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Population Growth, Human Development, and Deforestation in Biodiversity Hotspots

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Abstract: 

Human population and development activities affect the rate of deforestation in biodiversity hotspots. We quantified the effect of human population growth and development on rates of deforestation and analyzed the relationship between these causal factors in the 1980s and 1990s. We compared the averages of population growth, human development index (HDI, which measures income, health, and education), and deforestation rate and computed correlations among these variables for countries that contain biodiversity hotspots. When population growth was high and HDI was low there was a high rate of deforestation, but when HDI was high, rate of deforestation was low, despite high population growth. The correlation among variables was significant for the 1990s but not for the 1980s. The relationship between population growth and HDI had a regional pattern that reflected the historical process of development. Based on the changes in HDI and deforestation rate over time, we identified two drivers of deforestation: policy choice and human-development constraints. Policy choices that disregard conservation may cause the loss of forests even in countries that are relatively developed. Lack of development in other countries, on the other hand, may increase the pressure on forests to meet the basic needs of the human population. Deforestation resulting from policy choices may be easier to fix than deforestation arising from human development constraints. To prevent deforestation in the countries that have such constraints, transfer of material and intellectual resources from developed countries may be needed. Popular interest in sustainable development in developed countries can facilitate the transfer of these resources.
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Keywords: Datos de desarrollo global; deforestation rate; desarrollo sustentable; global development data; human development index; patrones de desarrollo regional; regional development patterns; sustainable development; tasa de deforestación; índice de desarrollo humano

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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