Temporal patterns of road network development in the Brazilian Amazon

Abstract

The Brazilian Amazon is a globally important ecosystem that is undergoing rapid development and land-use change. Roads are a key spatial determinant of land-use conversion and strongly influence the rates and patterns of habitat loss and represent a key component of models that attempt to predict the spatio-temporal patterns of Amazonian land-use change and the consequences of such changes. However, the spatio-temporal patterns of road network development are poorly understood and seldom quantified. Here, we used manually digitised satellite imagery at multiple temporal and spatial scales across the Brazilian Amazon to quantify and model the rate at which road networks are proliferating. We found that the road network grew by almost 17,000 km per year between 2004 and 2007. There was large spatial variation in road network density, with some municipalities having road densities as high as 0.5 km/km2, and road network growth rates were highest in municipalities with an intermediate road network density. Simulations indicated that road network development within municipalities follows a logistic growth pattern through time, with most of the development occurring within a 39-year time period. This time period is similar to those of other boom and bust development dynamics observed in the Brazilian Amazon. Understanding the temporal patterns of road development will aid the development of better predictive land-use change models for the Amazon, given the key importance of roads as a predictor of deforestation in many existing models.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Microsoft Research for funding this work, and IMAZON (Instituto do Homem e Ambiente da Amazônia) for providing the Amazon wide road maps.

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Correspondence to Sadia E. Ahmed.

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Ahmed, S.E., Souza, C.M., Riberio, J. et al. Temporal patterns of road network development in the Brazilian Amazon. Reg Environ Change 13, 927–937 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-012-0397-z

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Keywords

  • Deforestation
  • Economic development
  • Land-use change
  • Landsat
  • Logging road