Where trees and people live

This is a follow on post from an earlier one called “The forest as a lived environment”.   One of my highlights of 2014 was getting my complimentary copy of Bill Liao’s book, “Forests: Reasons to be hopeful“.  As well as offering some advice on the scientific content of a few of the figures, I also have a small cameo appearance with this figure that Gemma Cassells and I made some time ago:

The distribution of people in forests. Compare Africa with the Amazon.
The distribution of people in forests. Compare Africa with the Amazon. The map was created using the same method as described in the first blog post, but this time it shows three layers of population density per square kilometre, namely, forests with fewer than 2 people, with between 2 and 10, and more than 10.   As before it is on a 5km grid, so really all you can say is that these people are within 5km of land designated as forest.  

I find this an amazing figure.   What is striking from even this simple map is that the forests of central Africa are very different from those of South America because of the comparatively high population density.  India and China have almost no forests that are far from people.  South East Asia has a mixture, but is more similar to the conditions of South America.   The lack of people in a forest may, of course, be the reason why these areas have historically been an easy target for illegal logging.

As deforestation rates in the Amazon are increasingly tackled by governments such as Brazil, we are now seeing increasing deforestation activity in Africa.  But the human impact will be greater.  Deforestation and afforestation, or forest financing projects such as REDD, will have a much larger impact (good or bad) on local livelihoods in Africa than in South America.  This should be an important consideration as we move towards implementing forest conservation.

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