Biodiversity and Conservation

, 17:3223 | Cite as

Effectiveness of natural protected areas to prevent land use and land cover change in Mexico

Original Paper


This study evaluated the extent to which natural protected areas (NPAs) in Mexico have been effective for preventing land use/land cover change, considered as a major cause of other degradation processes. We developed an effectiveness index including NPA percentage of transformed areas (agriculture, induced vegetation, forestry plantations, and human settlements) in 2002, the rate and absolute extent of change in these areas (1993–2002), the comparison between rates of change observed inside the NPA and in an equivalent surrounding area, and between the NPA and the state(s) in which it is located. We chose 69 terrestrial federal NPAs, decreed before 1997, that were larger than 1,000 ha, not urban/reforested with non-native vegetation, not islands and not coastal strips, and estimated the extent of transformed areas using 1993 and 2002 land use/land cover maps. Over 54% of NPAs were effective, and were heterogeneously distributed by management categories: 65% of Biosphere Reserves, 53% of Flora and Fauna Protection Areas, and 45% of National Parks. 23% of NPAs were regarded as weakly effective, and the remaining 23% as non-effective. We recognize the importance of NPAs as a relevant conservation instrument, as half of NPAs analyzed (particularly biosphere reserves) prevented natural vegetation loss compared with their geographic context. Our results suggest that conservation based on NPAs in Mexico still faces significant challenges. Our approach can be expanded for evaluating the effectiveness of NPA in other regions, as land use/land cover maps are now available almost worldwide.


Conservation Deforestation Ecological integrity Evaluation Land cover change Land use change Natural protected areas Parks 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the support to this research, that emerged as part of a doctorate dissertation at the Posgrado en Ciencias Biológicas (UNAM). F. F. was supported with a grant for Ph D studies from the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología. VS-C was supported by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (Project PAPIIT 218706) and CONACyT-SEP (Convenio 25048). We thank R. Aguirre-Gómez and J. Hernández-Lozano for aiding in geographic analyses at the Laboratorio de Percepción Remota y Sistemas de Información Geográfica, Instituto de Geografía (UNAM). The Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas kindly provided the Map of natural protected areas of Mexico. We are particularly grateful for the review and insightful comments of C. Margules, J. A. Meave, I. Trejo, and E. Martínez, and of an anonymous reviewer, which improved the manuscript substantially.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Zoología, Instituto de BiologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico

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