Resource Details

Is there a forest transition? Deforestation, Reforestation, and Development

Literature: Journal Articles

Rudel, T. 1998, "Is there a forest transition? Deforestation, Reforestation, and Development", Rural Sociology, vol. 63, no. 4, pp. 533–552.


  • Department of Human Ecology, Cook College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903


Rural Sociology

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  • This paper explores the relationship between economic development and reforestation by examining the idea of forest transitions, or patterns of rapid deforestation that occur during periods of rapid economic and population growth followed by patterns of reforestation, representing a turnaround in forest cover.
  • By using cross-national historical statistics dating back to 1922, this paper empirically assesses the idea of forest transitions by using the rate of population growth, the rate of urbanization, and the amount of forest cover in a country at the outset of the time period as independent variables to predict forest transition.
  • Trends in forest cover between 1922 and 1990 indicate that a significant number of countries show turnarounds in forest cover trends.  This means that they go from deforestation during periods of population and economic growth to reforestation as they become more urban and industrial.
  • The analysis shows that a slow rate of population growth and an highly urbanized population is associated with a trend of reforestation from 1948-1963.
  • This study raises three main questions: how does the absolute amount of forest cover in a country influence efforts to plant more trees? How have the conditions that accompany turnarounds varied in time and place? What accounts for the recent decline in forest cover in the more affluent countries?

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