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Declaring an area protected is not enough to prevent forest loss

Scientists led by Michigan State University have evaluated the efficiency of more than 50,000 protected areas (PAs) worldwide in preventing forest loss. The experts report that simply declaring a plot protected is not enough to guarantee conservation.

The study showed that about 71 percent of protected areas have contributed to the prevention of forest loss. However, there is considerable room for improvement, as only 30 percent of forest loss in protected areas has been prevented.

“Globally, the number and extent of terrestrial protected areas (PAs) are expanding rapidly,” wrote the study authors. “Nonetheless, their impacts on preventing forest loss and the factors influencing the impacts are not well understood, despite the critical roles of forests in biodiversity conservation, provision of ecosystem services, and achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.”

According to the results of the analysis, the forests exposed to the most threats are those located close to cities. The researchers found that in these areas, strict rules must be enforced in order to stop deforestation.

“Our findings highlight the potential benefits of strict protections, involving private entities in the establishment of PAs, and situating PAs in areas exposed to high risks of forest loss to enhance the capacity to combat global forest loss.”

The experts noted that more than four million square kilometers have been designated as protected areas in the past decade, yet without documentation of how effective such areas across the globe are at protecting.

The researchers emphasized that declaring an area as protected is not enough, and more attention needs to be given to improving the quality of forest protection. 

“Protecting forests is crucial to achieve sustainability,” said study co-author Jianguo “Jack” Liu. “To ensure we are directing our efforts to the right places, it’s important to scrutinize protected areas across the globe.”

The research is published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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