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PLoS One. 2015 Dec 3;10(12):e0143886. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0143886. eCollection 2015.

A Global Analysis of Deforestation in Moist Tropical Forest Protected Areas.

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School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT United Kingdom.
The Rowans, Thomastown, Huntly, AB54 6AJ United Kingdom.
School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT United Kingdom.


Protected areas (PAs) have been established to conserve tropical forests, but their effectiveness at reducing deforestation is uncertain. To explore this issue, we combined high resolution data of global forest loss over the period 2000-2012 with data on PAs. For each PA we quantified forest loss within the PA, in buffer zones 1, 5, 10 and 15 km outside the PA boundary as well as a 1 km buffer within the PA boundary. We analysed 3376 tropical and subtropical moist forest PAs in 56 countries over 4 continents. We found that 73% of PAs experienced substantial deforestation pressure, with >0.1% a(-1) forest loss in the outer 1 km buffer. Forest loss within PAs was greatest in Asia (0.25% a(-1)) compared to Africa (0.1% a(-1)), the Neotropics (0.1% a(-1)) and Australasia (Australia and Papua New Guinea; 0.03% a(-1)). We defined performance (P) of a PA as the ratio of forest loss in the inner 1 km buffer compared to the loss that would have occurred in the absence of the PA, calculated as the loss in the outer 1 km buffer corrected for any difference in deforestation pressure between the two buffers. To remove the potential bias due to terrain, we analysed a subset of PAs (n = 1804) where slope and elevation in inner and outer 1 km buffers were similar (within 1° and 100 m, respectively). We found 41% of PAs in this subset reduced forest loss in the inner buffer by at least 25% compared to the expected inner buffer forest loss (P<0.75). Median performance (P) of subset reserves was 0.87, meaning a reduction in forest loss within the PA of 13%. We found PAs were most effective in Australasia (P = 0.16), moderately successful in the Neotropics (P = 0.72) and Africa (p = 0.83), but ineffective in Asia (P = 1). We found many countries have PAs that give little or no protection to forest loss, particularly in parts of Asia, west Africa and central America. Across the tropics, the median effectiveness of PAs at the national level improved with gross domestic product per capita. Whilst tropical and subtropical moist forest PAs do reduce forest loss, widely varying performance suggests substantial opportunities for improved protection, particularly in Asia.

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