Frontiers Conserving the Last Great Forests A Meta forest conservation articles

Frontiers Conserving the Last Great Forests A Meta forest conservation articles

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In addition to insufficient knowledge about the impacts and trade-offs of IF conservation efforts, another key challenge is implementation. Even if a set of well-informed policies is designed to counter the drivers of forest loss, weak governance, institutional failure, and corruption may inhibit implementation and negate desired effects . The importance of institutional and political failure in policy implementation is rooted in the tradition of command-and-control governance widely used to regulate land-use . Implementing conservation policies and enforcing compliance often requires adequate governance capacity and monitoring capabilities, which is problematic in most tropical forest countries . Likewise, political support is necessary to enforce IF conservation laws and to develop new legislation, but political will may be lacking due to corruption and the primacy of economic development . Policies that conserve IF may also create economic trade-offs that can be difficult to overcome in the face of powerful political actors and market forces . Thus, developing effective approaches to conserve IFs that identify and mitigate governance and institutional deficiencies and overcome existing economic and political trade-offs is a research priority.
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To inform the aforementioned gaps in knowledge and the design of IF conservation efforts, this study examined the following questions: what are the drivers of IF loss with respect to the case study literature?; what IF conservation policies and activities are recommended in the case study literature?; and can the synthesis of the case study’s reported deforestation drivers and conservation recommendations inform the design of IF conservation policies and strategies?
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Enabling conditions are necessary for the efficacy of the core IF conservation interventions described above and include cooperative landscape management, enforcement, and political advocacy. These three conditions were selected based on the high frequency of interventions recommended related to law enforcement and multi-sectoral actions, as well as their ability to increase political will for IF conservation.
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Protected areas form the foundation of global biodiversity and forest protection and are designed to prevent land-use change . The effectiveness of PAs in conserving forests has been studied extensively with most studies finding that PAs slow or stop deforestation compared to unprotected lands . The success of PAs depends on internal and external conditions, such as adjacency and intensity of nearby development and the density of park guards . Not all PAs are effective as many fail to maintain their biodiversity or are degazetted due to political pressure . Establishing PAs on expanding forest frontiers may be helpful in the short-term, but without other supporting initiatives, such as regional land-use planning and law enforcement, their long-term maintenance may be too costly economically and politically. The main reasons for this being that PAs can result in the displacement of other land-uses and create political opposition . PA success is especially challenged in developing countries where institutions and political support for conservation are weaker . Similar options but with fewer restrictions, such as indigenous reserves and multiple-use community forestry systems, have also been shown to be effective in maintaining forest cover . Based on the aforementioned, we hypothesize that government-led PAs are more likely to effectively conserve IFs in North America and Europe-Russia and community-based systems more effective in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
Designing effective IF conservation interventions must account not only for the location-specific drivers of forest change, but also overcome a lack of evidence regarding the efficacy of conservation policies and programs. In general, the field of evidence-based policy and program design for biodiversity conservation remains immature . Various forest conservation policies have been rigorously evaluated in recent decades, but even the most well-studied interventions suffer from a limited study of intervention outcomes and are not geographically representative . Limited evaluation data for past conservation efforts is problematic because the impacts of interventions, including unintended tradeoffs such as increased inequality or leakage , cannot be predicted accurately. Insufficient evaluation data may also hinder projections of conservation interventions because policy impacts can vary by efficacy, efficiency, equity, legitimacy, and partisan appeal . Given the paucity of rigorous evaluations of forest conservation interventions and the multitude of potential outcomes, expanding the evidence used to inform IF conservation efforts and developing best practices for IF conservation efforts is an urgent scientific challenge.
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The indirect drivers of IF loss reported in the cases reviewed varied widely by continent and driver type . Socio-political and economic indirect drivers were most commonly reported at the national scale for all continents at 55 and 63% of all cases, respectively. National and international economic drivers of IF loss were higher in Latin America, Asia, and North America compared to Europe-Russia and Africa. Notable economic factors identified across the cases included increasing commodity and land prices, poverty, and economic recession. National demographic factors were most commonly reported as IF loss factors in Africa , Latin America , and Asia . A continental analysis of the association between demographic factors and IF change identified four IF loss-demographic scenarios: high internal population growth, general internal migration, internal immigration caused by instability, and immigration from abroad. In Latin America, Asia, and Africa, the demographic factors of importance were internal population growth , internal migration , and migration due to internal instability . In Latin America and Asia, immigration was often associated with government-sponsored immigration projects and spontaneous colonist expansion due to poverty, whereas in Africa, immigration was associated with poverty and refugee movements caused by war and political unrest. With a few exceptions, cultural and religious drivers and scientific and technological drivers were reported in ≤10% of the continental case studies. Examples of cultural drivers reported included the transition from traditional hunting and gathering practices to subsistence agriculture and changes in traditional land-use practices. Examples of scientific and technological drivers reported included advances in seed varieties, improved irrigation technologies, and increased mechanization of logging operations and wood processing.
A common socio-political factor leading to IF loss is political failure due to the absence of political will or policies to conserve IFs . Absence of political will or policies was most frequently reported on all continents except Asia, where political corruption and failed policy efforts were more frequently reported. In Africa, a multitude of factors drive political failure contributing to IF loss, including political corruption, lack of policies or political will, political instability, and insufficient or weak policies. In North America, 80% of the cases reviewed reported the absence of political will or a lack of policies and insufficient or weak policies to conserve IFs. Another common indirect socio-political factor leading to IF loss is institutional failure, with 57% of all cases reporting a related institutional failure . Globally, the most commonly reported institutional failure was inadequate law enforcement , followed by insufficient institutional capacity , and poor resource/development planning . Similarly, inadequate law enforcement was most frequently reported in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, followed by insufficient institutional capacity, and poor resource/development planning. Institutional failures were reported less frequently in Europe-Russia and North America.
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Intact forests are a global conservation priority because they provide ecosystem services and vital resources and cultural benefits to local and global societies, especially forest-dependent indigenous people . The loss of these relatively undisturbed native forests has both local and global consequences because human and natural ecosystems are dependent upon stable global carbon and hydrologic cycles and the ability of IFs to mitigate climate change impacts . Documenting the loss of IFs has been a long-term priority in biodiversity conservation because the core habitats for many threatened forest-dependent species worldwide are found in IFs . The threats to and losses of relatively undisturbed native forest ecosystems continue to be reported and recent estimates suggest that only ~25% of global forests are classified as intact . Between 2000 and 2012, ~324,000 km 2 of IF was lost, which is equal to a land area 1.3 times the size of the United Kingdom . Scientists and policy-makers have worked for decades to understand the causes of forest loss and to develop effective interventions . While past efforts have helped to reduce deforestation in some areas and have improved the science of forest conservation , more effective approaches are needed to address the continued and widespread loss of IFs. Current research priorities include improved understanding of the causes of IF loss and the development of more evidence to inform the design of place-based forest conservation efforts .
Table 3 . The table below shows the reported institutional failures at the global and regional scales leading to IF loss.
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The Supplementary Material for this article can be found online at: sin.org/articles/10.3389/ffgc.2019.00062/full#supplementary-material
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Based on the keyword searches and after screening the titles for relevance to the study, a total of 1,113 case studies were identified and a total of 483 duplicate studies were removed. The abstracts of the remaining 630 cases were then screened and 441 were excluded, leaving 189 cases . An additional 41 records were obtained from reference lists and Google Scholar alerts, resulting in 230 records for full-text screening. After full-text screening 37 records were excluded, which resulted in a database of 193 records for study. Cases were organized and analyzed in Excel. The following data was extracted from each case study by each reviewer: direct and indirect drivers of change, institutional failures, political failures, pro-development policies, and proposed conservation policies or activities. The data extracted by each reviewer was then refined based on discussions between the paired case study reviewers. Bias was present in the form of the unequal global distribution of case studies. To control for this bias, extracted data was quantitatively analyzed and synthesized as a percent of the case studies at the global and continental scales. For a detailed description of each variable extracted see Table 1 .
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The editor and reviewers’ affiliations are the latest provided on their Loop research profiles and may not reflect their situation at the time of review.
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Because PAs are insufficient to conserve all species and landscapes and because agricultural expansion is a leading cause of IF loss and forest loss worldwide , reforming the agricultural sector and including private lands in landscape-level conservation strategies is a key priority. Agricultural policies and programs designed to reduce deforestation include approaches known as “supply chain interventions” , which aim to create market incentives to conserve forests and disincentives for deforestation. Transformation of the agricultural sector to conserve forests has increased rapidly in recent years due to consumer demand and the limited effect of public policies in slowing deforestation . Key efforts underway to transform agricultural supply chains include commodity roundtables, crop certification schemes, and corporate procurement policies, such as “no-deforestation” pledges . A major downside to supply chain interventions is that they require other supporting policies because they are vulnerable to leakage and spillover effects . Also, for local producers, crop certification schemes often have low returns because of high certification costs and low-price premiums . In areas of the landscape where PAs and PES payments are less effective due to weak governance or existing private land, agricultural reforms may be useful in all regions of the world studied. Also, while deforestation caused by smallholder shifting cultivation appears to be decreasing in relative terms compared to industrial agriculture , in Africa, Asia, and Latin America this form of farming remains a threat to IFs . Thus, efforts to reduce the impacts of smallholder agriculture are also needed. Overall, the major related policy challenge is how to pair agricultural reforms with other multi-sectoral efforts that together ensure IF conservation, food security, and local income generation.
Frontiers Conserving the Last Great Forests A Meta forest conservation articles
Frontiers Conserving the Last Great Forests A Meta forest conservation articles
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The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
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Individual conservation policies and activities can be understood as “tools in the toolbox” of potential forest conservation interventions because policy instruments are viewed as substitutable . That is, as shown in this study, a wide range of policies and strategies exist to conserve IFs and many of these approaches are useful under a range of circumstances. However, some policy instruments, such as payments for ecosystem services, are more specialized and only effective under certain conditions . Given the variation of policy impacts in different contexts and the lack of “policy panaceas” to resolve the overuse of natural resources , intelligent combinations of policy instruments, known as “policy mixes” , are needed to conserve IFs. The strength of policy mixes is that they are designed to create positive synergies between individual policies and contextual conditions . The wide variety of policies identified in the case studies shows that numerous IF conservation policies are available. While there are many options available, we identified a set of conservation interventions that when implemented together at the landscape scale are likely to lead to long-term IF conservation: protected areas, payments for ecosystem services, and agricultural reforms. These policies were chosen because of their ability to target key drivers of IF loss identified in this study: land conversion for agriculture, logging, and ranching as well as market prices and politics favoring converted forests over IFs. The trade-offs of these core interventions and their related enabling conditions are discussed below.
This research was made possible through the research support of Beth Lang, Mary D’Amato, Zach Carnegie, Rachael Fox, Jackie Farenholz, Samson Grunwald, Amanda Rasmussen, Russell Tess, and Sam Scullion. A special thanks to the two reviewers whose hard work and comments significantly improved the original manuscript.
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Absent policies or political will was the most frequently documented political failure on all continents besides Asia. Political advocacy is necessary to conserve IFs in a democratic society to generate political will, challenge powerful actors, win political debates, and ensure government transparency. An engaged citizenry is also needed to conserve IFs because the ultimate cause of most conservation challenges is human behavior , which manifests through politically negotiated outcomes and government institutions . Social movements and grassroots advocacy whose agendas are to influence environmental politics have long been instrumental in the legal protection of IFs, including wilderness protection in the United States and the recent soy moratorium in the Brazilian Amazon . Maintaining and expanding the protection of IFs will thus require increasingly effective political advocacy. Such advocacy should emphasize persuasive storytelling and building influential and diverse political constituencies, including corporations, politicians, young people, and forest-dependent communities.
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The review of 193 publications produced 207 case studies of IF loss that formed the database used in this study. Data was collated across all major forest types, five continents, and 49 countries . The most common reported forest type was tropical-subtropical wet forests , followed by tropical-subtropical dry forests , temperate forests , and boreal forests . The case studies were mostly focused on Latin America , followed by Asia , Africa , Europe-Russia , and North America . Eighty-nine percent of the cases were from developing countries and the remaining 11% were from developed countries.
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The need to simultaneously target both market forces and national development policies and institutions to conserve IF is evident in this study by the high frequency of reported political and institutional failures driving IF loss. More than half of the case studies reviewed reported one or more political failure. Lack of political will or absent policies were especially problematic and pronounced in North America and Africa. Many studies have identified the role of political failures, including failed policy efforts, political corruption, political instability, and insufficient or weak policies as major threats to forests in the tropics . This study confirms these findings and shows that such drivers are worldwide threats to IFs. Similarly, echoing previous findings on the important role of institutional failure in forest loss , this research found that institutional failures leading to IF loss occur worldwide and were reported in more than half of the cases studied. Overall, institutional failures were more frequently reported in developing countries than in developed countries. Across all continents, except for North America, inadequate law enforcement was the most frequently reported institutional failure, which aligns with other research showing that weak law enforcement is a persistent problem facing forests in developing countries . The relatively high frequency of failures related to law enforcement worldwide demonstrates that preventing IF loss is often not about writing new laws, but enforcing existing laws and regulations. Likewise, the frequency at which the lack of political will is cited indicates the importance of political advocacy to change the domestic politics that surround IFs. However, increased political advocacy on behalf of IFs was rarely mentioned as a recommended conservation intervention. In many cases, the political reforms required to address issues of weak law enforcement and insufficient political will need to address the social inequities that often lead to IF loss and the strengthening of political constituencies in favor of IF conservation and government accountability .
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The indirect causes of IF loss also vary widely at the continental level. The three most frequently reported indirect drivers of IF loss were factors related to demographics, economics, and socio-politics. These factors can be summarized as increasing human demand for natural resources and the global trade in commodities, which drive local-to-global teleconnections and endanger not only IFs but also wildlife . In agreement with trends of global population growth and immigration , clear differences were found between reported demographic pressures across continents, including higher frequencies of population growth and internal migration affecting IFs in developing countries. The causes of migration affecting IFs within developing countries were also variable, with colonization projects, poverty, and population growth being most reported in Latin America and Asia, and population growth, poverty, and refugee movements being most reported in Africa. These findings are insightful because they draw attention to the important and diverse role of human migration in IF change, which can include reductions or increases in forest cover depending on the circumstances . Economic factors were the most frequently reported indirect driver worldwide and most commonly reported on the same three continents with high levels of pro-development policies: Latin America, Asia, and North America. The economic drivers reported were often linked to economic growth, but economic contraction and poverty also led to IF loss. These findings demonstrate that an important factor driving the continued loss of IFs, which are often geographically remote , is their continued integration into global commodity supply chains. Since this integration threatens IFs, this study therefore suggests that conservation efforts should target the leading industries and pro-development policies on each continent. For example, in Latin America, the most frequently reported pro-development policies are the promotion of agriculture, pastures, and logging. Thus, primary targets in Latin America include the beef and soya industries and companies engaged in tropical forest logging. Similarly, priority conservation targets in Asia should include palm oil and logging companies, and in North America, logging companies. Interestingly, the least reported indirect drivers of IF loss, scientific and technological factors and cultural and religious practices, are likely relevant in far more cases than reported due to the central role of culture in influencing human behavior and the importance of science and technology in driving economic expansion and environmental degradation . Taken together, this study finds that meta-analysis studies of cases describing IF loss can inform the design and targeting of conservation interventions and confirms that the meta-analysis approach is limited by the biases and reporting of case study authors .
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The basic assumption of this research is that the long-term conservation of IFs depends on the integration of scientific knowledge and conservation efforts. Results from this meta-analysis show that the drivers of IF loss vary at the continental level, which adds further support to existing evidence that place-based conservation strategies are needed. As shown by this study, a wide variety of forest conservation policies are available. However, further research is needed to inform the design of IF conservation interventions for specific locations and to develop a portfolio of best practices. Improved understanding of the causes of IF loss and an overview of best practices for IF conservation is the focus of the following sections.
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In the 207 case studies, a total of 456 interventions were recommended to address forest loss. Each intervention was classified and organized by its respective governance sector . The most frequently recommended sectoral intervention was forest-conservation , followed by inter-sectoral actions , efforts within the finance sector , and public education and science . A sample of the policies and activities proposed within each sector is shown in Appendix 6 . Interventions were assessed by how frequently they were recommended to address indirect or direct drivers of IF loss. The most frequently recommended interventions were forest governance , forest management activities , protected areas , collaboration and landscape governance , and law enforcement and monitoring . The least recommended interventions were sustainable land-use planning , political advocacy and lobbying and addressing corruption .
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The diversity of cross-sectoral deforestation drivers and proposed inter-sectoral conservation interventions reported in this study highlight the necessity of cooperative landscape management. Cooperative landscape management involves collaborative management of mixed-use landscapes by land-users and institutions with management authority at the landscape-scale , including combinations of PAs, working forests, and agricultural landscapes. The strength of this approach is that landscape-level collaborative efforts can break down sectoral silos, increase co-learning, and create shared responsibility to solve natural resource issues . Various IF conservation interventions can be applied through cooperative landscape management, or “territorial approaches” , including strategic road planning , deforestation bans and moratoriums , forest zoning , and land tenure reforms .
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Table 1 . The drivers of IF loss and the proposed conservation interventions extracted from the case studies.
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This meta-analysis shows that IFs face a variety of direct and indirect threats around the world. Successful IF conservation efforts require holistic, place-based, and multi-scale approaches focused on priority IF landscapes. Conservation efforts at the landscape-scale cross jurisdictional borders which creates challenges and opportunities for public-private partnerships . Ultimately, the current paradigm of economic development must shift to make IF conservation the preferred policy option and not a trade-off that must be made. This approach requires the concerted efforts of scientists, policymakers, corporations, NGOs, and engaged citizens operating in governance regimes that link actors and institutions across global-to-local scales. To conserve IFs locally and globally thus requires many different actors to work together and for governance regimes to account for the telecoupled nature of resource flows and collective decision-making . The structure for such collaborations is multi-scale governance whereby global and domestic institutions provide guidance, coordination, and monitoring and local and regional institutions ensure policies are fit to local conditions and include local stakeholders. Developing these polycentric governance systems focused on landscape-level IF conservation will take generations, but the effort is surely worthwhile.
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Underlying our need to better understand the drivers of IF loss is the reality that conservation interventions must be matched to the multi-scale drivers threatening IFs. Developing this knowledge can be difficult because the drivers of forest loss vary regionally and temporally due to variations in socio-economic conditions, land-use dynamics, population density, forest condition, and local biophysical conditions, among other factors . This variation implies that efforts to conserve IFs must be place-based and informed by direct deforestation drivers, which operate locally , and indirect drivers, which are often external to the local area and outside the control of local land-users . A diversity of scholars with different academic backgrounds have studied the direct and indirect drivers of forest change at several scales—global, regional, and local . The existence of various disciplinary frameworks to understand the drivers of forest change suggests that IF conservation efforts be based on an interdisciplinary, and therefore holistic, approach to forming knowledge of the drivers of IF loss.
The final dataset included 207 case studies from 193 publications documenting the drivers of IF loss at the local, regional, or national scale. Cases were identified and screened using the PRISMA-P meta-analysis protocol . All cases included were peer-reviewed research articles, dissertations or master’s theses, or related institutional publications. Cases were obtained using keyword searches in Google Scholar and the Web of Science database from the first 30 pages, showing 10 results per page. The following search terms were used: agricultural frontier, forest frontier, and deforestation frontier, as well as keyword searches constructed using the following methodology: “forest” + climate or condition keyword + change keyword. Climate keywords included dry, rainforest, tropical, subtropical, boreal, and temperate. Condition keywords included old-growth, intact, and primary. Change keywords included deforestation, conversion, and loss. For example, search strings included “dry forest deforestation” and “tropical forest loss.” To be included, each case study had to describe IF loss at the local, regional, or national scale, occur partly or entirely after 1970, and contain information on the drivers of IF loss.
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The conservation of Earth’s remaining intact forests is a global priority, but improved understanding of the causes and solutions to IF loss is urgently needed to improve conservation efforts. This meta-analysis examines 207 case studies of IF loss occurring since 1970 to synthesize the drivers of IF loss and the proposed case-specific interventions. The goal of this study is to build a portfolio of conservation best practices for retaining IFs. The most frequently reported direct drivers of IF loss were logging, agriculture, ranching, and infrastructure expansion. Mining and fire were also prominent threats to IFs in selected areas. Indirect drivers of IF loss varied between continents, with high demographic pressures driving forest loss in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, contrasting with North America and Europe-Russia. Indirect economic and socio-political drivers were most frequently reported at the national scale for all continents studied, indicating a central role for national institutions in IF loss and conservation. Decisive socio-political factors underlying IF loss worldwide include political failures, institutional failures, and pro-development policies. A wide range of interventions were recommended in the case studies to conserve IFs. The proposed actions were most frequently within the forest, finance, and education and science sectors, and also emphasized inter-sectoral activities. Based on the results of this study, three core approaches to IF conservation that can be combined at the landscape scale are identified: protected areas, payments for ecosystem services, and agricultural reforms. Related enabling conditions include cooperative landscape management, effective enforcement, and political advocacy. The success of IF conservation efforts ultimately depends on sustained political support and the prioritization of high-value forest landscapes. Such efforts should mitigate socio-economic pressures through policy mixes that are cross-sectoral and place-based. Key policy priorities for IF conservation include addressing the systemic failures of public institutions, increasing political support for IF conservation, and countering harmful development activities.
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A key finding of this study is the relatively high frequency of indirect drivers of IF loss at the national level, including demographic, economic, and socio-political factors. The importance of these national-level factors in IF loss, particularly decisions made by national governments and corporations, is supported by others who have noted the key role of national-scale institutions in driving tropical deforestation and maintaining protected area effectiveness . Related evidence showing the importance of national-scale institutions in forest conservation outcomes includes the recent success of national initiatives to conserve large areas of forests in China, Vietnam, and Brazil . Opportunities exist for international actors to catalyze domestic reforms through multilateral agreements that provide economic assistance or increased market access in return for reform. One example is the US-Peru trade agreement that required forest governance reforms in Peru for greater market access to the United States . Similarly, international actors can incentivize nation-states to strengthen government institutions that manage IFs through international aid, such as the recent investments of Norway in Liberia, Indonesia, and Brazil . While prioritizing conservation efforts at the national scale makes intuitive sense given the hierarchical structure of modern nation-states and the importance of national-level drivers of IF loss, this research also shows that important indirect drivers of IF loss are nested at local and international scales. In summary, future IF conservation efforts should design policies that target deforestation drivers at specific geographic scales and emphasize the targeting of national-level political systems, economic systems, and public institutions whose mission and activities influence IFs.
A global and continental analysis of “pro-development” policies leading to IF loss found that 49% of all cases reported one or more pro-development policy, and the number of policies reported varied widely by continent. Pro-development policies were more commonly reported as driving IF loss in North America , Latin America , and Asia compared to Europe-Russia and Africa . In Latin America, the most frequent pro-development policies were associated with agriculture and pasture expansion, colonization schemes, and promotion of resource extraction . In Asia, the most common pro-development policies were agriculture expansion, promotion of resource extraction , and infrastructure development. In North America, the pro-development policies most often reported were the promotion of resource extraction and agriculture expansion.
Meta-analyses of case studies are widely used to provide systematic knowledge of scientific topics , including case-based analyses of the drivers of tropical deforestation . Like all research methods, the case-oriented meta-analysis approach has strengths and limitations . An important strength of the approach is the method’s ability to identify broad patterns that explain the causes of land-cover change and inform policy development . Drawing inferences from unique case studies can also present methodological challenges, including potential issues with inter-coder variability in the analysis of case studies and potential bias if cases are mostly focused on popular issues or regions of interest . The following case-oriented meta-analysis sought to avoid potential biases by collecting a global sample of case studies of IF loss, extracting relevant data from each case study using two independent reviewers, and analyzing the case studies at continental and global levels. Continents studied were North America, Latin America, Europe-Russia, Asia, and Africa. Only two cases were identified related to IF loss in Australia-Pacific, so this area was excluded from the continental analyses. To reduce inter-coder variability and ensure that each reviewer utilized a similar approach to extracting information from a case, the reviewers were trained by the lead author using sample case studies. Reviewers then evaluated each assigned case independently before comparing and synthesizing their results with the reviewer who analyzed the same case. The data extracted from the cases was categorized and assessed using existing conceptual frameworks .
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