Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Human migration to the forest frontier: implications for land use change and conservation management

Jones, Julia P.G., Mandimbiniaina, Rina, Kelly, Ruth, Ranjatson, Patrick, Rakotojoelina, Bodonirina, Schreckenberg, Kate, Poudyal, Mahesh (2018) Human migration to the forest frontier: implications for land use change and conservation management. GEO: Geography and Environment, 5 (1). Article Number e00050. E-ISSN 2054-4049. (doi:10.1002/geo2.50) (KAR id:90690)


Human migration is often considered an important driver of land use change and a threat to protected area integrity, but the reasons for in-migration, the effectiveness of conservation restrictions at stemming migration, and the extent to which migrants disproportionately contribute to land use change has been poorly studied, especially at fine spatial scales. Using a case study in eastern Madagascar (603 household surveys, mapping agricultural land for a subset of 167 households, and 49 focus group discussions and key informant interviews), we explore the patterns and drivers of migration within the lifetime of those currently alive. We investigate how this influences forest conversion on the border of established protected areas and sites without a history of conservation restrictions. We show that in-migration is driven, especially in sites with high migration, by access to land. There is a much higher proportion of migrant households at sites without a long history of conservation restrictions than around long-established protected areas, and migrants tend to be more educated and live closer to the forest edge than non-migrants. Our evidence supports the engulfment model (an active forest frontier later becoming a protected area); there is no evidence that protected areas have attracted migrants. Where there is a perceived open forest frontier, people move to the forest but these migrants are no more likely than local people to clear land (i.e., migrants are not “exceptional resource degraders”). In some parts of the tropics, out-migration from rural areas is resulting in forest regrowth; such a forest transition is unlikely to occur in Madagascar for some time. Those seeking to manage protected areas at the forest frontier will therefore need to prevent further colonisation; supporting tenure security for existing residents is likely to be an important step.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1002/geo2.50
Additional information: Unmapped bibliographic data: M3 - Article [Field not mapped to EPrints] U2 - 10.1002/geo2.50 [Field not mapped to EPrints] JO - GEO: Geography and Environment [Field not mapped to EPrints]
Uncontrolled keywords: conservation; deforestation; land use; forest transition; migration; protected areas; tenure security
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Depositing User: Mahesh Poudyal
Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2021 12:39 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 17:38 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.