Coffee Hour: Conserving Biodiversity--Gorenflo

Friday, March 23, 2012 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Room 319 Walker Building for refreshments at 3:30 p.m. Room 112 Walker Building for lecture at 4:00 p.m.

Conserving Biodiversity: Human Impacts, and Benefits, at Different Geographic Scales


With more than 7 billion people on Earth, almost without exception the conservation of biological diversity occurs in human presence. Drawing upon recent studies, this presentation examines the interface between humans and biodiversity conservation at three geographic scales: country, site, and global. The national scale study examines human demographics near different types of protected areas in Tanzania, a nation with remarkable amounts of biological diversity and an economy that relies heavily on broad patterns of small-scale resource extraction by a rapidly growing population. The site-scale analysis examines human settlement and resource use in the vicinity of one particular protected area in Tanzania, Udzungwa Mountains National Park. The global analysis explores human health in the biodiversity hotspots, using sub-national data to compare infant mortality in habitat dominated by human activity versus habitat not so dominated. Results indicate considerable human presence in the vicinity of protected areas in Tanzania, with more than half the national population living within 10 km of protected areas at the time of the most recent census in 2002. This proximity places pressure on the reserves, as revealed in the demand for fuelwood in the vicinity of Udzungwa Mountains National Park. And yet benefits of habitat that is not dominated by human activity, including natural habitat, emerge at a global scale for virtually all biodiversity hotspots—benefits frequently seen at the local level as well. Such results point up the challenge of conserving natural habitat amid human presence, on the one hand, and the need to conserve such natural habitat for the benefit of local people who may be driven to destroy it, on the other.

Larry G 2008

Making another foolish dietary decision at a central Mexican taco stand.


Larry Gorenflo is an associate professor of landscape architecture at Penn State, where he focuses on designing landscapes to promote biodiversity conservation and on historic and prehistoric landscapes through the study of regional settlement patterns. Trained in anthropology and geography, much of his work emphasizes the use of geographic information system technology to map demographic and other socioeconomic variables to understand human adaptation, the impact of people on natural environments, and possible strategies for conserving nature that minimize impacts on people. Much of Dr. Gorenflo’s current research involves biodiversity conservation in tropical settings. Current projects include a multi-year study of human activity and community design in the vicinity of Udzungwa Mountains National Park in Tanzania, and an examination of household-level income-expenditure and resource procurement patterns in the Cardamom Mountains of western Cambodia. He also maintains an interest in the prehistory of central Mexico, where he applies geographic information system technology and other methods to help understand the evolution of settlement patterns, regional adaptation, and complex societies in the Basin of Mexico. Prior to joining the Penn State faculty, Dr. Gorenflo worked in the science departments of Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy, and in the Environmental Science Division of Argonne National Laboratory.