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Governance Regime and Location Influence Avoided Deforestation Success of Protected Areas in the Brazilian Amazon


Protected areas in tropical countries are managed under different governance regimes, the relative effectiveness of which in avoiding deforestation has been the subject of recent debates. Participants in these debates answer appeals for more strict protection with the argument that sustainable use areas and indigenous lands can balance deforestation pressures by leveraging local support to create and enforce protective regulations. Which protection strategy is more effective can also depend on (i) the level of deforestation pressures to which an area is exposed and (ii) the intensity of government enforcement. We examine this relationship empirically, using data from 292 protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon. We show that, for any given level of deforestation pressure, strictly protected areas consistently avoided more deforestation than sustainable use areas. Indigenous lands were particularly effective at avoiding deforestation in locations with high deforestation pressure. Findings were stable across two time periods featuring major shifts in the intensity of government enforcement.We also observed shifting trends in the location of protected areas, documenting that between 2000 and 2005 strictly protected areas were more likely to be established in high-pressure locations than in sustainable use areas and indigenous lands. Our findings confirm that all protection regimes helped reduce deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.

Nolte, C., A. Arawgwal, K. Silvius, B. Soares-Filho. 2013. PNAS Early Edition

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