August 21, 2011
Burning forest and peatland in Indonesia. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
"It has at times been assumed that anything less than strict protection would accelerate forest loss. IEG findings indicate, however, that the provision of a certain degree of protection coupled with maintaining of local use rights, especially for indigenous people, actually reduces deforestation," commented Vinod Thomas, who was Director-General of World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) during the study’s execution, said in a press release.
Using the presence of fire as a proxy for deforestation—fires in tropical rainforest are almost always a man-made occurrence—the study compared forest destruction inside protected areas as opposed to destruction outside in similar forests. Similarity was measured as proximity to road or major city, forest terrain, elevation, and rainfall, among other traits.
"You can't gauge a protected area's impact just by eyeballing its deforestation rate," explained study co-author Kenneth Chomitz, Senior Adviser with IEG. "Some protected areas have low rates of deforestation but they happen to in remote and hard to access mountainous areas. Others have significant ongoing deforestation but were set up to defend areas under high pressure from loggers and farmer."
The study found that in Latin America and the Caribbean, protected areas reduced deforestation by 2.7-4.3 percent against a mean loss of 5.8 percent in unprotected forests. In other words protecting a forest in some areas cut deforestation by up to nearly three-fourths as opposed to similar unprotected forests. In Africa the study found that protected areas reduced deforestation rates by around 1 percent and nearly 2 percent in Asia. However, protected areas that allowed for local use more than doubled the positive impact on forest loss in Asia, as well as performing considerably better in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Indigenous areas in Latin America were the most effective at reducing deforestation: cutting forest destruction by a total of 16 percent. The high percentage, here, denotes the fact that many indigenous areas are in regions of especially high deforestation.
"The protective effect is greatest in nonremote areas (for Latin America and Africa) and areas of intermediate remoteness (Asia). Very remote areas have low fire rates even if unprotected—at least for the moment," the authors write.
The study's authors believe their research has important implications for global policy on tackling deforestation.
"Forest protection can contribute both to biodiversity conservation and CO2 mitigation goals, with particular relevance to the REDD agenda. Encouragingly, indigenous areas and multi-use protected areas can help to accomplish these goals, suggesting some compatibility between global environmental goals and support for local livelihoods," the authors write, suggesting that "zoning for sustainable use may be more politically feasible and socially acceptable than designation of strict protection in areas of higher population density and less remoteness."
However the authors say the study does not account for leakage (i.e. that the establishment of some protected areas may just push deforestation to other regions) or for some types of forest fragmentation.
CITATION: Nelson A, Chomitz KM (2011) Effectiveness of Strict vs. Multiple Use Protected Areas in Reducing Tropical Forest Fires: A Global Analysis Using Matching Methods. PLoS ONE 6(8): e22722. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022722.
Protected areas not enough to save life on Earth
(08/03/2011) Since the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 protected areas have spread across the world. Today, over 100,000 protected areas—national parks, wildlife refuges, game reserves, marine protected areas (MPAs), wildlife sanctuaries, etc.—cover some 7.3 million square miles (19 million kilometers), mostly on land, though conservation areas in the oceans are spreading. While there are a number of reasons behind the establishment of protected areas, one of the most important is the conservation of wildlife for future generations. But now a new open access study in Marine Ecology Progress Series has found that protected areas are not enough to stem the loss of global biodiversity. Even with the volume of protected areas, many scientists say we are in the midst of a mass extinction with extinction levels jumping to 100 to 10,000 times the average rate over the past 500 million years. While protected areas are important, the study argues that society must deal with the underlying problems of human population and overconsumption if we are to have any chance of preserving life on Earth—and leaving a recognizable planet for our children.
Indigenous peoples in Suriname still wait for land rights
(07/31/2011) Legal rights and recognition for the diverse indigenous peoples of Suriname have lagged behind those in other South American countries. Despite pressure from the UN and binding judgments by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Suriname has yet to recognize indigenous and tribal land rights, a situation that has disconnected local communities from decisions regarding the land they have inhabited for centuries and in some cases millennia. A new report, Securing Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Conservation in Suriname: A Review outlines how this lack of rights has alienated indigenous communities from conservation efforts in Suriname. Instead of having an active say in the creation of conservation reserves, as well as their management, decisions on indigenous lands have traditionally been imposed from the 'top-down' either by government officials or NGOs.
Amazon tribes win support to protect 46 million ha of Amazon forest
(07/21/2011) Indigenous communities working to protect the Amazon rainforest got a boost last week with the launch of a "biocultural conservation corridor" initiative in two regions of Brazil.