The impact of strictly protected areas in a deforestation hotspot

Stephanie Hernandez, Megan D. Barnes, Stephanie Duce, Vanessa M. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Protected areas are often thought of as a key conservation strategy for avoiding deforestation and retaining biodiversity; therefore, it is crucial to know how effective they are at achieving this purpose. Using a case study from Queensland, Australia, we identified and controlled for bias in allocating strictly protected areas (IUCN Class I and II) and evaluated their impact (in terms of avoiding deforestation) using statistical matching methods. Over the 30 years between 1988 and 2018, approximately 70,481 km2 of native forest was cleared in the study region. Using statistical matching, we estimated that 10.5% (1,447 km2) of Category I and II (strict) protected areas would have been cleared in the absence of protection. Put differently, 89.5% of strictly protected areas are unlikely to have been cleared, even if they were never protected. While previous studies have used statistical matching at a country or state level, we conducted an analysis that allows regional comparison across a single State. Our research indicates that strictly protected areas are marginally effective at preventing deforestation, and this likely due to biases in establishing protected areas on unproductive land.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere479
JournalConservation Science and Practice
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


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