Mato Grosso has become the center of Brazil's soybean industry, with production located across an agricultural frontier expanding into savanna and rainforest biomes. We present environmental footprints of soybean production in Mato Grosso and resource flows accompanying exports to China and Europe for the 2000s using five indicators: deforestation, land footprint (LF), carbon footprint (CF), water footprint (WF), and nutrient footprints. Soybean production was associated with 65% of the state's deforestation, and 14–17% of total Brazilian land use change carbon emissions. The decade showed two distinct production systems illustrated by resources used in the first and second half of the decade. Deforestation and carbon footprint declined 70% while land, water, and nutrient footprints increased almost 30% between the two periods. These differences coincided with a shift in Mato Grosso's export destination. Between 2006 and 2010, China surpassed Europe in soybean imports when production was associated with 97 m2 deforestation yr−1 ton−1 of soybean, a LF of 0.34 ha yr−1 ton−1, a carbon footprint of 4.6 ton CO2-eq yr−1 ton−1, a WF of 1908 m3 yr−1 ton−1, and virtual phosphorous and potassium of 5.0 kg P yr−1 ton−1 and 0.0042 g K yr−1 ton−1. Mato Grosso constructs soil fertility via phosphorous and potassium fertilizer sourced from third party countries and imported into the region. Through the soybean produced, Mato Grosso then exports both water derived from its abundant, seasonal precipitation and nutrients obtained from fertilizer. In 2010, virtual water flows were 10.3 km3 yr−1 to China and 4.1 km3 yr−1 to Europe. The total embedded nutrient flows to China were 2.12 Mtons yr−1 and 2.85 Mtons yr−1 to Europe. As soybean production grows with global demand, the role of Mato Grosso's resource use and production vulnerabilities highlight the challenges with meeting future international food security needs.
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Lathuillière, M. J., Johnson, M. S., Galford, G. L., & Couto, E. G. (2014). Environmental footprints show China and Europe’s evolving resource appropriation for soybean production in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Environmental Research Letters, 9(7), 074001.