Researchers at the University of Queensland are describing how effective protected areas can be in slowing deforestation. Valuable lessons from the study, which was focused on Columbia, could be used to slow deforestation worldwide.
Led by PhD student Pablo Negret, the research was designed to compare the state of protected areas and non-protected areas across Columbia between 2000 and 2015.
“In Colombia, there has been constant deforestation within protected areas during this 15-year period,” explained Negret.
“This is mainly due to a lack of capacity to control illegal exploitation of resources in these areas.
“However, there was around 40 percent less deforestation in protected areas when compared to similar areas without protection.”
Despite poor outcomes across some of the sites, the team found that protected areas slowed the overall rate of deforestation.
“We also looked at regional differences and found that protected areas in the Pacific were less effective than elsewhere,” said Negret.
“The Pacific region of Colombia is extremely biodiverse and globally important with a high concentration of endemic species, so ensuring these protected areas work is especially important.”
The team used satellite images of forest cover and data on 17 parameters of deforestation to compare protected and non-protected areas that had similar environmental and social characteristics.
Overall, the researchers analyzed the effectiveness of 116 protected areas, which represent about 10 percent of Columbia’s continental area.
According to UQ Professor Martine Maron, the study shows that understanding the effectiveness of protected areas could be extremely useful in informing national and global conservation decisions.
“Protected areas can be less effective – either because they still experience deforestation or because they’re placed in locations where no deforestation would have occurred even if they weren’t protected,” said Professor Maron.
“Evaluating the impact protected areas make to deforestation can help with determining whether to invest in improved management in existing protected areas or increase their coverage in strategic locations – or both.”
“We hope that these insights can be taken into account in Colombia and around the globe. A similar approach can help any country or region effectively assess the performance of their protected areas at preventing ecosystem loss.”
The study is published in the journal Conservation Biology.
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer