Study says protection on forested areas help reduce land-cover clearing

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—Protection on forested areas appears to help prevent land-cover clearing, according to a new study, although the success of these areas around the world varies regionally.

Attempts to protect forested areas began on the local level in the 18th century, but few studies have been done on their effectiveness. In part this is because it is challenging to establish a set of criteria that apply to protected areas worldwide, according to an article in the current issue of AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, published by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

“Protected areas have now become a cornerstone of conservation efforts across the globe,” writes Harini Nagendra in the article “Do Parks Work? Impact of Protected Areas on Land-Cover Clearing.”

In the study, Nagendra evaluates the effectiveness of protected areas by using data on the rates of land-cover change before and after creation of 37 protected areas, as well as data within and outside the boundaries of 17 protected areas. The study also considered the effect of geographic region, the financial investment a country can provide, and the protection category as designated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

The study also analyzed “drivers of change.” In North America and Europe, logging is frequently mentioned as the cause, or “driver,” for clearing protected wooded areas. In these regions, park managers often help decide the location and extent of such clearing, and most of the areas—now used for recreation or forestry—are “largely on their way to forest recovery,” Nagendra writes.


However, in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the “drivers” for clearing typically are fire, drought, cattle grazing, or firewood extraction, and local communities are involved because many of the people are living in poverty and dependent on the forest. Because of the greater number of factors involved, it may be more difficult to limit land clearing in these regions, according to the study.

“Overall, protected areas appear to have been effective at limiting land-cover clearing within their boundaries,” Nagendra writes.

“Do Parks Work? Impact of Protected Areas on Land Cover Clearing,” AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, Volume 37, Issue 5, August 2008. Published by Allen Press.

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