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Patterns of frontier development: a dynamic model of resource extraction in the Brazilian Amazon


  • Melstrom, Richard T.
  • Jones, Luke R.
  • Caviglia-Harris, Jill


Developing countries are known to exploit their resource frontier to achieve growth objectives and reduce poverty. This can lead to long-term positive outcomes or – if resource exploitation is unsustainable – lose–lose outcomes that leave populations and ecosystems worse off. This paper introduces a dynamic model of resource exploitation to explain how regions may succumb to, avoid or escape this negative outcome. The theoretical model characterizes a frontier community that uses soil as an input into agricultural production. The model shows that there may be a critical point in the soil stock that determines whether agricultural activities lead to sustainable development or a collapse in local income. This suggests that, in the event of a resource collapse, temporary adjustments to the system may permanently rehabilitate the resource base and change a community's development pattern. Calibration of the model to several frontier states of the Brazilian Amazon points toward an overall outcome of steady development.

Suggested Citation

  • Melstrom, Richard T. & Jones, Luke R. & Caviglia-Harris, Jill, 2016. "Patterns of frontier development: a dynamic model of resource extraction in the Brazilian Amazon," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 21(3), pages 350-370, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:endeec:v:21:y:2016:i:03:p:350-370_00

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