The preservation of old forests in southwest China is closely linked to the presence of ethnic minorities

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Sacred forests are increasingly disappearing due to increasing land pressure and a decline in cultural values. Protecting the remaining sacred forests plays a crucial role in preserving biodiversity. The existence of remaining old forests often related to local people and their culture, but this relationship has rarely been quantified at large regional scales. This study analyzes the relationship between old forest and ethnic minorities based on the location of the old forest at a high spatial resolution (2 m). We found a significantly positive correlation (p < 0.01) between the proportion of ethnic minority population and old forest patch number, area, aggregation, and maximum patch area. However, there was no correlation with the connectivity of the old forest (p = 0.14). We further show that both environmental and anthropogenic factors are important for the distribution of old forests. Hydrothermal conditions contribute to the growth of forests, and local ethnic customs and the corresponding ecological wisdom contributes to the preservation of old forest remnants (r = 0.12, p < 0.05). Our findings highlight the significance of social dimensions for the conservation of old forests. We encourage that forest management should consider the role of indigenous people and their cultural wisdom for a better conservation and restoration of degraded ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103245
JournalApplied Geography
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China ( U20A2048 , 41930652 ), the National Key Research and Development Program of China ( 2022YFF1300700 ), and the CAS Interdisciplinary Innovation Team ( JCTD-2021-16 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Ltd

    Research areas

  • Biodiversity conservation, Forest management, Sacred forest, Traditional culture

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