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The number and spatial distribution of forest-proximate people globally

Authors: Peter Newton*, University of Colorado, Andrew Kinzer, Eden Reforestation Projects, Daniel Charles Miller, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Johan Oldekop, University of Manchester, Arun Agrawal, University of Michigan
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Human-Environment Geography, Population Geography
Keywords: forests, land use change, livelihoods, people, policy, spatial distribution
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

BACKROUND. Forest landscapes are complex socio-environmental systems. The degree to which forests support human livelihoods, and the degree to which humans shape forest ecology, depends in part on the spatial relationship between people and forests. RESEARCH QUESTION. In this paper, we answer the question: How many people live in and around forests globally? METHODS. We combined forest cover and human population density data to map the spatial relationship between people and forests on a global scale in 2012. MAIN FINDINGS. First, we calculated that 1.61 billion rural people lived within 5km of a forest in 2012, globally. Of these, 64.5% lived in tropical countries and 71.3% lived in countries classified as low-income, lower-middle-income, or upper-middle-income countries by the World Bank. A large majority lived in relatively densely-populated areas. Our maps reveal several extensive sparsely-populated areas of forests. Second, we propose the term ‘forest-proximate people’ as an appropriate means of referring to people who live in and around forests. The term captures the spatial relationship between people and forests, without presuming anything additional about the nature of the relationship between them.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS. Forest proximity is related to, but not synonymous with, forest dependency. Our findings have implications for researchers and decision-makers interested in the interactions between people and forests, and those concerned with policies and programs that affect forest conservation as well as sustainable socio-economic development in communities in and around forests.

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