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Protected area types, strategies and impacts in Brazil’s Amazon: public PA strategies do not yield a consistent ranking of PA types by impact

Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino, Catalina Sandoval, Diego Herrera
Philosophical Transactions B 2015 volume 370 (online

PDF link iconThe leading policy to conserve forest is protected areas (PAs). Yet, they are not a single tool: land users and uses vary by PA type; and public PA strategies vary in the extent of each type, as well as in the determinants of impact for each type, i.e. siting and internal deforestation. Further, across regions and time, strategies respond to pressures (deforestation and political).We estimate deforestation impacts of PA types for a critical frontier, the Brazilian Amazon. We separate regions and time periods that differ in their deforestation and political pressures and document considerable variation in PA strategies across regions, time periods and types. The siting of PAs varies across regions. For example, all else being equal, PAs in the arc of deforestation are relatively far from non-forest, while in other states they are relatively near. Internal deforestation varies across time periods, e.g. it is more similar across the PAtypes for PAs after 2000. By contrast, after 2000, PA extent is less similar across PA types with little non-indigenous area created inside the arc. PA strategies generate a range of impacts for PA types—always far higher within the arc—but not a consistent ranking of PA types by impact.


Estimating the Impacts of Local Policy Innovation: the synthetic control method applied to tropical deforestation

Erin O. Sills, Diego Herrera, A. Justin Kirkpatrick, Amintas Brandao Jr., Rebecca Dickson, Simon Hall, Subhrendu Pattanayak, David Shoch, Mariana Vedoveto, Luisa Young, Alexander Pfaff
PLOS ONE 2015 (forthcoming) DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0132590

PDF link iconQuasi-experimental methods increasingly are used to evaluate the impacts of conservation interventions by generating credible estimates of counterfactual baselines. These methods generally require large samples for statistical comparisons, presenting a challenge for evaluating innovative policies implemented within a few pioneering jurisdictions. Single jurisdictions often are studied using comparative methods, which rely on analysts’ selection of best case comparisons. The synthetic control method (SCM) offers one systematic and transparent way to select cases for comparison, from a sizeable pool, by focusing upon similarity in outcomes before the intervention. We explain SCM, then apply it to one local initiative to limit deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. The municipality of Paragominas launched a multi-pronged local initiative in 2008 to maintain low deforestation while restoring economic production. This was a response to having been placed, due to high deforestation, on a federal “blacklist” that increased enforcement of forest regulations and restricted access to credit and output markets. The local initiative included mapping and monitoring of rural land plus promotion of economic alternatives compatible with low deforestation. The key motivation for the program may have been to reduce the costs of blacklisting. However its stated purpose was to limit deforestation, and thus we apply SCM to estimate what deforestation would have been in a (counterfactual) scenario of no local initiative. We obtain a plausible estimate, in that deforestation patterns before the intervention were similar in Paragominas and the synthetic control, which suggests that after several years, the initiative did lower deforestation (significantly below the synthetic control in 2012). This demonstrates that SCM can yield  helpful land-use counterfactuals for single units, with opportunities to integrate local and expert knowledge and to test innovations and permutations on policies that are implemented in just a few locations.


Protected Areas’ Impacts on Brazilian Amazon Deforestation: examining conservation – development interactions to inform planning

Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino, Diego Herrera, Catalina Sandoval
PLOS ONE 2015 (forthcoming) DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0129460

PDF link iconProtected areas are the leading forest conservation policy for species and ecoservices goals and they may feature in climate policy if countries with tropical forest rely on familiar tools. For Brazil’s Legal Amazon, we estimate the average impact of protection upon deforestation and show how protected areas’ forest impacts vary significantly with development pressure.We use matching, i.e., comparisons that are apples-to-apples in observed land characteristics, to address the fact that protected areas (PAs) tend to be located on lands facing less pressure. Correcting for that location bias lowers our estimates of PAs’ forest impacts by roughly half. Further, it reveals significant variation in PA impacts along development-related dimensions: for example, the PAs that are closer to roads and the PAs closer to cities have higher impact. Planners have multiple conservation and development goals, and are constrained by cost, yet still conservation planning should reflect what our results imply about future impacts of PAs.


Governance, Location and Avoided Deforestation from Protected Areas: greater restrictions can have lower impact, due to differences in location

Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino, Eirivelthon Lima, Catalina Sandoval, Diego Herrera
World Development 2014 volume 55, pp. 7–20

PDF link iconFor Acre, in the Brazilian Amazon, we find that protection types with differences in governance, including different constraints on local economic development, also differ in their locations. Taking this into account, we estimate the deforestation impacts of these protection types that feature different levels of restrictions. To avoid bias, we compare these protected locations with unprotected locations that are similar in their characteristics relevant for deforestation. We find that sustainable use protection, whose governance permits some local deforestation, is found on sites with high clearing threat. That allows more avoided deforestation than from integral protection, which bans clearing but seems feasible only further from deforestation threats. Based on our results, it seems that the political economy involved in siting such restrictions on production is likely to affect the ability of protected areas to reduce emissions from  deforestation and degradation.


Unequal Information, Unequal Allocation: bargaining field experiments in NE Brazil

Alexander Pfaff, Maria Alejandra Velez, Renzo Taddei, Kenneth Broad
Environmental Science & Policy 26 (2013) 90-101

PDF link iconWe assess how unequal information affects the bargaining within resource allocation, a stakeholder interaction that is critical for climate adaptation within the water sector. Motivated by water allocation among unequal actors in NE Brazil, within Ceara´ State, we employ ‘ultimatum’ field experiments in which one participant lacks information. We find that, despite having veto power, the less informed are vulnerable to inequity. When all are informed, we see a typical resource split (60% initiator–40% responder) that balances an initiator’s advantage with a responder’s willingness to punish greed. When instead responders have only a resource forecast upon which to base decisions, the fully informed initiators get 80% of resources for conditions of resource scarcity. Thus, despite each of the stakeholder types having an unquestioned ‘seat at the table’, information asymmetries make bargaining outcomes more unequal. Our results are widely relevant for adaptation involving the joint use of information, and suggest that equity can rise with dissemination of scientific outputs that are integral in adaptation.


The Advantage of Resource Queues over Spot Resource Markets: decision coordination in experiments under resource uncertainty

Miguel Fonseca, Alexander Pfaff, Daniel Osgood
Amer. J. Agr. Econ. 94(5): 1136–1153; doi: 10.1093/ajae/aas065

PDF link iconFarmers have to make key decisions, such as which crops to plant or whether to prepare the soil, before knowing how much water they will get.They face losses if they make costly decisions but do not receive water, and they may forego profits if they receive water without being prepared.We consider the coordination of farmers’ decisions, such as which crops to plant or whether to prepare the soil when farmers must divide an uncertain water supply. We compare ex-ante queues (pre-decision) to an ex-post spot market (post-decision & post-rain) in experiments in rural Brazil and a university in England. Queues have greater coordination success than does the spot market.


Efficiency and equity in negotiated resource transfers: contributions and limitations of trust with limited contracts

Alexander Pfaff, Maria Alejandra Velez
Ecological Economics 74 (2012) 55–63

PDF link iconWe consider a case of water reallocation in Brazil, one which has numerous analogs elsewhere. To permit empirical study of the effects of institutions that can facilitate or restrict  allocations, we conducted field experiments to explore trust’s potential when resource contracts are limited, using a novel asymmetric-productivity ultimatum game with a final surplus-sharing step added. As a form of informal institution, trust could in principle make rights and contracts unnecessary. We observe whether trust in compensation is in fact expected and expressed. We also explore whether trust is exploited, and the effect of communication, within our two bargaining structures: (1) no communication; and (2) with a non-binding message concerning the surplus to be shared. We see that our participants both expect and express trust that some of the surplus will be shared. Trust raises total output and some surplus is indeed shared: those who trust gain a bit on average; and the more trust was shown, the more was shared. However, often the trust was barely repaid. Further, the messages—found to help in other research—had little impact and were often untrue. In sum, trust does matter but both efficiency and equity could well rise with complete contracts.


Regional Interdependence and Forest “Transitions”: substitute deforestation limits the relevance of local reversals

Alexander Pfaff, Robert Walker
Land Use Policy 2010 27:119–129

PDF link iconUsing case studies and concepts we suggest that constraints upon aggregate or global forest transition are significantly more severe than those upon local forest reversals. The basic reason is that one region’s reversal can be facilitated by other regions that supply resources and goods, reducing the demands upon the region where forests rise. Many past forest reversals involve such interdependence. For ‘facilitating regions’ also to rise in forest requires other changes, since they will not be receiving such help. We start by discussing forest-transitions analysis within the context of Environmental Kuznets Curves (EKCs), for a useful typology of possible shifts underlying transitions. We then consider the historical Northeast US where a regional reversal was dramatic and impressive. Yet this depended upon agricultural price shocks, due to the Midwest US supplying food, and also upon the availability of timber from other US regions. Next we consider deforestation in Amazônia, whose history (like the Northeast US) suggests a potential local role for urbanization, i.e. spatial concentration of population. Yet inter-regional issues again are crucial. For cattle and soy, expansion of global demands may give to Amazonia a role more like the Midwest than the Northeast US. In addition, across-region interdependencies will help determine where reversal and facilitation occur. Finally we discuss the constraints upon very broad forest transition.

Indigenous Lands, Protected Areas, and Slowing Climate Change

Taylor H. Ricketts, Britaldo Soares-Filho, Gustavo A.B. da Fonseca, Daniel Nepstad, Alexander Pfaff, Annie Petsonk, Anthony Anderson, Doug Boucher, Andrea Cattaneo, Marc Conte, Ken Creighton, Lawrence Linden, Claudio Maretti, Paulo Moutinho, Roger Ullman, Ray Victurine
PLoS Biol 2010 8(3): e1000331. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000331

PDF link iconForest clearing and degradation account for roughly 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than all the cars, trains, planes, ships, and trucks on earth. This is simply too big a piece of the problem to ignore; fail to reduce it and we will fail to stabilize our climate. Although the recent climate summit in Copenhagen failed to produce a legally binding treaty, the importance of forest conservation in mitigating climate change was a rare point of agreement between developed and developing countries and is emphasized in the resulting Copenhagen Accord. Language from the meeting calls for developing countries to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (nicknamed REDD), and for wealthy nations to compensate them for doing so. For REDD to succeed, forest nations must develop policies and institutions to reduce and eventually eliminate forest clearing and degradation. One of the most straightforward components of such a program is also one of the oldest and most reliable tricks in the conservation book: protected areas. Indigenous lands and other protected areas (hereafter ILPAs)— created to safeguard land rights, indigenous livelihoods, biodiversity, and other values— contain more than 312 billion tons of carbon (GtC). Crucially, and paradoxically, this ‘‘protected carbon’’ is not entirely protected. While ILPAs typically reduce rates of deforestation compared to surrounding areas, deforestation (with resulting greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions) often continues within them, especially inside those that lack sufficient funding, management capacity, or political backing. These facts suggest an attractive but overlooked opportunity to reduce GHG emissions: creating new ILPAs and strengthening existing ones. Here, we evaluate the case for this potential REDD strategy. We focus on the Amazon basin given its importance for global biodiversity, its enormous carbon stocks, and its advanced network of indigenous lands and other protected areas.

Road Impacts in Brazilian Amazonia

Alexander Pfaff, Alisson Barbieri, Thomas Ludewigs, Frank Merry, Stephen Perz, Eustaquio Reis
Chapter in “Amazonia and Global Change” book (American Geophysical Union, linked to the NASA LBA project)

PDF link iconWe examine the evidence on Amazonian road impacts with a strong emphasis on context. Impacts of a new road, on either deforestation or socioeconomic outcomes, depend upon the conditions into which roads are placed. Conditions that matter include the biophysical setting, such as slope, rainfall, and soil quality, plus externally determined socioeconomic factors like national policies, exchange rates, and the global prices of beef and soybeans. Influential conditions also include all prior infrastructural investments and clearing rates. Where development has already arrived, with significant economic activity and clearing, roads may decrease forest less and raise output more than where development is arriving, while in pristine areas, short-run clearing may be lower than immense long-run impacts. Such differences suggest careful consideration of where to invest further in transport.


Road Investments, Spatial Spillovers and Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon

Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino, Robert Walker, Steven Aldrich, Marcellus Caldas, Eustaquio Reis, Stephen Perz, Claudio Bohrer, Eugenio Arima, William Laurance, Kathryn Kirby
Journal of Regional Science 2007 volume 47, no. 1, 2007, pp. 109–123

PDF link iconUnderstanding the impact of road investments on deforestation is part of a complete evaluation of the expansion of infrastructure for development.We find evidence of spatial spillovers from roads in the Brazilian Amazon: deforestation rises in the census tracts that lack roads but are in the same county as and within 100 km of a tract with a new paved or unpaved road. At greater distances from the new roads the evidence is mixed, including negative coefficients of inconsistent significance between 100 and 300 km, and if anything, higher neighbor deforestation at distances over 300 km.


Climate, Stream Flow Prediction and Water Management in Northeast Brazil: societal trends and forecast value

Kenneth Broad, Alexander Pfaff, Renzo Taddei, Sankar Arumugam, Upmanu Lall, Francisco Assis de Souza Filho
Climatic Change (2007) 84:217–239

PDF link iconWe assess the potential benefits from innovative forecasts of the stream flows that replenish reservoirs in the semi-arid state of Ceará, Brazil. Such forecasts have many potential applications. In Ceará, they matter for both water-allocation and participatory-governance issues that echo global debates. Our qualitative analysis, based upon extensive fieldwork with farmers, agencies, politicians and other key actors in the water sector, stresses that forecast value changes as a society shifts. In the case of Ceará, current constraints on the use of these forecasts are likely to be reduced by shifts in water demand, water allocation in the agricultural Jaguaribe Valley, participatory processes for water allocation between this valley and the capital city of Fortaleza, and risk perception. Such changes in the water sector can also have major distributional impacts.


What Drives Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon? Evidence from Satellite and Socioeconomic Data

Alexander Pfaff
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 1999 volumne 37, pp. 26-43

PDF link iconWhile previous empirical analysis of deforestation focused on population, this paper builds from a model of land use which suggests many determinants of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. I derive a deforestation equation from this model and test a number of those factors using county-level data for the period 1978-1988. The data include a satellite deforestation measure which allows improved within-country analysis. The major empirical finding is the significance of both land characteristics (such as soil quality and vegetation density) and factors affecting transport costs (such as distance to major markets and both own- and neighboring-county roads). Government development projects also appear to affect clearing, although credit infrastructure does not. However, as such policies themselves may be functions of other factors, estimated effects of policies must be interpreted with some caution. Finally, the population density does not have a significant effect on deforestation when many potential determinants are included. However, a quadratic specification reveals a more robust result: the first migrants to a county have greater impact than later immigrants. This implies that the distribution of population affects its impact.