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Heterogeneous effectiveness of protected areas in the Carpathians

Protected areas are a cornerstone for forest protection, but they are not always effective during times of socioeconomic and institutional crises. A new paper by Van Butsic and co-authors just published in Conservation Biology analysed more than 1300 protected areas in the Carpathians to show that effectiveness varied substantially among countries, time periods, and protection levels. This indicates that the effectiveness of protected areas is transitory over time and space, and suggests that generalizations about the effectiveness of protected areas can be misleading.

The effect of protected areas on forest disturbance in the Carpathian Mountains from 1985 to 2010

 

Van Butsic | Catalina Munteanu | Patrick Griffiths | Jan Knorn | Volker C. Radeloff | Juraj Lieskovský | Daniel Mueller| Tobias Kuemmerle

 

Protected areas are a cornerstone for forest protection, but they are not always effective during times of socioeconomic and institutional crises. The Carpathian Mountains in Eastern Europe are an ecologically outstanding region, with widespread semi-natural and old-growth forest. Since 1990, the Carpathian countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine) have experienced economic hardship and institutional changes, including the breakdown of socialism and EU accession, as well as a rapid expansion of protected areas. The question is how protected area effectiveness has varied during these times across the Carpathians given these changes. We analyzed a satellite-based dataset of forest disturbance (i.e., forest loss due to harvesting or natural disturbances) from 1985 to 2010, and employed matching statistics and a fixed effects estimator to quantify the effect of protection on forest disturbance. Overall, we find highly heterogeneous results: protected areas in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the Ukraine were effective, and the effectiveness of protection increased over time, while the opposite was true in Romania. Older protected areas were more effective in Romania and Hungary, but newer protected areas were more effective in Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia. Finally, strict protection (IUCN 1a-II) was not more effective than landscape-level protection (IUCN III-VI). We suggest that the strength of institutions, the differences in forest privatization, forest management, prior distribution of protected areas, and when countries joined the EU may provide explanations for the strikingly heterogeneous effectiveness patterns across countries. Our results highlight how varied the effects of protected areas can be at broad scales, indicating that the effectiveness of protected areas is transitory over time and space, and suggests that generalizations about the effectiveness of protected areas can be misleading.

 

Link to the manuscript: DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12835

Citation: Butsic, V., Munteanu, C., Griffiths, P., Knorn, J., Radeloff, V.C., Lieskovský, J., Mueller, D., & Kuemmerle, T. (2016): The effect of protected areas on forest disturbance in the Carpathian Mountains from 1985 to 2010. Conservation Biology, 31, Issue 3, 570-580

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