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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.

 

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.

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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2014.0273)

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Deforestation pressure and biological reserve planning: a conceptual approach and an illustrative application for Costa Rica

Alexander Pfaff, G. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa
Resource and Energy Economics 26 (2004) 237–254

PDF link iconAn index of ‘deforestation pressure’ is suggested as useful for reserve planning alongside the currently used information on the species present at candidate sites. For any location, the index value is correlated with threats to habitat and thus also survival probabilities over time for members of species dependent on that habitat. Threats in the absence of reserves are key information for planning new reserves. The index is estimated using a regression approach derived from a dynamic, micro-economic model of land use, with data on observed clearing of forest over space and time as well as biophysical and socioeconomic factors in land returns. Applying an estimated threat (or probability of clearing) function for Costa Rica to locations of interest yields relevant estimates of sites’ deforestation pressure, which are used to evaluate proposed reserves and to suggest other candidate sites.

Integrity and Isolation of Costa Rica’s National Parks and Biological Reserves: examining the dynamics of land-cover change

G. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa, Gretchen C. Daily, Alexander Pfaff, Christopher Busch
Biological Conservation 109 (2003) 123–135

PDF link iconThe transformation and degradation of tropical forest is thought to be the primary driving force in the loss of biodiversity worldwide. Developing countries are trying to counter act this massive lost of biodiversity by implementing national parks and biological reserves. Costa Rica is no exception to this rule. National development strategies in Costa Rica, since the early 1970s, have involved the creation of several National Parks and Biological Reserves. This has led to monitoring the integrity of and interactions between these protected areas. Key questions include: ‘‘Are these areas’ boundaries respected?’’; ‘‘Do they create a functioning network?’’; and ‘‘Are they effective conservation tools?’’. This paper quantifies deforestation and secondary growth trends within and around protected areas between 1960 and 1997. We find that inside of national parks and biological reserves, deforestation rates were negligible. For areas outside of National Parks and Biological reserves we report that for 1-km buffer zones around such protected areas, there is a net forest gain for the 1987/1997 time period. Thus, it appears that to this point the boundaries of protected areas are respected. However, in the 10-km buffer zones we find significant forest loss for all study periods. This suggests that increasing isolation of protected areas may prevent them from functioning as an effective network.