Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 913–928 | Cite as

Park isolation in anthropogenic landscapes: land change and livelihoods at park boundaries in the African Albertine Rift

  • Jonathan Salerno
  • Colin A. Chapman
  • Jeremy E. Diem
  • Nicholas Dowhaniuk
  • Abraham Goldman
  • Catrina A. MacKenzie
  • Patrick Aria Omeja
  • Michael W. Palace
  • Rafael Reyna-Hurtado
  • Sadie J. Ryan
  • Joel Hartter
Review Article


Landscapes are changing rapidly in regions where rural people live adjacent to protected parks and reserves. This is the case in highland East Africa, where many parks are increasingly isolated in a matrix of small farms and settlements. In this review, we synthesize published findings and extant data sources to assess the processes and outcomes of park isolation, with a regional focus on people’s livelihoods at park boundaries in the Ugandan Albertine Rift. The region maintains exceptionally high rural population density and growth and is classified as a global biodiversity hotspot. In addition to the impacts of increasing numbers of people, our synthesis highlights compounding factors—changing climate, increasing land value and variable tenure, and declining farm yields—that accelerate effects of population growth on park isolation and widespread landscape change. Unpacking these processes at the regional scale identifies outcomes of isolation in the unprotected landscape—high frequency of human-wildlife conflict, potential for zoonotic disease transmission, land and resource competition, and declining wildlife populations in forest fragments. We recommend a strategy for the management of isolated parks that includes augmenting outreach by park authorities and supporting community needs in the human landscape, for example through healthcare services, while also maintaining hard park boundaries through traditional protectionism. Even in cases where conservation refers to biodiversity in isolated parks, landscape strategies must include an understanding of the local livelihood context in order to ensure long-term sustainable biodiversity protection.


Protected areas Biodiversity conservation Livelihoods Climate change Ecosystem services Deforestation 



Major support for this work was provided by the National Science Foundation (1114977) and the National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration. We are grateful to our Ugandan collaborators and to households participating in the field research. We also thank the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, and many local officials who facilitated the research.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Salerno
    • 1
  • Colin A. Chapman
    • 2
  • Jeremy E. Diem
    • 3
  • Nicholas Dowhaniuk
    • 4
    • 5
  • Abraham Goldman
    • 4
  • Catrina A. MacKenzie
    • 6
    • 7
  • Patrick Aria Omeja
    • 8
  • Michael W. Palace
    • 9
  • Rafael Reyna-Hurtado
    • 10
  • Sadie J. Ryan
    • 4
  • Joel Hartter
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Studies ProgramUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Department of Anthropology and McGill School of EnvironmentMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Department of GeosciencesGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Department of GeographyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  5. 5.Department of Environmental and Global HealthUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  6. 6.Department of GeographyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  7. 7.Department of GeographyUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  8. 8.Makerere University Biological Field StationMakerere UniversityKampalaUganda
  9. 9.Earth Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and SpaceUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  10. 10.Departamento de Conservación de la BiodiversidadEl Colegio de la Frontera SurChisMexico

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