Protection Reduces Loss of Natural Land-Cover at Sites of Conservation Importance across Africa

Protection Reduces Loss of Natural Land-Cover at Sites of Conservation Importance across Africa

While there is broad agreement that protected areas play a significant role in reducing land-cover change, quantifiable evidence for their efficacy can be difficult to obtain. In this paper Alison Beresford and her co-authors compare rates of land-cover change in Africa in 45 protected Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and 48 unprotected IBAs over a 20-year period. Sampling points within the IBAs were chosen using a matching algorithm, to control for potentially confounding differences between protected and unprotected sites. Sampling was carried out with high resolution satellite images (with a spatial resolution of 30 m), using a specially designed graphical user interface designed for this analysis (and now available as a web tool). The study found that between 1990 and 2010 the rate of loss of natural land-cover at sample points within protected IBAs was just 42% of that at matched points in unprotected IBAs. Furthermore, the team found no evidence to suggest that land-cover change was being displaced from within protected areas to the surrounding area, as rates of forest loss in 20-km buffer zones surrounding protected IBAs and unprotected IBAs were similar.  

This paper was produced as one of the outputs from a CCI Collaborative Fund project.

Suggested citation:
Beresford, A.E. et al. (2013) Protection Reduces Loss of Natural Land-Cover at Sites of Conservation Importance across Africa. PLoS ONE, 8(5): e65370.           

Collaboration / Project(s)

Do Protected Areas work? Assessing long-term land-cover change in priority sites for conservation in Africa using remote sensing.

Land-cover change is perhaps the single greatest threat to biodiversity. The Protected Area (PA) network aims to protect key sites, including from adverse land-cover change and represents one of the major pillars of global biodiversity conservation. Despite the significance attached to PAs, including their central role in CBD reporting, their effectiveness in preventing anthropogenic land-cover…