Urban Residence, Rural Employment, and the Future of Amazonian Forests

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The movement of rural people to cities and the growth of urban areas are processes that have historically had important impacts on rural environments, including forests. How rural-urban migration specifically affects forest cover in the tropics has recently received much attention. Census data from Brazil and Peru report that approximately 70% of the population of lowland Amazonia now resides in urban areas and that strong rural-to-urban migration flows continue. Urbanization will lead to recovery of substantial areas of the tropical forests of Amazonia if migration drains the rural zones of population and returns abandoned farmland to forest. Several researchers, however, have pointed out that migration data can be misleading. For poor Amazonian households, the rural-urban distinction is largely artificial because circular migration is very common. In this paper we detail yet another aspect of the rural-urban continuum. Using recent data from two widely-separated regions of Amazonia, this paper shows that despite their official urban residence, many Amazonians continue to earn their income by working in rural occupations: logging, farming, and fishing. Some potential effects of this pattern on the future of Amazon forests are discussed.

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