Population and Environment

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 197–218 | Cite as

The impact of industrial oil development on a protected area landscape: demographic and social change at Murchison Falls Conservation Area, Uganda

  • Nicholas Dowhaniuk
  • Joel Hartter
  • Sadie J. Ryan
  • Michael W. Palace
  • Russell G. Congalton


Unprecedented mineral and oil extraction is occurring in Africa, often in important areas of conservation. This is especially true in the Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA) in northwestern Uganda. We assessed land fragmentation and conversion between 2002 and 2014 and quantified changes in human population density in the districts surrounding MFCA between 1969 and 2014 to understand landscape level impacts of oil development on the MFCA landscape. We found that three districts with ongoing oil development have increased population more rapidly (+ 69.3%) than districts without oil development (+ 27.6%), as well as the national average of Uganda (+ 41.5%). These districts also had higher proportional increases in total developed land cover and fragmentation in natural land cover. This study provides an increased understanding of how oil can shape human-environment interactions outside of globally important protected areas.


Albertine Rift Conservation Migration Oil development Uganda 



To all of the individuals in the Uganda Wildlife Authority at MFCA, we extend our sincere appreciation for all of your help and for allowing us to work within the park boundaries of the protected area. We would also like to extend our sincere appreciation to our excellent field staff. Additionally, thank you to Rebecca Fuda for her field support. Finally, we would like to thank the National Geographic Society for their continued support of this project.

Funding information

This work was supported by a National Science Foundation Coupled Natural-Human Systems grant (#1114977), a Young Explorer Grant from the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration (#9551-14), and a New Hampshire NASA Space Grant Consortium Graduate Fellowship.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental and Global HealthUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Tropical Conservation and Development ProgramUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of Natural Resources and the EnvironmentUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  5. 5.Environmental Studies ProgramUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  6. 6.Emerging Pathogens InstituteUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  7. 7.School of Life SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalDurhamSouth Africa
  8. 8.Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and SpaceUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  9. 9.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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