de Arruda
    • 1
    • 2
  • Maja Slingerland
    • 3
  • José Zilton Lopes Santos
    • 4
  • Ken E. Giller
    • 3
  1. 1.Embrapa Amazônia OcidentalManausBrazil
  2. 2.Programa de Pós-graduação em Agronomia Tropical, Departamento de Produção Animal e Vegetal, Faculdade de Ciências AgráriasUniversidade Federal do AmazonasManausBrazil
  3. 3.Plant Production SystemsWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of Agricultural Engineering and SoilsFederal University of AmazonasManausBrazil

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