On population growth near protected areas.
BACKGROUND:Protected areas are the first, and often only, line of defense in efforts to conserve biodiversity. They might be detrimental or beneficial to rural communities depending on how they alter economic opportunities and access to natural resources. As such, protected areas may attract or repel human settlement. Disproportionate increases in population growth near protected area boundaries may threaten their ability to conserve biodiversity. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:Using decadal population datasets, we analyze population growth across 45 countries and 304 protected areas. We find no evidence for population growth near protected areas to be greater than growth of rural areas in the same country. Furthermore, we argue that what growth does occur near protected areas likely results from a general expansion of nearby population centers. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:Our results contradict those from a recent study by Wittemyer et al., who claim overwhelming evidence for increased human population growth near protected areas. To understand the disagreement, we re-analyzed the protected areas in Wittemyer et al.'s paper. Their results are simply artifacts of mixing two incompatible datasets. Protected areas may experience unusual population pressures near their edges; indeed, individual case studies provide examples. There is no evidence, however, of a general pattern of disproportionate population growth near protected areas.
Joppa, LN; Loarie, SR; Pimm, SL
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