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Shrinking Tropical Forests, Human Agents of Change, and Conservation Policy

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Human agents of landscape transformation in the tropics affect forests differently as the forests decline in size. Five agents of change—road builders, corporate concession holders, community forest managers, park advocates, and urban consumers—have different effects on large forests in remote tropical regions than they do on remnant forests in settled agricultural regions. Because forests vary so much in size across tropical regions, these differences in the effects of agents on forests have important implications for regional conservation efforts. To make these implications explicit, I compared the effects of the five agents in regions with large forests with their effects in regions with small forests. The comparisons indicated that, as forests declined in size, new roads no longer destroyed forests, corporate loggers left the forests, community forest managers became more effective, parks became less feasible as a means of conservation, and urban consumers initiated tree planting. My results suggest that awareness about the changing effects of humans on landscapes with shrinking forests can serve as a useful tool in formulating regionally appropriate policies for conserving tropical forests.

Keywords: biodiversity crisis; caminos; community forestry; crisis de biodiversidad; deforestaciĆ³n tropical; parks; parques; roads; silvicultura comunitaria; tropical deforestation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Human Ecology, Rutgers University, 55 Dudley Road, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, U.S.A., Email:

Publication date: 2006-12-01

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