Drivers of reforestation in human-dominated forests.

Nagendra, H.
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104(39): 15218-15223.

Tropical forest habitat continues to decline globally, with serious negative consequences for environmental sustainability. The small mountain country of Nepal provides an excellent context in which to examine trajectories of forest-cover change. Despite having experienced large-scale forest clearing in the past, significant reforestation has taken place in recent years. The range of biophysical and ecological environments and diversity of tenure arrangements provide us with a context with sufficient variation to be able to derive insight into the impact of a range of hypothesized drivers of forest change. This article draws on a dataset of 55 forests from the middle hills and Terai plains of Nepal to examine the factors associated with forest clearing or regeneration. Results affirm the central importance of tenure regimes and local monitoring for forest regrowth. In addition, user group size per unit of forest area is an important, independent explanator of forest change. These variables also can be associated with specific practices that further influence forest change such as the management of social conflict, adoption of new technologies to reduce pressure on the forest, and involvement of users in forest maintenance activities. Such large-N, comparative studies are essential if we are to derive more complex, nuanced, yet actionable frameworks that help us to plan better policies for the management of natural resources.

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Dr. Harini Nagendra