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Impacts of protected areas vary with the level of government: comparing avoided deforestation across agencies in the Brazilian Amazon

Diego Herrera, Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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Protected areas (PAs) are the leading tools to conserve forests. However, given their mixed effectiveness, we want to know when they have impacts internally and, if they do, when they have spillovers. Political economy posits roles for the level of government. One hypothesis is that federal PAs avoid more internal deforestation than state PAs since federal agencies consider gains for other jurisdictions. Such political differences as well as economic mechanisms can cause PA spillovers to vary greatly, even from “leakage,” more deforestation elsewhere, to “blockage,” less deforestation elsewhere. We examine internal impacts and local spillovers for Brazilian Amazon federal and state agencies. Outside the region’s “arc of deforestation,” we confirm little internal impact and show no spillovers. In the “arc,” we test impacts by state, as states are large and feature considerably different dynamics. For internal impacts, estimates for federal PAs and indigenous lands are higher than for state PAs. For local spillover impacts, estimates for most arc states either are not significant or are not robust; however, for Pará, federal PAs and indigenous lands feature both internal impacts and local spillovers. Yet, the spillovers in Pará go in opposite directions across agencies, leakage for indigenous lands but blockage for federal PAs, suggesting a stronger external signal from the environmental agency. Across all these tools, only federal PAs lower deforestation internally and nearby. Results suggest that agencies’ objectives and capacities are critical parts of the contexts for conservation strategies.

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