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Stability and Change within Indigenous Land Use in the Ecuadorian Amazon


Gray, Clark L. & Bilsborrow, Richard E. (2020). Stability and Change within Indigenous Land Use in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Global Environmental Change, 63, 102116. PMCID: PMC7402596


In the Amazon basin and other tropical forest regions, many forested landscapes are inhabited by indigenous peoples who are increasingly exposed to infrastructure expansion, large-scale natural resource extraction, and development programs. How indigenous land use evolves in this context will be a critical determinant of the future of these forests. To date, few studies have had access to longitudinal, large-sample and field-based data that enables the measurement of indigenous land use change and its correlates in these contexts. To address this lacuna, we make use of a unique multi-ethnic household survey conducted in 32 indigenous communities of the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon in 2001 and again with the same households in 2012. We analyze these data to measure land use and land use change as well as their determinants. This reveals that the overall household agropastoral footprint has remained close to constant over time, but with important changes within particular land uses and ethnicities. Notably, cacao has largely replaced coffee (tracking commodity price changes), and Kichwa and Shuar households have intensified production on increasingly subdivided plots, with the Shuar specializing in cattle. In contrast, Waorani and Cofán households have maintained small footprints, while Secoya households largely abandoned cattle ranching. Taken together, the results emphasize ethnic heterogeneity in indigenous land use change, a pattern which is only visible through the use of a longitudinal, large-sample, field-based design.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Article Type


Year Published


Journal Title

Global Environmental Change


Gray, Clark L.
Bilsborrow, Richard E.