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To decentralize the Brazilian population and develop new regions, the Brazilian government completed the Cuiabá-Pôrto Velho highway through the province of Rondônia in 1960. The road provided access to tropical rainforest previously occupied only by indigenous people. Two main factors increased immigration to the province. First, the World Bank decided in December 1980 to invest in paving the Cuiabá-Pôrto Velho highway, making travel easier. Second, economic hardship near the southern coast encouraged emigration to the area where immigrants hoped to acquire new land. The 1975 and 1986 images show substantial settlement in the Ariquemes area, near the highway. The predominant 'fishbone' pattern on the landscape is the result of logging operations which provide access to new land. Primary land uses are cattle ranching and annual crop farming. More sustainable perennial crops such as coffee, cacao and rubber occupy less than 10 per cent of the agricultural land.

Despite encroachment, programmes are now attempting to preserve the land for multi-use functions providing a wider array of income-producing products for farmers that should eventually result in less impact on the tropical rainforest.

Landsat data: USGS/EROS Data Center
Compilation: UNEP GRID Sioux Falls