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Evaluating whether protected areas reduce tropical deforestation in Sumatra
This study determines whether the establishment of tropical protected areas (PAs) has led to a reduction in deforestation within their boundaries or whether deforestation has been displaced to adjacent unprotected areas: a process termed neighbourhood leakage. We processed and analysed 98 corresponding LANDSAT satellite images with a c. 800 m2 resolution to map deforestation from 1990 to 2000 across 440,000 km2 on the main island of Sumatra and the smaller island of Siberut. We compared deforestation rates across three categories of land: (1) within PAs; (2) in adjacent unprotected land lying with 10 km of PA boundaries; and (3) within the wider unprotected landscape. We used the statistical method of propensity score matching to predict the deforestation that would have been observed had there been no PAs and to control for the generally remote locations in which Sumatran PAs were established. During the period 1990–2000 deforestation rates were found to be lower inside PAs than in adjacent unprotected areas or in the wider landscape. Deforestation rates were also found to be lower in adjacent unprotected areas than in the wider landscape. Sumatran PAs have lower deforestation rates than unprotected areas. Furthermore, a reduction in deforestation rates inside Sumatran PAs has promoted protection, rather than deforestation, in adjacent unprotected land lying within 10 km of PA boundaries. Despite this positive evaluation, deforestation and logging have not halted within the boundaries of Sumatran PAs. Therefore the long-term viability of Sumatran forests remains open to question.