Effectiveness of Strict vs. Multiple Use Protected Areas in Reducing Tropical Forest Fires: A Global Analysis Using Matching Methods
Protected areas (PAs) cover a quarter of the tropical forest estate. Yet there is debate over the effectiveness of PAs in reducing deforestation, especially when local people have rights to use the forest. A key analytic problem is the likely placement of PAs on marginal lands with low pressure for deforestation, biasing comparisons between protected and unprotected areas. Using matching techniques to control for this bias, this paper analyzes the global tropical forest biome using forest fires as a high resolution proxy for deforestation; disaggregates impacts by remoteness, a proxy for deforestation pressure; and compares strictly protected vs. multiple use PAs vs indigenous areas. Fire activity was overlaid on a 1 km map of tropical forest extent in 2000; land use change was inferred for any point experiencing one or more fires. Sampled points in pre-2000 PAs were matched with randomly selected never-protected points in the same country. Matching criteria included distance to road network, distance to major cities, elevation and slope, and rainfall.
In Latin America and Asia, strict PAs substantially reduced fire incidence, but multi-use PAs were even more effective. In Latin America, where there is data on indigenous areas, these areas reduce forest fire incidence by 16 percentage points, over two and a half times as much as naïve (unmatched) comparison with unprotected areas would suggest. In Africa, more recently established strict PAs appear to be effective, but multi-use tropical forest protected areas yield few sample points, and their impacts are not robustly estimated. These results suggest that 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.
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