No Surprise: Protected Areas Work

Yes, protected areas do have less deforestation -- usually. Photo: Mark Godfrey

Yes, protected areas do have less deforestation — usually. Photo: Mark Godfrey

By Craig Leisher, senior social scientist

Ferraro, P. et al. 2013. More strictly protected areas are not necessarily more protective: evidence from Bolivia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, and Thailand. Environ. Res. Lett. 8 025011 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/025011.

Do protected areas that are more strictly protected (IUCN category I-IV) have less deforestation than less strictly protected areas (IUCN category V-VI)?

The short answer is yes but not always.

This might sound like another we-just-proved-the-world-is-round analysis, but this recent study is authored by some of the more rigorous thinkers in conservation. It sets a new standard for accuracy and precision in estimating avoided deforestation from protected area status.

The authors use a quasi-experimental design to create national-level counterfactuals of what would have been the deforestation rate with no protection or if the protected area category were less strict.

They estimate that there’s 2% to 21% less deforestation depending on the country because of protected area status. (REDDers take note of these national-level counterfactuals for deforestation…)

They find that in Bolivia, Indonesia and Thailand a more strict protection level equals less deforestation. In Costa Rica, however, the location of the protected areas matters more than the level of protection, with protected areas located in more remote areas less likely to be deforested regardless of the protection level.

The takeaway point is that more strictly protected areas do a better job of stopping deforestation than less strictly protected areas in 3 of the 4 countries studied. So yes the world is round, but it has some anomalies.

Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Nature Conservancy.



Craig Leisher is Senior Advisor on Conservation and Poverty Issues. He works to build a better understanding of how conservation initiatives generate tangible benefits to people and nature.

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