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Effectiveness of protected areas in the Colombian Andes: deforestation, fire and land-use changes

Abstract

Protected areas (PAs) are one of the most common conservation strategies to halt biodiversity loss. However, little is known about their current effectiveness and how they could behave under projected scenarios of change, especially in the mountain ecosystems of the Andean region. In this study, we assess the role of protected areas against deforestation and fire incidence in the Colombian Andes and how variables associated with biophysical and context drivers such as the size, year of creation and geographic location of the PAs affect their effectiveness. For the long-term, we have addressed the question of how effective these areas will be under three different scenarios of change for the period between 2020 and 2050, including a reference scenario and two scenarios of increasing pastureland and croplands. The results obtained indicated that both deforestation and fire levels were significantly lower inside protected areas than outside their borders. Concerning variables affecting deforestation and fire, only the type of ecosystem affected these processes in this study. The magnitude of forest loss was different between the analysed scenarios and depended on the location of the PAs. The PAs located in the Western Mountain Range presented the largest values of deforestation but the lowest number of fire incidences. This finding could be related to the presence of processes other than fire, such as illegal logging or selective extraction. The largest losses are expected in the PAs associated with the Eastern and Central mountain ranges, whereas the Western Mountain range will have the lowest loss. We conclude that although the Andes Mountains are a highly transformed and dynamic region, the current PAs have been effective barriers for deforestation and fire. However, the creation of new areas and the maintenance of the current PAs should take into account the interaction with the surrounding population, especially in those areas that are more sensitive to change.

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Acknowledgments

We are very grateful to Carol Franco for technical assistance. Juan Pablo Latorre and Gisela Paredes from the Administrative Unit of the System of Natural National Parks provided information. We also acknowledge support for the English editing of the manuscript from the Vicerrectoria de Investigación of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. We thank the reviewers for their helpful comments on a previous version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Dolors Armenteras.

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Rodríguez, N., Armenteras, D. & Retana, J. Effectiveness of protected areas in the Colombian Andes: deforestation, fire and land-use changes. Reg Environ Change 13, 423–435 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-012-0356-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-012-0356-8

Keywords

  • Protected area
  • Deforestation
  • Fire
  • Mountain region
  • Land-use scenarios