Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2018, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (11): 1715-1732.doi: 10.1007/s11442-018-1539-0

• Special Issue: Land system dynamics: Pattern and process • Previous Articles    

Spillover effect offsets the conservation effort in the Amazon

Yue DOU1, Felipe Bicudo da SILVA Ramon2, Hongbo YANG1, Jianguo LIU1,*()   

  1. 1. Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48823, USA
    2. Center for Environmental Studies and Research, State University of Campinas, Campinas, 13083, Brazil
  • Received:2017-09-01 Accepted:2018-01-15 Online:2018-11-20 Published:2018-11-20
  • Contact: Jianguo LIU
  • About author:

    Author: Dou Yue (1987-), Postdoctoral Research Associate, specialized in land use and land cover changes and modeling. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    US National Science Foundation Award, No.1518518;Complex Dynamics of Telecoupled Human and Natural System;Michigan AgBioResearch;S?o Paulo Research Foundation, No.15/25892-7


Diverse conservation efforts have been expanding around the globe, even under the stress of increasing agricultural production. A striking example is the supply-chain agreements put upon the Amazon forest which had reduced deforestation by 80% from the early 2000s (27,772 km2) to 2015 (6207 km2). However, evaluation of these conservation efforts usually focused on the impacts within the Amazon biome only, while the effects that spill over to other areas (e.g., displacement of environmental pressure from one area to another) were rarely considered. Ignoring spillover effects may lead to biased or even wrong conclusions about the effectiveness of these conservation efforts because the hidden cost outside the target area of conservation may offset the achievement within it. It is thus important to assess the spillover effects of these supply-chain agreements. In this study, we used the two supply-chain agreements (i.e., Soy Moratorium and zero-deforestation beef agreement) implemented in the Amazon biome as examples and evaluated their spillover effects to the Cerrado. To achieve a holistic evaluation of the spillover effects, we adopted the telecoupling framework in our analysis. The application of the telecoupling framework includes the interactions between distant systems and extends the analytical boundaries beyond the signatory areas, which fill the gap of previous studies. Our results indicate that the supply-chain agreements have significantly reduced deforestation by half compared to projections within the sending system (i.e., Pará State in the Amazon, which exports soybeans and other agricultural products), but at the cost of increasing deforestation in the spillover system (i.e., a 6.6 time increase in Tocantins State of the Cerrado, where deforestation was affected by interactions between the Amazon and other places). Our study emphasizes that spillover effects should be considered in the evaluation and planning of conservation efforts, for which the telecoupling framework works as a useful tool to do that systematically.

Key words: telecoupling, Amazon, Cerrado, Brazil, soybean trade, spillover, voluntary agreement, deforestation, conservation, development