Protected areas and “deforestation leakage”: There is a smoke, is there a fire?

Do protected areas create spill over deforestation by shifting pressure outside restricted areas? This can undermine conservation efforts and will be unfortunate if this is indeed the case. I haven’t seen much work on this issue. There are few studies, though, which hint at deforestation leakage (see Renwick et al 2015; Ewers and Rodrigues 2008).

I was working on a panel dataset that includes few variables which are a kind of deforestation drivers. The following figure was created using Hansen tree cover loss data (Hansen et al 2013) and country-level protected areas data taken from FAO Forest Resources Assessments dataset. It indeed does show that countries with high amount of areas protected are also experiencing high deforestation. For example, Indonesia has more than 30 million ha areas protected, but at the same time it lost 18 million ha forests between 2001 and 2012 – much of which is surely due to palm oil plantations. But what about Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, DRC? Hedging my bets – there may be a reverse causality, or there may be some sort of explanation for that. But suffice to say – there is a smoke; is there a fire?

References
Ewers, R.M. and Rodrigues, A.S., 2008. Estimates of reserve effectiveness are confounded by leakage. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 23(3), pp.113-116. Hansen, M.C., Potapov, P.V., Moore, R., Hancher, M., Turubanova, S., Tyukavina, A., Thau, D., Stehman, S.V., Goetz, S.J., Loveland, T.R. and Kommareddy, A., 2013. High-resolution global maps of 21st-century forest cover change. science, 342(6160), pp.850-853. Renwick, A.R., Bode, M. and Venter, O., 2015. Reserves in context: planning for leakage from protected areas. PloS one, 10(6), p.e0129441.

 

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