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Globalization and Soybean Expansion into Semiarid Ecosystems of Argentina

Globalization and Soybean Expansion into Semiarid Ecosystems of Argentina
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  Globalization and Soybean Expansioninto Semiarid Ecosystems of Argentina Deforestation is the product of complexinteraction among local idiosyncraticproperties of natural and social systemsand driving forces that commonly operateat large spatial scales (1). Social andeconomic globalization, particularly re-duced communication and transportationbarriers, has increased the relative impor-tance of global drivers of environmentalchange (e.g. deforestation). For example,agricultureexpansionisincreasinglyinflu-enced by technological changes that arerapidlydisseminatedworldwide(2)andbychanges in consumption patterns of a fewcountries that have a disproportionateinfluence on the global markets becauseof their large population (e.g. China) orhigh levels of consumption (e.g. USA,European Union).The increased importance of soybeanproduction in the global economy is anexample of how local and global factorscan interact and have large effects onnatural systems. A number of character-isticsofsoybeanhavemadeitanattractivecrop in the globalized context. Soybeanhas low water content, high nutritivevalue, and the capacity to yield a varietyof products (e.g. human food, animalfood, oil, and industrial derivates) (3).These characteristics reduce vulnerabilitytomarketfluctuations,reducestorageandtransportation costs, and have contribut-ed to its rapid expansion. Furthermore,the increasing global demand for soybeanproducts has resulted in large investmentsin research and development and thewidespreaduseoftransgeniccultivarsthathave increased yields, reduced costs byreducing herbicide use, and increased therange of appropriate planting environ-ments (4).A major factor influencing the growingdemand for soybean has been a globalincreaseinmeatconsumption(5),muchof which is produced with soybean meal.Until 1993, China was a major exporter of soybeans, but the increasing demand formeat, particularly pork and chicken,associated with the socioeconomicchanges during the last 10 y has convertedChina into the number one soybeanimporter in the world (6).This increasing demand for soybeans isreflected in a doubling in planted areaduring the last 30 y (7). Globally, approx-imately 80 million ha are planted insoybean, and  . 70 %  is in the UnitedStates, Brazil, and Argentina. Duringthe last 10 y, production in the UnitedStates has been relatively stable, butSouth America has experienced a dramat-ic increase, much of which was establishedby deforesting extensive areas of tropicaldry forest (3, 4, 8).In this communication, we describehow increasing demand, technologicaladvances, and climate change are drivingsoybean expansion in Argentina andseriously jeopardizing the integrity of extensive semiarid biomes. ARGENTINA DRY ECOSYSTEMSAND SOYBEAN EXPANSION Despite being one of the largest agricul-tural producers in the world, Argentinastillhasextensivewildlands.Argentinahasthe largest area of dry shrublands in theworld (9) and a significant proportion of the Chaco forests, which is the secondlargest dry forest biome in South America(10). These areas are being transformedrapidly into soybean fields. The areaplanted in soybean in Argentina hasincreased from less than a million hectaresin 1970 to more than 13 million ha in 2003(5 %  of Argentina, an area larger Nicar-agua; Fig. 1A). In part, this increase hasoccurred in areas that were previouslyused for other agricultural or grazingactivities, but much of the increase inplanting area has originated from thetransformationofnaturalecosystems.De-forestation for agricultural expansion hasbeen particularly important in the north-ern provinces, which contain the largestareas of Chaco forest. For example, usingLandsat TM images, we estimated that inthe eastern part of Salta, 305 000 ha wasdeforestedbetween1984and2001.Inonly4 y (1998–2002), 117 974 ha was defor-ested in the province of Chaco (11). DRIVERS OF SOYBEANEXPANSION The major driver of deforestation forsoybean expansion in Argentina has beenthe increase in global demand, butclimate change, specifically rainfall, andtechnological advances have also playeda major role. In subtropical Argentinawhere soybean production is expandinginto semiarid wildlands, rainfall has in-creased by 20 %  –30 %  above levels duringthe first half of the 20th century (12;Fig. 1B) and has eliminated a majorenvironmental limitation for soybeangrowth over millions of hectares (13).This increase in precipitation is a conse-quence of increased continental circula-tion likely associated with global increasein greenhouse gases (14), and climatemodels predict that current levels of rainfall in this region are likely to persistor even increase during the comingdecades (15). Figure 1. Time trends in A) area (ha) plantedin soybean in Argentina; B) rainfall (mm y  1 ,5-y moving average) in two localities wheresoybean has expanded during the last 20 y(Tartagal and Las Lajitas, Province of Salta);C) average yield (kg ha  1 ) of soybeanbetween 1990 and 2000 in Argentina; andD) price of soybean (US$ mg  1 ). Ambio Vol. 34, No. 3, May 2005  265   Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2005 Synopsis  In addition to increasing rainfall, newvarieties of soybean are expanding theenvironmental conditions appropriate forgrowth and increasing yield (4, 16). Yieldsincreased more than 20 % in 1997 with theintroduction of transgenic cultivars(Fig. 1C). These cultivars also reduceherbicide use, lowering production costs(17). Although international soybean pri-ces have dropped (Fig. 1D) following theintroduction of the transgenic cultivars,profits are still high (17), and more dryforest is being transformed to soybeaneach year.Between September 2003 and January2004, the price of soybeans increased 50 % .This increase is driven by a continuedglobal increase in meat consumption,particularly in China, and a 12 % decreasein the 2003 US soybean crop. The recentoutbreak of mad cow disease in theUnited States should further increasesoybean prices as demand for pork andpoultry feed increases (18). CONCLUSIONS The trends in global drivers of soybeanproduction (e.g. demand, technology,climate) strongly suggest that deforesta-tion of tropical dry ecosystems will con-tinue, despite changes in local conditions.Although the Argentina economy hasfluctuated greatly during the last 10 y(e.g. gross domestic product annualchange varied between  þ 8 %  and   20 % ;19), this local driver has had little or noeffect compared with the global drivers.Moreover, other global factors, such asincreasedmeatconsumptionindevelopingcountries and mad cow disease in theUnited States, will contribute to an in-creasing demand for soybean products.Soybean exports have played animportant role in the recovery of theArgentine economy following the 2002financial crisis. Along with increasedincome for growers and associated in-dustries, the government has benefiteddirectly from a 20 %  export tax ( reten-ciones ). The 2003/2004 soybean crop isestimated to be approximately 13 millionha, with an average of 2.6 tons ha  1 . If the price continues above US$200 ton  1 ,20 %  would represent more thanUS$1 350 000 000 for the Argentinegovernment. If current global factorsdo not change and the economy of Argentina continues to base its growthon soybean exports, millions of hectaresof semiarid wildlands likely will disap-pear during the coming decades. References and Notes 1. Geist, H.J. and Lambin, E.F. 2002. Proximate causesand underlying driving forces of tropical deforestation. Bioscience 52 , 143–150.2. Angelsen, A. and Kaimowitz, D. (eds.). 2001.  Agricul-tural Technologies and Tropical Deforestation . CABIPublishing, Wallingford, UK.3. United Soybean Board 2001. 2001 Soy Stats Online.( Kaimowitz, D. and Smith, J. 2001. Soybean technologyand the loss of natural vegetation in Brazil and Bolivia.In:  Agricultural Technologies and Tropical Deforesta-tion.  Angelsen, A. and Kaimowitz, D. (eds.). CABIPublishing, Wallingford, UK, pp. 195–211.5. Rosegrant, M.W., Paisner, M.S., Meier, S. and Wit-cover, J. 2001.  Global Food Projections to 2020.Emerging Trends and Alternative Futures . InternationalFood Policy Research Institute.6. US Department of Agriculture 2004. Oilseeds, marketsand trade. Foreign Agricultural Service Circular Series2004-01. USDA.7. Food and Agriculture Organization of the UnitedNations 2002. FAOSTAT. ( Fearnside, P.M. 2001. Soybean cultivation as a threat tothe environment in Brazil.  Environ. Conserv. 28 , 23–38.9. Sanderson, E.W., Jaideh, M.A., Levy, K.H., Redford,K., Wannebo, A.W. and Wolver, G. 2002. The humanfootprint and the last of the wild.  Bioscience 52 , 891– 904.10. Dinerstein, E., Olson, D.M., Graham, D.J., Webster,A.L., Primm, S.A., Bookbinder, M.P. and Ledec, G.1995.  A Conservation Assessment of the Terrestrial Ecoregions of Latin America and the Caribbean . TheWorld Wildlife Fund and The World Bank, Wash-ington, DC.11. Montenegro, C., Strada, M., Parmucci, M.C., Gaspar-ri, I. and Bono, J. 2003.  Mapa Forestal Provincia del Chaco. Actualizacio´ n An˜o 2002 . UNSEF, Direccio ´n deBosques, Secretaria de Ambiente y Desarrollo Susten-able, Buenos Aires, Argentina.12. Minetti, J.L. and Vargas, W.M. 1997. Trends and jumps in the annual rainfall in South America, South of 15 S.  Atmosfera 11 , 205–221.13. Minetti, J.L. and Lamelas, C.M. 1995. Respuestaregional de la soja en Tucuman a la variabilidadclimatica.  Rev. Ind. Agrı´ c .  Tucuman 72 , 63–68.14. Labraga, J.C. 1997. The climate change in SouthAmerica due to doubling CO 2  concentrations: inter-comparisons of general circulation model equilibriumexperiments.  Int. J. Climatol. 17  , 377–398.15. Hulme, M., Mitchell, J., Ingram, W., Lowe, J., Johns,J., New, M. and Viner, D. 1999. Climate changescenarios for global impact studies.  Glob. Environ.Chang. 9 , S3–S19.16. Lebed, H. 2002.  El Quinquenio de la Soja Transgenica .Ministerio de la Produccion, Secretaria de Agriculturade la Nacion, Argentina.17. Perez, D., Gonzales Lelong, A. and Devani, M. 2002.Evolucio ´n de algunos aspectos econo ´mico-productivos de la produccio´n de soja en la u´ltima de´cada en laprovincia de Tucuman.  Adv. Agroind. 22 , 31–34.18. 2004. El Portal de los Negocios delCampo. ( Stutzeneger, F. 2003.  La Economı´ a de los Argentinos.Reglas de Juego para una Sociedad Prospera y Justa .Planeta, Buenos Aires.20. Acknowledgments: This work was financed primarilyby grants from National Aeronautics and SpaceAdministration (NASA, USA) and Comision Nacionalde Actividades Espaciales (CONAE, Argentina). H. Ricardo GrauDepartment of BiologyUniversidad de Puerto RicoPO Box 23360, Rio PiedrasPuerto RicoPuerto Rico, 00931, USAPresent address:Laboratorio de InvestigacionesEcolo´  gicas de las YungasUniversidad Nacional de Tucuma´ n-CONICET Casilla de Correo 34 (4107)Yerba Buena, Tucuman, Mitchell AideDepartment of BiologyUniversidad de Puerto RicoPO Box 23360Rio Piedras, Puerto RicoN. Ignacio Gasparri Unidad de Manejo del Sistemade Evacuacio´ n Forestal Secretaria de Ambiente y DesarrolloSustentableSan Martin 451, C1004AA1Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Argentina Soybeanexpansion intoseasonallydry forestsinNW Argentina. Photo byT.M. Aide, 2002. 266  Ambio Vol. 34, No. 3, May 2005   Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2005
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