Inhibition of Amazon deforestation and fire by parks and indigenous lands

D Nepstad, S Schwartzman, B Bamberger, M Santilli, D Ray, P Schlesinger, P Lefebvre, A Alencar, E Prinz, Greg Fiske, Alicia Rolla
Conservation Biology 2006, 20 (1): 65-73
Conservation scientists generally agree that many types of protected areas will be needed to protect tropical forests. But little is known of the comparative performance of inhabited and uninhabited reserves in slowing the most extreme form of forest disturbance: conversion to agriculture. We used satellite-based maps of land cover and fire occurrence in the Brazilian Amazon to compare the performance of large (> 10,000 ha) uninhabited (parks) and inhabited (indigenous lands, extractive reserves, and national forests) reserves. Reserves significantly reduced both deforestation and fire. Deforestation was 1.7 (extractive reserves) to 20 (parks) times higher along the outside versus the inside of the reserve perimeters and fire occurrence was 4 (indigenous lands) to 9 (national forests) times higher. No strong difference in the inhibition of deforestation (p = 0. 11) or fire (p = 0.34) was found between parks and indigenous lands. However, uninhabited reserves tended to be located away from areas of high deforestation and burning rates. In contrast, indigenous lands were often created in response to frontier expansion, and many prevented deforestation completely despite high rates of deforestation along their boundaries. The inhibitory effect of indigenous lands on deforestation was strong after centuries of contact with the national society and was not correlated with indigenous population density. Indigenous lands occupy one-fifth of the Brazilian Amazon-five times the area under protection in parks--and are currently the most important barrier to Amazon deforestation. As the protected-area network expands from 36% to 41% of the Brazilian Amazon over the coming years, the greatest challenge will be successful reserve implementation in high-risk areas of frontier expansion as indigenous lands are strengthened. This success will depend on a broad base of political support.


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