The impact of gold mining and agricultural concessions on the tree cover and local communities in northern Myanmar

Sarah Papworth, Madhu Rao, Myint Myint Oo, Kyaw Thinn Latt, Robert Tizard, Thomas Pienkowski, Roman Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Myanmar offers unique opportunities for both biodiversity conservation and foreign direct investment due to projected economic growth linked to natural resource exploitation. Industrial-scale development introduces new land uses into the landscape, with unknown repercussions for local communities and biodiversity conservation. We use participatory mapping of 31 communities, focus groups in 28 communities, and analyses of forest cover change during 2000–2010 using MODIS vegetation continuous fields images, to understand the social and environmental impacts of gold mining and agricultural concessions in Myanmar’s Hukaung Valley (~21,800 km2). Local communities, particularly the poorest households, benefit from work and trade opportunities offered by gold mining and agricultural companies but continue to depend on forests for house construction materials, food, and income from the sale of forest resources. However, gold mining and agricultural concessions reduce tree cover, potentially reducing access to forest resources and further marginalizing these households. Our analyses do not provide evidence that long-term resident communities contributed to forest cover loss between 2000 and 2010. We argue that landscape management, which recognizes local community rights to customary community use areas, and appropriate zoning for commercial land uses and protected areas could contribute to both local livelihoods and protect biodiversity throughout Myanmar during economic growth.
Original languageEnglish
Article number46594
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2017

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