Population and Environment

, Volume 30, Issue 4–5, pp 159–192 | Cite as

Revisiting the hierarchy of urban areas in the Brazilian Amazon: a multilevel approach

  • Gilvan Guedes
  • Sandra Costa
  • Eduardo Brondízio


The Legal Brazilian Amazon, while the largest rainforest in the world, is also a region where most residents are urban. Despite close linkages between rural and urban processes in the region, rural areas have been the predominant focus of Amazon-based population-environment scholarship. Offering a focus on urban areas within the Brazilian Amazon, this paper examines the emergence of urban hierarchies within the region. Using a combination of nationally representative data and community based surveys, applied to a multivariate cluster methodology (Grade of Membership), we observe the emergence of sub-regional urban networks characterized by economic and political inter-dependency, population movement, and provision of services. These networks link rural areas, small towns, and medium and large cities. We also identify the emergence of medium-size cities as important nodes at a sub-regional level. In all, the work provides insight on the proposed model of ‘disarticulated urbanization’ within the Amazon by calling attention to the increasing role of regional and sub-regional urban networks in shaping the future expansion of land use and population distribution in the Amazon. We conclude with a discussion of implications for increasing intra-regional connectivity and fragmentation of conservation areas and ecosystems in the region.


Brazilian Amazon Urban hierarchy Grade of membership Disarticulated urbanization Community and urban formation 



We thank Anthony Cak, Scott Hettrick, Álvaro D’Antona, and Andrea Siqueira for logistical support in the field and laboratory, and constructive reviews of this article. We thank four anonymous reviewers and the editor for their valuable comments and suggestions. The larger project of which this is a part benefits from the experience and input of these investigators, and funding from the National Institutes of Health (grant no. HD35811-04/07, Phase II),National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)/LBA (Grant no. NNG06GD86A, Phase III) and National Science Foundation/USD (grant no. BCS-05-27578, Estuary). We finally thank Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), the Department of Anthropology, the Antrhopological Center for Training and Research on Global Environmental Change (ACT) at Indiana University, the Centro de Desenvolvimento e Planejamento Regional e Urbano (CEDEPLAR/UFMG), and Departamento de Planejamento Regional (UNIVAP), institutions which the authors belong or collaborate.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gilvan Guedes
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Sandra Costa
    • 2
    • 4
  • Eduardo Brondízio
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of SociologyBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Anthropological Center for Training and Research on Global Environmental ChangeIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  3. 3.Department of DemographyUniversity of Minas GeraisBelo HorizonteBrazil
  4. 4.Department of Regional PlanningUniversity of Vale do ParaíbaSão José dos CamposBrazil
  5. 5.Department of AnthropologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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