Assessing whether the best land is cultivated first: A quantile analysis
Brunelle T., Makoswki D.
Classical land rent theories imply that the best land is cultivated first. This principle forms the basis of many land-use studies, but empirical evidence remains limited, especially on a global scale. In this paper, we estimate the effects of agricultural suitability and market accessibility on the spatial allocation of cultivated areas at a 30 arc-min resolution in 15 world regions. Our results show that both determinants often have a significant positive effect on the cropland fraction, but with large variations in strength across regions. Based on a quantile analysis, we find that agricultural suitability is the dominant driver of cropland allocation in North America, Middle East and North Africa and Eastern Europe, whereas market accessibility shows a stronger effect in other regions, such as Western Africa. In some regions, such as South and Central America, both determinants have a limited effect on cropland fraction. Comparison of high versus low quantile regression coefficients shows that, in most regions, densely cropped areas are more sensitive to agricultural suitability and market accessibility than sparsely cropped areas.