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Conservation Letter

Integrating landscapes that have experienced rural depopulation and ecological homogenization into tropical conservation planning [ pages 307-320 ]

Aerin L. Jacob1, Ismael Vaccaro2, Raja Sengupta3, Joel Hartter4 and Colin A. Chapman5
    1Dept. of Biology, McGill University, 1205 Dr. Penfield, Montreal, Quebec, H3A 1B1, Canada; 2Dept. of Anthropology & McGill School of Environment, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; 3Dept. of Geography & McGill School of Environment, 805 Sherbrooke St W., McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, H3A 2K6, Canada; 4Dept. of Geography, University of New Hampshire, 127 James Hall, Durham, NH 03824, USA; 5Dept. of Anthropology & McGill School of Environment, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada and Wildlife Conservation Society, 2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY 10460, USA

If current trends of declining fertility rates and increasing abandonment of rural land as a result of urbanization continue, this will signal a globally significant transformation with important consequences for policy makers interested in conservation planning. This transformation is presently evident in a number of countries and projections suggest it may occur in the future in many developing countries. We use rates of population growth and urbanization to project population trends in rural areas for 25 example countries. Our projections indicate a general decline in population density that has either occurred already (e.g., Mexico) or may occur in the future if current trends continue (e.g., Uganda). Using both temperate and tropical examples we present evidence that this process will lead to ecological homogenization as a dominant habitat (e.g., forest replaces a mosaic of human-maintained landscapes), resulting in declines in biodiversity at the local scale. Building on this information, we consider research programs that need to be conducted so that policy makers are prepared to effectively manage depopulated rural areas.

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   Tropical Conservation Science is an open-access e-journal that publishes research relating to conservation of tropical forests and other tropical ecosystems.

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