Deforestation Protections In The Amazon Are Effective If Measures Are Strict
March 12, 2013

Less Rainforest Deforestation Occurs In Strictly Protected Areas

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Deforestation is less likely to occur in areas of the Amazon rainforest that have been placed under strict protection than those that allow for controlled resource extraction, according to a new study published Monday in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Furthermore, lead author Christoph Nolte, a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE), and colleagues report that protected areas that were set up mainly to protect the livelihood and rights of the indigenous population were particularly effective in regions where there was more pressure to cut down rainforest trees.

"Perhaps the biggest surprise is the finding that indigenous lands perform the best when it comes to lower deforestation in contexts of high deforestation pressure," co-author Arun Agrawal, a natural resources professor at the Ann Arbor, Michigan university, said in a statement.

"Many observers have suggested that granting substantial autonomy and land rights to indigenous people over vast tracts of land in the Amazon will lead to high levels of deforestation because indigenous groups would want to take advantage of the resources at their disposal,” he added. “This study shows that — based on current evidence — such fears are misplaced.”

Environmental experts seeking to protect biodiversity have long focused on helping to prevent the deforestation or clear-cutting of rainforests as one of the primary methods towards achieving those goals, the researchers said. According to Nolte´s team, all forms of protection have been at least somewhat successful at protecting the rainforests, though so-called sustainable-use areas which allow resources to be removed from the ecosystem have proven less effective than their stricter counterparts.

The research team came to that conclusion after collecting remote-sensing data from nearly 300 different protecting areas in the Brazilian regions of the Amazon. That information, along with a complex statistical analysis, allowed them to gauge the effectiveness at three different types of protected locations — strictly protected areas (such as state/national parts and biological reserves), sustainable use areas and indigenous lands.

"Earlier analyses suggested that strict protection, because it allows no resource use, is so controversial that it is less likely to be implemented where deforestation pressures are high — close to cities or areas of high agricultural value, for example," Nolte explained. "But we observed that recent designations of the Brazilian government placed new strictly protected areas in very high-pressure areas, attenuating this earlier argument.”