A systematic map of evidence on the contribution of forests to poverty alleviation


Forests provide an essential resource to the livelihoods of an estimated 20% of the global population. The contribution of forest ecosystems and forest-based resources to poverty reduction is increasingly emphasized in international policy discourse and conservation and development investments. However, evidence measuring the effect of forest-based activities on poverty outcomes remains scattered and unclear. Lack of systematic understanding of forest-poverty relationships, in turn, inhibits research, policymaking, and efficient financial resource allocation.


To identify relevant studies for inclusion in this systematic map we searched six bibliographic databases, 15 organizational websites, eight systematic evidence syntheses (reviews and maps), and solicited information from key informants. Search results were screened for relevance against predefined inclusion criteria at title, abstract, and full text levels, according to a published protocol. Included articles were coded using a predefined framework. Trends in the evidence, knowledge gaps and relatively well-researched sub-topics are reported in a narrative synthesis. Occurrence and extent of existing evidence about links between interventions and outcomes are presented in a visual heatmap. Data are available through the open access Evidence for Nature and People Data Portal (http://www.natureandpeopleevidence.org).


A total of 242 articles were included in the systematic map database. Included articles measured effects of 14 forest-based intervention types on 11 poverty dimensions. The majority of the evidence base (72%) examined links between productivity-enhancement strategies (e.g. forest management, agroforestry, and habitat management) and monetary income and/or social capital outcomes. Other areas with high occurrence of articles include linkages between interventions involving governance, individual rights/empowerment or linked enterprises/livelihood alternatives with impacts on monetary income from direct sale of goods. A key knowledge gap was on the impacts of investment-based interventions (i.e. enhancing produced, human, and social capitals). Another was the impacts of forest-based interventions on financial capital (savings, debt), non-monetary benefits, and health.


The evidence base on forest-based productive activities and poverty alleviation is growing but displays a number of biases in the distribution of articles on key linkages. Priorities for future systematic reviews and evaluations include in-depth examinations into the impacts of rights-based activities (e.g. governance, empowerment) on poverty dimensions; and productivity-enhancing activities on social capital. More comprehensive and robust evidence is needed to better understand the synergies and trade-offs among the different objectives of forest conservation and management and variation in outcomes for different social groups in different social-ecological contexts.




Forests provide an essential resource that support the livelihoods of an estimated 20% of the global population. Forests are thought to serve in three primary roles to support livelihoods: subsistence, safety nets, and pathways to prosperity. While we have a working understanding of how poor people depend on forests in individual sites and countries, much of this evidence is dispersed and not easily accessible. Thus, while the importance of forest ecosystems and resources to contribute to poverty alleviation has been increasingly emphasized in international policies, conservation and development initiatives and investments—the strength of evidence to support how forests can affect poverty outcomes is still unclear. This study takes a systematic mapping approach to scope, identify and describe studies that measure the effect of forest-based activities on poverty outcomes at local and regional scales. This effort builds upon an existing systematic map on linkages between conservation and human well-being in order to make this process more efficient. We will conduct a refined and updated search strategy pertinent to forests-poverty linkages to glean additional evidence from studies outside the scope of the original map. Results of this study can be used for informing conservation and development policy and practices in global forest ecosystems and highlight evidence gaps where future primary studies and systematic reviews can add value.


We build upon the search strategy outlined in McKinnon et al. (Environ Evid 1–25, 2016) and expand our search to cover a total of 7 bibliographic databases, 15 organizational websites, 8 existing systematic reviews and maps, and evidence gap maps, and solicit key informants. All searches will be conducted in English and encompass all nations. Search results will be screened at title, abstract, and full text levels, recording both the number of excluded articles and reasons for exclusion. Full text assessment will be conducted on all included article and extracted data will be reported in a narrative review that will summarize trends in the evidence, report any knowledge gaps and gluts, and provide insight for policy, practice and future research. The data from this systematic map will be made available as well, through an open access, searchable data portal and visualization tool.