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News Article

“Local” approach can be more effective at conserving rainforest

Study compares performance of local and government conservation initiatives in the Peruvian Amazon 

According to a new study by a team of researchers from the University of Cambridge, University of East Anglia and the Peruvian Ministry of Environment, rainforest conservation initiatives led by local and indigenous communities can be just as effective as schemes led by government.  In some cases in the Amazon rainforest, grassroots initiatives have been even more effective at protecting this important ecosystem.

The Amazon rainforest and its biodiversity are rapidly disappearing, yet still little is known about which protection mechanisms are effective and how different conservation initiatives compare.

Between 2006-2011, the research team assessed the effectiveness of different approaches to conservation in the Peruvian Amazon.  They noted that while all strategies were effective at protecting the rainforest compared with non-protected areas of land, the areas protected by local and indigenous communities were on average more effective than those protected by the government.

However, they also found that the effectiveness of the conservation schemes also depended on what protected areas they were being compared to, as well as the land use restrictions in place in the non-protected land.  Their research suggests that future assessments of the impacts of different conservation strategies should pay closer attention to land use restrictions in place in non-protected lands.  

The research looked at areas protected by the indigenous communities or civil society, national government and the private sector and compared them with non-protected areas and land intended for mineral extraction and timber.  The team then evaluated each approach for how well it was able to limit deforestation, defined as total forest cover loss, and forest degradation defined as other human-induced disturbances such as selective logging, logging tracks and fire. 

The team integrated remote sensing data with socio-economic and environmental datasets and accounted for other factors that can affect deforestation and degradation.

As lead author Dr. Judith Schleicher explains, the results show that "these diverse types of protected areas were effective at reducing deforestation and forest degradation compared to non-protected areas and are very encouraging."  

The increased reduction in forest degradation and deforestation in areas led by indigenous communities, suggests that local support and ownership for protecting the Peruvian Amazon can be particularly effective.

"Policy makers must focus on a more diverse set of mechanisms for protecting the rapidly disappearing tropical forests," said Schleicher. "Our analysis shows that local stewardship of the forest can be very effective at curtailing forest degradation and conversion in the Peruvian Amazon. Local conservation initiatives deserve more political, financial and legal support than they currently receive."

Journal Reference

Judith Schleicher, Carlos A. Peres, Tatsuya Amano, William Llactayo, Nigel Leader-Williams. Conservation performance of different conservation governance regimes in the Peruvian AmazonScientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-10736-w

Further information on this topic is available on the Forest Science Database.  For example, using the search terms "indigenous people" AND "rain forests" AND conservation yields 40 records.  Amazonia AND "nature conservation" AND "rain forest" produces 95 results.  A selection of these is provided in the further reading section below.

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • Stephanie Cole
  • Date
  • 18 September 2017
  • Source
  • University of Cambridge
  • Subject(s)
  • Economics
  • Management