Deforestation Rates Higher In ‘Protected’ Forests, Study Says

A new study says deforestation rates in tropical forests designated as “protected” areas are typically much higher than in community-managed forests. In a comparison of recent studies covering 40 protected areas and 33 community forests in 16 countries — including 11 in Latin America, three in Asia, and two in Africa — researchers found that protected areas lost an average of 1.47 percent of forest cover annually while community-managed forests lost only about 0.24 percent per year. “Our findings suggest that a forest put away behind a fence and designated ‘protected’ doesn’t necessarily guarantee that canopy cover will be maintained over the long term compared to forests managed by local communities,” said Manuel Guariguata, a senior scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research and co-author of the study, published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management. While the researchers do not contend that the designation of forest areas as protected is “useless,” they say the evidence suggests community-based efforts can lead to increased local participation, reduced poverty, and greater economic opportunities and are a key part of forest conservation efforts globally.