• Open Access

Rural–urban migration brings conservation threats and opportunities to Amazonian watersheds

Authors

  • Luke Parry,

    1. School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
    2. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), PO Box 6596, JKPWB, Jakarta 10065, Indonesia
    3. Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK
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  • Carlos A. Peres,

    1. School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
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  • Brett Day,

    1. School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
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  • Silvana Amaral

    1. Divisão de Processamento de Imagens, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE), Av. dos Astronautas, 1758 São José dos Campos, SP, 12227-010, Brazil
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  • Editor: Dr. Kendra McSweeney

Correspondence
Luke Parry, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK. Tel: 44-1524-510276; fax: 44-1524-593192. E-mail: lukeparry1@gmail.com

Abstract

The spatial distribution and growth of human populations have been overlooked by current debates concerning the impact of rural–urban migration for forest conservation in tropical countries. We investigated human settlement and population change in the Brazilian Amazon, combining government census data with field surveys along rivers. Rural populations were clustered and growing within 300 km of urban centers, whereas depopulation and land abandonment dominated farther from towns. The permanently inhabited extent of rivers contracted by 33 ± 8 SE% in recent decades, and households farther upriver were more likely to be considering rural–urban migration. However, harvesting of aquatic and terrestrial wildlife by nonresidents continued into headwater regions, hundreds of kilometers beyond the last household on any given river. Policy makers should consider that expanding cities may drive deforestation and overexploitation near towns while unclear property rights threatens overharvesting and unregulated land speculation in abandoned headwaters.

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