Dynamic performance assessment of protected areas

  • Barber C
  • Cochrane M
  • Souza C
 et al. 
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a b s t r a c t Recognizing the importance of preserving biodiversity and ecosystem services, human society has estab-lished extensive protected area networks to conserve these resources in recent decades. Are protected areas working as expected? Empirical coarse-scale assessments of this question across large regions, or even globally, tend to answer ''yes'', while fine-scale studies of individual protected areas often and repeatedly answer ''no''. We conducted a first fine-scale analysis of Brazil's extensive Amazonian pro-tected area network (1.8 million km 2) and have quantitatively estimated conservation effectiveness in light of changing human development pressures in the surrounding landscape. The overall network maintained intact forest cover for 98.6% of protected forest lands, largely agreeing with previous coarse-scale studies. However, detailed examination of 474 individual protected areas unveils a broad range of efficacy. Many protected areas (544,800 km 2) experience default protection simply due to their remoteness. Many others (396,100 km 2) have provided highly effective protection in the face of substan-tial human development pressure. Conversely, 12% (38) of protected areas have failed to protect the 27,300 km 2 that they encompass, and another 7% (23) provide only marginal protection of 37,500 km 2 . Comprehensive landscape assessments of protected area networks, with frequent monitoring at scales matching the patterns of human-caused disturbances, are necessary to ensure the conservation effective-ness and long term survival of protected areas in rapidly changing landscapes. The methods presented here are globally adaptable to all forested protected areas.

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  • conservation assessment

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  • Christopher P Barber

  • Mark A Cochrane

  • Carlos Souza

  • Adalberto Veríssimo

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