Two of a kind? Large-scale land acquisitions and commodity frontier expansion in Argentina’s Dry Chaco

Authors: Nicholas Magliocca*, Department of Geography, Ariane de Bremond, Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA; Global Land Programme, Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland, Evan Ellicott, Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA, Lucas Seghezzo, Instituto de Investigaciones en Energía No Convencional (INENCO), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Universidad Nacional de Salta (UNSa), Salta, Argentina, Cristian D. Venencia, Instituto de Investigaciones en Energía No Convencional (INENCO), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Universidad Nacional de Salta (UNSa), Salta, Argentina, Maria Jesus Moscario, Laboratorio de Teledetección y SIG, Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria (INTA), Estación Experimental Agropecuaria Salta, Salta, Argentina, Christoph Nolte, Department of Earth & Environment, Boston University, Boston, MA
Topics: Land Use and Land Cover Change, Latin America, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Deforestation, foreign direct investment, land grabs, land governance, poorly selective contagion
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 12
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Land-use change (LUC) driven by commodity agriculture over the last 20 years have been particularly extensive in the Dry Chaco region of Argentina. Large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) have been cited as a key catalyst of deforestation and related LUC in commodity frontier expansion. However, it is unclear whether contemporary LSLAs that affected the Dry Chaco and other agricultural commodity frontiers globally differed in their mechanisms of LUC from conventional agricultural expansion processes. The diversity of domestic and foreign investors, land governance approaches, commodity crops, and LUC dynamics observable in contemporary LSLAs in Argentina’s Dry Chaco provide a focused lens, or ‘case set’, through which to consider commodity frontier dynamics in the Salta Province since 2000. We integrated remote sensing analysis and classification of the timing and location of LUC within the boundaries of LSLA and non-LSLA agricultural parcels with survival analysis to draw conclusions about the dynamics of LSLA and LUC associated with production operations. Regionally, agriculture expanded into increasingly marginal land was consistent between LSLA and non-LSLA parcels. However, parcel-based analysis revealed differing responsiveness to commodity prices and land-use constraints imposed by the National Forest Law, which translated into diverging LUC trajectories among non-LSLA/LSLA parcels. In particular, LUC on LSLA parcels was significantly slowed by Forest Law constraints, while continued among non-LSLA parcels and a small number of ‘recategorized’ or illegally deforested LSLA parcels. Our findings demonstrate the importance of moving beyond large-scale, aggregate spatial assessments of LSLA outcomes that aim to inform policy yet ‘black box' actors.

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