The municipal database
Deforestation is not an event, that just happens and then is over forever. Deforestation is actually an ongoing process of continuous human interference, preventing the forest from growing back, which it would if it was simply left alone.
(Patrick Moore 2000)
This chapter presents and discusses the unique panel data set, DESMAT, that provides the empirical base for this book. The data set is constructed and maintained, under the oversight of Eustáquio Reis, at the Institute of Applied Economic Research (Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada – IPEA) in Rio de Janeiro. The original motivation for the creation of this database was to develop econometric models for forecasting and policy analysis of Amazon deforestation and its environmental consequences – in particular the contribution to CO2 emissions. However, the scope of analytical possibilities is much broader. Data on several hundred economic, demographic, agricultural and ecological variables have been collected for the years 1970, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1991, and 1996 for 257 consistently defined geographic areas in Legal Amazonia.
The significance of the time and effort that has been put into developing and maintaining this huge database cannot be emphasized enough. The data set is an enormous contribution to our knowledge about, and ability to analyze, change and growth in the Amazon. It was the existence of the data set which originally inspired the ongoing research collaboration which has resulted in this book. Over the years along with the Amazon itself, the data set has changed and evolved. In 1970 there were 316 municipalities in Legal Amazonia. However, as they developed economically and their populations increased, they tended to split and/or regroup, so that by 1996 the number of individual municipalities had grown to 628. In order to produce data that could be analyzed consistently through time and across space it was necessary to define geographic areas that are consistent throughout the sample period. Made up of municipalities or groups of municipalities, these are called Minimum Comparable Areas (MCA). Table 3.1 shows the actual number of municipalities in 1996 for