Population pressure and global markets drive a decade of forest cover change in Africa's Albertine Rift

Academic Article


  • The Albertine Rift region faces rapid human population growth, while being a biodiversity hotspot. Using satellite-derived continuous forest cover change data, we examined national socioeconomic, demographic, and agricultural production data, and local demographic and geographic variables to assess multilevel forces driving significant local forest cover loss and gain outside protected areas during the first decade of this century. Because the processes that drive forest cover loss and gain are expected to be different, we constructed models of change in each direction. Although forest cover change varied by country, national level population change was the strongest driver of forest loss rate for all countries, with a population doubling predicted to cause 2.06 percent annual cover loss, while doubling tea production was predicted to cause 1.90 percent. The rate of forest cover gain was associated positively with increased production of the local staple crop cassava, but negatively with local population density and meat production, suggesting production drivers at multiple levels mitigate reforestation. We found a small, but significant, decrease of forest cover loss rate with increasing distance from protected areas, supporting studies suggesting higher rates of landscape change near protected areas. While local population density mitigated the rate of forest cover gain, cover loss also correlated to lower local population density, an apparent paradox, but consistent with findings that larger scale forces outweigh local drivers of deforestation. This implicates demographic and market forces at national and international scales as critical drivers of change, calling into question the necessary scale of forest protection policy in this biodiversity hotspot.
  • Authors

  • Ryan, SJ
  • Palace, Michael
  • Hartter, J
  • Diem, JE
  • Chapman, CA
  • Southworth, J
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • April 2017
  • Has Subject Area

    Published In

  • Applied Geography  Journal
  • Keywords

  • Africa
  • Albertine Rift
  • Biodiversity hotspot
  • Demographic pressure
  • Forest cover change
  • Protected areas
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 52
  • End Page

  • 59
  • Volume

  • 81