Increasing residential development around protected areas is a major threat for protected areas worldwide, and human population growth is often the most important cause. However, population is decreasing in many regions as a result of socio-economic changes, and it is unclear how residential development around protected areas is affected in these situations. We investigated whether decreasing human population alleviates pressures from residential development around protected areas, using Puerto Rico—an island with declining population—as a case study. We calculated population and housing changes from the 2000 to 2010 census around 124 protected areas, using buffers of different sizes. We found that the number of houses around protected areas continued to increase while population declined both around protected areas and island-wide. A total of 32,300 new houses were constructed within only 1 km from protected areas, while population declined by 28,868 within the same area. At the same time, 90% of protected areas showed increases in housing in the surrounding lands, 47% showed population declines, and 40% showed population increases, revealing strong spatial variations. Our results highlight that residential development remains an important component of lands surrounding protected areas in Puerto Rico, but the spatial variations in population and housing changes indicate that management actions in response to housing effects may need to be individually targeted. More broadly, our findings reinforce the awareness that residential development effects on protected areas are most likely widespread and common in many socioeconomic and demographic settings.
Castro-Prieto, J.; Martinuzzi, S.; Radeloff, V.C.; Helmers, D.P.; Quiñones, M.; Gould, W.A. 2017.Declining human population but increasing residential development around protected areas in Puerto Rico. Biological Conservation. 209: 473-481. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2017.02.037.