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Deforestation Spillovers from Costa Rican Protected Areas

Juan Robalino, Alexander Pfaff, Laura Villalobos
LACEEP Working Paper Series WP78

Robalino-et-al-Park-Spillovers-LACEEP-WP78.Spillovers can significantly reduce or enhance the effects of land-use policies, yet there exists little rigorous evidence concerning their magnitudes. We examine how national parks within Costa Rica affect the clearing of forest nearby. We find that average deforestation spillover impacts are not significant within 0-5km and 5-10km rings around parks. However, we argue that this average blends multiple spillover effects, each of which is likely to vary in magnitude across the landscape, yielding varied net effects. We distinguish these effects using distances to roads and park entrances, given the importance of transport costs and, for Costa Rica, tourism. We find large and statistically significant leakage close to roads in areas without tourism, i.e., far from the park entrances. In contrast, no leakage is found far from roads or close to park entrances. In sum, the combination of low transport costs and low returns to forest is conducive to deforestation leakage around the parks.


Early Days in the Certification of Logging Concessions: Estimating FSC’s Deforestation Impact in Peru and Cameroon

Stephanie Panlasigui, Jimena Rico-Straffon, Jennifer Swenson, Colby J. Loucks, Alexander Pfaff
Duke Environmental & Energy Economics Working Paper Series

PDF link iconConservation and development agendas often are seen as in contradiction and, in the past, most forest policy was driven by only one such agenda. Yet leading conservation policies such as protected areas (PAs) increasingly are understood to vary in how development considerations are integrated, within PA types, given the starting point of conservation. Similarly, development policies such as logging concessions can integrate conservation. Sustainable forest management pushes integration from a starting point of development. One of the most visible initiatives of this type is the certification of logging concessions − such as by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) − to reduce various impacts of logging. The cost of sustainable management may lead a firm not to certify any given concession, yet the potential benefits could lead firms to voluntarily certify at least some concessions (including as perhaps firms could benefit from strategies that raise forest loss elsewhere). Our empirical analyses of two countries, Peru and Cameroon, aid in understanding what actually has happened in certified sites for the relatively ‘early days’ of such certifications. We control for unobserved factors’ influences over space and time, without which impact − sometimes perverse − is mistakenly attributed to FSC certification (FSCC). For Peru, we see no average FSCC deforestation impact in our study area (almost all concessions). One region, Madre de Dios, has an average reduction of 0.07% per year. For Cameroon, we find a small average FSCC deforestation impact of 0.02% per year in our study area (all concessions), though in four of five regions there is no statistically significant effect. We suggest that, as available data improve, more impact may be seen in some conditions.


Generating New PES Institutions and Increased Impacts in Mexico: a framed field experiment on coordination and sanctions in Matching Funds sites

Alexander Pfaff, Luz Rodriguez, Elizabeth Shapiro
Draft working paper, Duke University (part of a project supported by The Tinker Foundation).

PDF link icon While states pay landowners in the big payment-for-ecosystem-services (PES) programs, PES can be locally organized. Downstream actors, e.g., may offer incentives to upstream. Even − or especially? − with local organization, though, there may be negative reactions to the increased monitoring and sanctioning of behavior required to increase PES impact. Mexico’s forest agency (CONAFOR) has had limited average impacts per PES contract in its direct state payments but also, since 2008, a novel policy to help create new local PES. The Fondos Concurrentes (Matching Funds) program solicits applications − initiated by varied partners − that must include agreement between upstream and downstream groups. We consider the creation of local PES programs, involving coordination by those groups to establish a new institution, and effects of permitting sanctions on upstream behaviors. We use PES framing (services go downstream, payment up) of the contributions in a new assurance game that, in real time, links the groups − each of which confronts free riding. After our field pilot, we recruited 240 downstream and 240 upstream Fondos participants from Xalapa (Veracruz State), Merida (Yucatan State) or Cancun (Quintana Roo State). Initial trust-game behaviors align with participant perceptions and predict baseline giving in assurance (which is significant, despite a zero equilibrium, perhaps due to our sample). For upstream providers, i.e., those who get sanctioned, the threat and the use of sanctions increase contributions. Any ‘motivation crowding’ is not dominant during these sanctions. Downstream users contribute less when offered the option to sanction − as if that option signals an uncooperative upstream − then contributions rise in line with complementarity.

Deforestation dynamics in response to the evolution of the Western Amazonian Inter-Oceanic Highway

Cesar Delgado, Dalia Amor Conde, Joseph O. Sexton, Fernando Colchero, Jennifer J. Swenson, Alexander Pfaff
Draft working paper, Duke University.

Over the last three decades, the first continuous road has been paved to connect northern  South America’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The final sections of this Inter-Oceanic Highway are now being completed through the western Amazon Basin, a global biodiversity hotspot, at the triple-border of Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. Satellite images from 1989, 2000, and 2007 reveal accelerating clearing across the region, but the countries’ prior infrastructures governed their individual responses to the road. Brazilian deforestation slowed as the frontier expanded away from the highway with a network of capillary roads, but Bolivian clearing accelerated as its urban centers sprawled toward the road. Peru’s forests remain relatively intact, but similar trends isolated from Brazil suggest imminent acceleration as Peruvian infrastructural capacity increases.

Scaling up conservation impact in Madagascar

Theo Gimenez, Alexander Pfaff, Ranaivo Rasolofoson, Lucas Joppa
Draft working paper, Duke University.

PDF link iconTen years ago, Madagascar’s government committed to drastically scale up the nation’s protected-area coverage from ~3% to 10% of its area. We ask how successful this PA expansion is likely to be in terms of reducing deforestation (and, thereby, increasing the conservation of biodiversity). We statistically evaluate the impact of the prior generations of Malagasy PAs and use those results to anticipate the conservation impacts of Madagascar’s newest PAs. We find that deforestation was reduced by the prior PAs, although by less than suggested in simpler comparisons that lack explicit controls for land characteristics. Further, impacts are higher where deforestation pressure is higher, which often is closer to roads and cities (and which also may imply higher costs). We find Madagascar’s newest PAs are sited where, if managed correctly, they can achieve impacts at least as high as prior conservation.

Protected Areas’ Impacts Upon Land Cover Within Mexico: the need to add politics and dynamics to static land-use economics

Alexander Pfaff, Franciso Santiago-Avila, Lucas Joppa
Draft working paper, Duke University.

PDF link iconIncentives for REDD − i.e., reductions in emissions from deforestation and degradation − motivate application of static economic modeling of land use to assess heterogeneity over space in the business-as-usual baselines for land use required for forest policy evaluations. That some forested locations face higher threats is now recognized as an important factor in the evaluation and targeting of policy. Given this point − now often included in impact evaluation via matching − further theory is required to explain variations in policy impact. We show this need by analyzing impacts of Mexican protected areas (PAs) on land cover. Applying static land-use economics improves the baselines for our impact estimation and we find, on average, a 2.5% lower rate of 2000-05 natural land cover loss within the PAs. Stricter PAs appear closer to cities and have greater impact (4.4%) than less strict (2.3%), yet static baselines do not explain why. Nor do they explain why impact gradients by type differ across countries, or why PA spillovers vary across states − as we show for Mexico. We suggest an initial political economy model of impacts by type of PA and also provide examples of the economic and political dynamics required to understand PAs’ spillovers.

Sequenced Road Investments & Clearing Of The Mayan Forest

Dalia Amor Conde, Alexander Pfaff
Draft working paper, Duke University.

PDF link iconThe Selva Maya is an important tropical forest, the second biggest in the Americas after the Amazon and the largest continuous forest patch of the ‘Mesoamerican hotspot’ which contains around 7% of the world species . Located across Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, Selva Maya is subject to different policy, cultural and historical influences and to a grand road expansion program that will intersect its core . Given its biological importance and the environmental services it provides at a local and global scale, this region is a good case to consider road impacts. We focus on four questions: 1) what are the short and medium term effects of paved and unpaved roads investments on deforestation?; 2) do these impacts differ when roads are placed in areas with existing pressure vs. in less developed locations?; 3) do the effect of non-road drivers also vary with development contexts? We might expect that roads in previously pristine areas a new road will be the dominant predictor; and 4) using a different measure of context, do road impacts vary across the countries?


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.


Paper Park Performance: Mexico’s Natural Protected Areas in the 1990s

Allen Blackman, Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino
Global Environmental Change 31 (2015) pp50-61

PDF link iconAlthough developing countries have established scores of new protected areas over the past three decades, they often amount to little more than ‘‘paper parks’’ that are chronically short of the financial, human, and technical resources needed for effective management. It is not clear whether and how severely under-resourced parks affect deforestation. In principle, they could either stem it by, for example, creating an expectation of future enforcement, or they could spur it by, for example, creating open access regimes. We examine the effect of Mexico’s natural protected areas (NPAs) on deforestation from 1993 to 2000, a period when forest clearing was rampant and the vast majority of protected areas had negligible resources or management. We use high-resolution satellite data to measure deforestation and (covariate and propensity score) matching to control for NPAs’ nonrandom siting and for spillovers. Our broad finding is that Mexico’s paper parks had heterogeneous effects both inside and outside their borders. More specifically, at the national-level, we cannot reject the null hypothesis that NPAs had zero average effect on clearing inside their borders, nor can we reject a similar hypothesis for spillover clearing outside their borders. However, we can detect statistically and economically significant inside- and outside-NPA effects for certain geographic regions. Moreover, these effects have different signs depending on the region. Finally, we find that NPAs with certain characteristics were more effective at stemming deforestation inside their borders, namely, those that were large, new, mixed use, and relatively well-funded. Taken together, these results suggest that paper parks have the potential to either reduce or exacerbate tropical deforestation and highlight the need for further research on the conditions that lead to each outcome.


Entry Points for Considering Ecosystem Services within Infrastructure Planning: how to integrate conservation with development in order to aid them both

Lisa Mandle, Benjamin P. Bryant, Mary Ruckelshaus, Davide Geneletti, Joseph M. Kiesecker, Alexander Pfaff
Conservation Letters 2015 (online 9/28, doi 10.1111/conl.12201)

PDF link iconNew infrastructure is needed globally to support economic development and improve human well-being. Investments that do not consider ecosystem services (ES) can eliminate these important societal benefits from nature, undermining the development benefits infrastructure is intended to provide. Such tradeoffs are acknowledged conceptually but in practice have rarely been considered in infrastructure planning. Taking road investments as one important case, here we examine where and what forms of ES information have the potential to meaningfully influence decisions by multilateral development banks (MDBs). Across the stages of a typical road development process, we identify where and how ES information could be integrated, likely barriers to the use of available ES information, and key opportunities to shift incentives and thereby practice. We believe inclusion of ES information is likely to provide the greatest development benefit in early stages of infrastructure decisions. Those strategic planning stages are typically guided by in-country processes, with MDBs playing a supporting role, making it critical to express the ES consequences of infrastructure development using metrics relevant to government decision makers. This approach requires additional evidence of the in-country benefits of cross-sector strategic planning and more tools to lower barriers to quantifying these benefits and facilitating ES inclusion.


Evaluating Interactions of Forest Conservation Policies on Avoided Deforestation

Juan Robalino, Catalina Sandoval, David N. Barton, Adriana Chacon, Alexander Pfaff
PLoS ONE 10(4):e0124910 (2015) doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0124910

PDF link iconWe estimate the effects on deforestation that have resulted from policy interactions between parks and payments and between park buffers and payments in Costa Rica between 2000 and 2005. We show that the characteristics of the areas where protected and unprotected lands are located differ significantly. Additionally, we find that land characteristics of each of the policies and of the places where they interact also differ significantly. To adequately estimate the effects of the policies and their interactions, we use matching methods. Matching is implemented not only to define adequate control groups, as in previous research, but also to define those groups of locations under the influence of policies that are comparable to each other. We find that it is more effective to locate parks and payments away from each other, rather than in the same location or near each other. The high levels of enforcement inside both parks and lands with payments, and the presence of conservation spillovers that reduce deforestation near parks, significantly reduce the potential impact of combining these two policies.


Evolving Protected-Areas Impacts in Panama: impact shifts show that plans require anticipation

Akiko Haruna, Alexander Pfaff, Sander van den Ende, Lucas Joppa
Environmental Research Letters 9 (2014)

PDF link iconProtected areas (PAs) are the leading forest conservation policy, so accurate evaluation of future PA impact is critical in conservation planning. Yet by necessity impact evaluations use past data. Here we argue that forwardlooking plans should blend such evaluations with anticipation of shifts in threats. Applying improved methods to evaluate past impact, we provide rigorous support for that conceptual approach by showing that PAs’ impacts on deforestation shifted with land use. We study the Republic of Panama, where species-dense tropical forest faces real pressure. Facing variation in deforestation pressure, the PAs’ impacts varied across space and time. Thus, if shifts in pressure levels and patterns could be anticipated, that could raise impact.


Realistic REDD: Improving the Forest Impacts of Domestic Policies in Different Settings

Alexander Pfaff, Gregory S. Amacher, Erin O. Sills
Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, volume 7, issue 1, winter 2013, pp. 114–135 doi:10.1093/reep/res023

PDF link iconThis article, which is part of a symposium on the economics of REDD, identifies three common settings for forest loss involving different types of decision-making agents that operate under different markets and institutions. That suggests using different theoretical frameworks for these three settings, which in turn generates different predictions concerning policies’ impacts. The first model, “producer profit maximization given market integration,” has been applied to many private decisions about the best locations for profitable land uses, such as agriculture and forest. Its predictions have been widely studied empirically, beginning no later than von Thunen (1826). The second model, “rural household optimization given incomplete markets and household heterogeneity,” has been applied to more isolated settings featuring high transactions costs that yield incomplete integration of households in input and output markets. Its policy impact predictions have been tested with surveys at household and village levels. In the third model, “public optimization given production and corruption responses by private firms,” a public agency determines public forest access by balancing public goods, public revenue needs, and private rents to award concessions. There is potential for corruption, and the decisions may be affected by decentralization. This model’s predictions can be tested using observed policies. We find that past policies rarely addressed the incentives driving forest loss effectively. This helps to explain the limited impact of past policies on deforestation and forest degradation. It also suggests directions for the design of future policies. In sum, the theory and the evidence suggest that REDD success requires an understanding of all the incentives that drive forest loss, so that domestic policy can be tailored to specific settings (i.e., relevant agents and institutions).


Ecopayments and Deforestation in Costa Rica: a nationwide analysis of PSA’s initial years

Juan Robalino, Alexander Pfaff
Land Economics (2013) volume 89 (3): 432–448

PDF link iconWe offer a nationwide analysis of the initial years of Costa Rica’s PSA program, which pioneered environmental-services payments and inspired similar initiatives. Our estimates of this program’s impact on deforestation, between 1997 and 2000, range from zero to one-fifth of 1% per year (i.e., deforestation is avoided on, at most, 2 out of every 1,000 enrolled hectares). The main explanation for such a low impact is an already low national deforestation rate. We also consider the effect of enrollment. Predicted deforestation on enrolled versus nonenrolled hectares, and matching analyses suggest an enrollment bias toward lower clearing threat. Enrolling land facing higher threat could raise payments’ impact on deforestation.


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.


On the Endogeneity of Resource Comanagement: Theory and Evidence from Indonesia

Stefanie Engel, Charles Palmer, Alexander Pfaff
Land Economics 2013 89(2):308-329

PDF link iconWe examine theoretically the emergence of participatory comanagement agreements that share between state and user the management of resources and the benefits from use. Going beyond user-user interactions, our state-user model addresses a critical question—when will comanagement arise?— in order to consider the right baseline for evaluating comanagement’s forest and welfare impacts. We then compare our model’s hypotheses concerning de facto rights, negotiated agreements, and transfers (all endogenous) with community-level data including observed agreements in a protected Indonesian forest. These unique data could refute the model, despite being limited, but instead offer support.


Protecting forests, biodiversity, and the climate: predicting policy impact to improve policy choice

Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino
Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 28, Number 1, 2012, pp. 164–179

PDF link iconPolicies must balance forest conservation’s local costs with its benefits—local to global—in terms of biodiversity, the mitigation of climate change, and other eco-services such as water quality. The trade-offs with development vary across forest locations. We argue that considering location in three ways helps to predict policy impact and improve policy choice: (i) policy impacts vary by location because baseline deforestation varies with characteristics (market distances, slopes, soils, etc.) of locations in a landscape; (ii) different mixes of political-economic pressures drive the location of different policies; and (iii) policies can trigger ‘second-order’ or ‘spillover’ effects likely to differ by location. We provide empirical evidence that suggests the importance of all three considerations, by reviewing highquality evaluations of the impact of conservation and development on forest. Impacts of well-enforced conservation rise with private clearing pressure, supporting (i). Protection types (e.g. federal/state) differ in locations and thus in impacts, supporting (ii). Differences in development process explain different signs for spillovers, supporting (iii).


Contagious Development: neighbor interactions in deforestation

Juan Robalino, Alexander Pfaff
Journal of Development Economics 97 (2012) 427–436

PDF link iconWe estimate neighbor interactions in deforestation in Costa Rica. To address simultaneity and the presence of spatially correlated unobservables, we measure for neighbors’ deforestation using the slopes of neighbors’ and neighbors’ neighbors’ parcels. We find that neighboring deforestation significantly raises the probability of deforestation. Policies for agricultural development or forest conservation in one area will affect deforestation rates in non-targeted neighboring areas. Correct estimation of the interaction reverses the naive estimate’s prediction of multiple equilibria.


Assessing the impact of institutional design of Payments for Environmental Services: the Costa Rican experience

Juan Robalino, Alexander Pfaff, Laura Villalobos
B. Rapidel, F. DeClerk, J. LeCoq and J. Beer Eds. “Ecosystem services from Agriculture and Agroforestry: Measurement and Payment”. Chapter 14. Earthscan Press.

PDF link iconin Costa Rica. The first years of implementation set the basis for what the programme has become. Important changes have been made since the beginning, such as the institution in charge of implementing the programme, parcels selection criteria, and new offices that were opened in different areas of the country with the objective of reducing application costs. Using 2003 as the starting point of when these changes took place, we discuss if they had a programme efficiency effect on reducing deforestation. We focus on forest conservation contracts because it is the most important category of the programme in terms of budget and amount of land enrolled. We use matching techniques, geographic information systems (GIS), characterize the areas where payments were implemented in each of the time periods using a long list of variables, and look for similar areas that did not receive payments. We find that, as other studies have found for this period (Robalino et al, 2008; Arriagada, 2008), the impacts are low but significant. While it seems that, overall, institutional changes have not had a significant effect on impact, we also look at the impacts of forest conservation contracts per office. We find that those offices located in areas with high deforestation tend to have higher impacts.


Policy Impacts on Deforestation: Lessons Learned from Past Experiences to Inform New Initiatives

Alexander Pfaff, Erin O. Sills, Gregory S. Amacher, Michael J. Coren, Kathleen Lawlor, Charlotte Streck
Report from the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University (with the support of the Packard Foundation)

PDF link iconNational and international efforts within the last few decades to reduce forest loss, while having some impact, have failed to substantially slow the loss of the world’s forests. Forest loss, i.e., deforestation and forest degradation, is widespread and accounts for 12%–17% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Global concern about climate change and the realization that reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) can play a role in climate change mitigation make it critical to learn from our past experiences with policies to reduce forest loss. Within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), negotiators are actively considering ways to include incentives for REDD and other forest carbon activities in any post-2012 treaty. In parallel, the U.S. Congress is developing proposals for a long-term climate policy that includes incentives for REDD, and possibly other international forest carbon activities. Such policies may mobilize new funds for forest conservation, including for addressing drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. Climate-related incentives for REDD are likely to be performance-based, i.e., to emphasize the measurement, reporting, and verification of all results. The implementation of this emphasis, alongside the introduction of new financial incentives, could increase such policies’ impacts on forest loss relative to the past. Policy effectiveness, efficiency, and equity can increase if we learn lessons from the past about what drives and what inhibits deforestation and degradation. It is in the interest of any REDD program to understand what has worked in reducing deforestation and degradation and what has not, as well as the reasons for observed differences in outcomes. Investments and policies can then more effectively embrace and extend success while reducing risks of further failures. This report aims to provide lessons to inform U.S. and international policymakers by analyzing dominant influences on deforestation and degradation. We study not only forest-focused policies, but also other policies that directly or indirectly influence forest loss, all in light of relevant nonpolicy factors such as trends in commodity prices. We provide examples of previous policies to draw lessons from successes and failures, then link those observations about the past to the decisions current policymakers must soon make within ongoing climate policy deliberations.


Global protected area impacts

Lucas N. Joppa, Alexander Pfaff
Proceedings of the Royal Society B 2010 doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.1713

PDF link iconProtected areas (PAs) dominate conservation efforts. They will probably play a role in future climate policies too, as global payments may reward local reductions of loss of natural land cover. We estimate the impact of PAs on natural land cover within each of 147 countries by comparing outcomes inside PAs with outcomes outside. We use ‘matching’ (or ‘apples to apples’) for land characteristics to control for the fact that PAs very often are non-randomly distributed across their national landscapes. Protection tends towards land that, if unprotected, is less likely than average to be cleared. For 75 per cent of countries, we find protection does reduce conversion of natural land cover. However, for approximately 80 per cent of countries, our global results also confirm (following smaller-scale studies) that controlling for land characteristics reduces estimated impact by half or more. This shows the importance of  controlling for at least a few key land characteristics. Further, we show that impacts vary considerably within a country (i.e. across a landscape): protection achieves less on lands far from roads, far from cities and on steeper slopes. Thus, while planners are, of course, constrained by other conservation priorities and costs, they could target higher impacts to earn more global payments for reduced deforestation.


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.

Reassessing the forest impacts of protection: The challenge of nonrandom location and a corrective method

Lucas Joppa, Alexander Pfaff
Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1185 (2010) 135–149

PDF link iconProtected areas are leading tools in efforts to slow global species loss and appear also to have a role in climate change policy. Understanding their impacts on deforestation informs environmental policies. We review several approaches to evaluating protection’s impact on deforestation, given three hurdles to empirical evaluation, and note that “matching” techniques fromeconomic impact evaluation address those hurdles. The central hurdle derives from the fact that protected areas are distributed nonrandomly across landscapes.Nonrandom location can be intentional, and for good reasons, including biological and political ones. Yet even so, when protected areas are biased in their locations toward less-threatened areas, many methods for impact evaluationwill overestimate protection’s effect. The use ofmatching techniques allows one to control for known landscape biases when inferring the impact of protection. Applications of matching have revealed considerably lower impact estimates of forest protection than produced by other methods. A reduction in the estimated impact from existing parks does not suggest, however, that protection is unable to lower clearing. Rather, it indicates the importance of variation across locations in how much impact protection could possibly have on rates of deforestation.Matching, then, bundles improved estimates of the average impact of protection with guidance on where new parks’ impacts will be highest.While many factors will determine where new protected areas will be sited in the future, we claim that the variation across space in protection’s impact on deforestation rates should inform site choice.


Park Location Affects Forest Protection: Land Characteristics Cause Differences in Park Impacts across Costa Rica

Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino, G. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa, Kwaw S. Andam, Paul J. Ferraro
The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy: Vol. 9: Iss. 2 (Contributions), Article 5.

PDF link iconTo support conservation planning, we ask whether a park’s impact on deforestation rates varies with observable land characteristics that planners could use to prioritize sites. Using matching methods to address bias from non-random location, we find deforestation impacts vary greatly due to park lands’ characteristics. Avoided deforestation is greater if parks are closer to the  capital city, in sites closer to national roads, and on lower slopes. In allocating scarce conservation resources, policy makers may consider many factors such as the ecosystem services provided by a site and the costs of acquiring the site. Pfaff and Sanchez 2004 claim impact can rise with a focus upon threatened land, all else equal. We provide empirical support in the context of Costa Rica’s renowned park system. This insight, alongside information on eco-services and land costs, should guide investments.


High and Far: Biases in the Location of Protected Areas

Lucas N. Joppa, Alexander Pfaff
PLoS ONE 2009 4(12): e8273. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008273

PDF link iconBackground: About an eighth of the earth’s land surface is in protected areas (hereafter ‘‘PAs’’), most created during the 20th century. Natural landscapes are critical for species persistence and PAs can play a major role in conservation and in climate policy. Such contributions may be harder than expected to implement if new PAs are constrained to the same kinds of locations that PAs currently occupy.

Methodology/Principal Findings: Quantitatively extending the perception that PAs occupy ‘‘rock and ice’’, we show that across 147 nations PA networks are biased towards places that are unlikely to face land conversion pressures even in the absence of protection. We test each country’s PA network for bias in elevation, slope, distances to roads and cities, and suitability for agriculture. Further, within each country’s set of PAs, we also ask if the level of protection is biased in these ways. We find that the significant majority of national PA networks are biased to higher elevations, steeper slopes and greater distances to roads and cities. Also, within a country, PAs with higher protection status are more biased than are the PAs with lower protection statuses.

Conclusions/Significance: In sum, PAs are biased towards where they can least prevent land conversion (even if they offer perfect protection). These globally comprehensive results extend findings from nation-level analyses. They imply that siting rules such as the Convention on Biological Diversity’s 2010 Target [to protect 10% of all ecoregions] might raise PA impacts if applied at the country level. In light of the potential for global carbon-based payments for avoided deforestation or REDD, these results suggest that attention to threat could improve outcomes from the creation and management of PAs.


Human choices and policies’ impacts on ecosystem services: improving evaluations of payment and park effects on conservation and carbon

Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino
Engel, S. and C. Palmer, editors, “Avoided Deforestation: Prospects for Mitigating Climate Change”, Routledge Explorations in Environmental Economics 2009

PDF link iconThis chapter conveys why human choices complicate correct evaluations of impacts. Unobservable land choices, choices affecting policy location and interactions among choices complicate both ex post impact evaluation and ex ante policy planning. Based on application of proper methods to Costa Rica, we then suggest how these hurdles can best be addressed. We provide examples of: how a best practice deforestation baseline rightly conveys the constraints on the impact the pioneering Costa Rican eco-payments programme could have; why it may be critical to have different baselines for different locations to correctly infer the impacts of Costa Rican protected areas; and how choices by conservation agencies and landowners can determine the bias within heretofore typical approaches to impact evaluation.


Measuring the effectiveness of protected-area networks in reducing deforestation

Kwaw Andam, Paul Ferraro, Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino, G. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa
PNAS 105(42):16089-16094

PDF link iconGlobal efforts to reduce tropical deforestation rely heavily on the establishment of protected areas. Measuring the effectiveness of these areas is difficult because the amount of deforestation that would have occurred in the absence of legal protection cannot be directly observed. Conventional methods of evaluating the effectiveness of protected areas can be biased because protection is not randomly assigned and because protection can induce deforestation spillovers (displacement) to neighboring forests. We demonstrate that estimates of effectiveness can be substantially improved by controlling for biases along dimensions that are observable, measuring spatial spillovers, and testing the sensitivity of estimates to potential hidden biases. We apply matching methods to evaluate the impact on deforestation of Costa Rica’s renowned protected-area system between 1960 and 1997. We find that protection reduced deforestation: approximately 10% of the protected forests would have been deforested had they not been protected. Conventional approaches to evaluating conservation impact, which fail to control for observable covariates correlated with both protection and deforestation, substantially overestimate avoided deforestation (by over 65%, based on our estimates). We also find that deforestation spillovers from protected to unprotected forests are negligible. Our conclusions are robust to potential hidden bias, as well as to changes in modeling assumptions. Our results show that, with appropriate empirical methods, conservation scientists and policy makers can better understand the relationships between human and natural systems and can use this to guide their attempts to protect critical ecosystem services.