Cattle Ranching and Deforestation in the Amazon

This is a short video (in Portuguese) that shows the deforestation process in the Brazilian Amazon. In an ongoing research project, Ariaster Chimeli from University of São Paulo and Rodrigo Soares from Columbia University investigate whether a market prohibition policy to protect Brazilian mahogany had an impact on local deforestation. Mahogany is one of the species that supposedly opens up the forest for large scale deforestation associated with cattle ranching, as the video claims. Our research suggests that the mahogany market prohibition policy without appropriate monitoring and enforcement contributed to the flourishing of a large illegal market. We estimate that extraction of the species increased after prohibition, as well as the number of homicides associated with the illegal activity and deforestation in general in areas where mahogany naturally occurs. The main indirect measure of deforestation that we use is bovine density in the region. Contrary to what many well-intentioned and genuinely concerned environmentalists advocate in some circles, prohibition or market restrictions may actually worsen the very problems we hope to fix.

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