Spatial patterns and determinants of avocado frontier dynamics in Mexico

Diana Ramírez-Mejía*, Christian Levers, Jean François Mas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The surging demand for commodity crops has led to rapid and severe agricultural frontier expansion globally and has put producing regions increasingly under pressure. However, knowledge about spatial patterns of agricultural frontier dynamics, their leading spatial determinants, and socio-ecological trade-offs is often lacking, hindering contextualized decision making towards more sustainable food systems. Here, we used inventory data to map frontier dynamics of avocado production, a cash crop of increasing importance in global diets, for Michoacán, Mexico, before and after the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). We compiled a set of environmental, accessibility and social variables and identified the leading determinants of avocado frontier expansion and their interactions using extreme gradient boosting. We predicted potential expansion patterns and assessed their impacts on areas important for biodiversity conservation. Avocado frontiers expanded more than tenfold from 12,909 ha (1974) to 152,493 ha (2011), particularly after NAFTA. Annual precipitation, distance to settlements, and land tenure were key factors explaining avocado expansion. Under favorable climatic and accessibility conditions, most avocado expansion occurred on private lands. Contrary, under suboptimal conditions, most avocado expansion occurred on communal lands. Large areas suitable for further avocado expansion overlapped with priority sites for restoration, highlighting an imminent conflict between conservation and economic revenues. This is the first analysis of avocado frontier dynamics and their spatial determinants across a major production region and our results provide entry points to implement government-based strategies to support small-scale farmers, mostly those on communal lands, while trying to minimize the socio-environmental impacts of avocado production.

Original languageEnglish
Article number28
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Volume22
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
DR-M is a doctoral student from the Programa de Doctorado en Geograf?a, Universidad Nacional Aut?noma de M?xico (UNAM). DR-M acknowledges N Ramankutty for hosting her as a visiting research student at the University of British Columbia. CL gratefully acknowledges support by the European Union?s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sk?odowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 796451 (FFSize). We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful and very constructive comments that helped to improve this manuscript. The research reported in this article contributes to the Global Land Programme (http://GLP.earth).

Funding Information:
DR-M is a doctoral student from the Programa de Doctorado en Geografía, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). DR-M acknowledges N Ramankutty for hosting her as a visiting research student at the University of British Columbia. CL gratefully acknowledges support by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 796451 (FFSize). We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful and very constructive comments that helped to improve this manuscript. The research reported in this article contributes to the Global Land Programme ( http://GLP.earth ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.

Keywords

  • Agricultural expansion
  • Commodity frontiers
  • Extreme gradient boosting
  • Globalization
  • NAFTA

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