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Forest transition in developed agricultural regions needs efficient regulatory policy

Raymundo Marcos-Martinez, Brett A. Bryan, Kurt A. Schwabe, Jeffery D. Connor and Elizabeth A. Law

Forest Policy and Economics, 2018, vol. 86, issue C, 67-75

Abstract: The shift from net forest loss to gain—forest transition—has been associated variously with economic development, market-driven reforestation, forest policy, and globalization. Evidence shows that governments can expedite forest transition, although economic and institutional failures can distort policy incentives. This study addresses the paucity of spatially explicit empirical research on the robustness of the forest transition hypothesis in a developed country context and identifies factors that may hasten, delay, or even reverse forest transition. We applied spatial-econometric analysis to high-resolution forest cover, climatic, socioeconomic, physiographic, and State-jurisdiction data for the Australian intensive agricultural zone from 1988 to 2014. While environmental and physiographic factors explained the spatial distribution of forests, net forest cover change was significantly associated with trends in farm-output prices inducing deforestation in Queensland, the State with less effective land clearance regulations. Changes in land clearing regulations in Queensland were significantly associated with the national forest cover trends that resulted in forest transition in Australia around 2008. Yet when land clearing regulations and their enforcement were subsequently relaxed in 2012, significant forest cover loss was once again observed in that State, particularly in remnant forests. We conclude that if forest regulatory protection is not effective, net forest loss could resume or increase, even in developed countries, in response to growing incentives for forest conversion to agriculture.

Keywords: Forest transition; Spatial panel econometrics; Australia; Agricultural expansion; Policy; Climate (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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