How Effective Are Tropical Forest Conservation Policies?

New collection of research analyzes why some conservation initiatives outperform others.


By Jan Börner

Numerous types of forest conservation policies are being implemented in the tropics today. Alongside traditional instruments like protected areas, other initiatives including development programs, certification schemes and payments for environmental services (PES) are also being carried out.

Yet rigorously-quantified knowledge about what works and what does not work remains highly-fragmented, especially for incentive-based tools.

new collection of studies that evaluate the effectiveness of tropical forest conservation policies attempt to change this. Scientists compiled new evidence and insights from 13 evaluation studies of forest conservation initiatives covering eight countries across four continents. Considering how scarce the current evidence base is, this new research provides innovative food for thought.

Conservation effects were calculated in terms of annual forest cover change. Four studies in the collection looked at the effectiveness of protected areas in BrazilChileCosta Rica and Indonesia. They showed incremental conservation effects in the range of 0.08 percent to 0.59 percent per year.

In the most effective protected areas (in this case the Brazilian Amazon), almost 6 percent more forest cover would be safeguarded in comparison to unprotected land in the span of just one decade. In the case of the least effective protected areas (in this case Indonesia), just 0.8 percent more forest cover would be preserved over a 10-year period.