Does the creation of protected areas draw people to settle on their fringes, negatively impacting ecosystems and biodiversity? According to an opinion piece in Tropical Conservation Science the answer to this question is to date unknown.
According to a number of studies population has grown around many tropical protected areas, but researchers have yet to establish a direct pattern between reserve-creation and human migration. They speculate that protected areas could draw people due to perceived economic benefits from tourism or because locals see protected areas as rich in natural resources, which have been lost elsewhere.
Despite a number of attempts to answer these questions, Dr. Lucas Joppa, lead author of the opinion piece, says that “the global data available for human population counts are simply insufficient for the task.” Human population is currently compiled in such a way that “rural populations cannot be separated from urban populations and populations near protected areas cannot be separated from those far from protected areas,” write Joppa and his co-authors.
However, by combining case-studies and, remote-sensing techniques, such as employing satellite imagery of forest loss near parks, conservationists may be able to better answer the question and come up with an appropriate response. Other remote-sensing tools that could be valuable include surveying the frequency of fire, the amount of electrical light at night, and looking at urban areas—all indications of population size.
“This question has no one-size-fits-all answer,” explains Dr. Joppa, “but by properly using available data we should be able to hone in on reserves around the world with significant human conflict.”
CITATION: Joppa, L. N., Loarie, S. R. and Nelson, A. 2010. Measuring population growth around tropical protected areas: current issues and solutions. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 3 (2):117-121.
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