A global assessment of the impact of individual protected areas on preventing forest loss

Hongbo Yang, Andrés Viña, Julie Ann Winkler, Min Gon Chung, Qiongyu Huang, Yue Dou, William J. McShea, Melissa Songer, Jindong Zhang*, Jianguo Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Globally, the number and extent of terrestrial protected areas (PAs) are expanding rapidly. Nonetheless, their impacts on preventing forest loss and the factors influencing the impacts are not well understood, despite the critical roles of forests in biodiversity conservation, provision of ecosystem services, and achievement of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. To address this important knowledge gap, we quantified the impacts of 54,792 PAs worldwide on preventing forest loss from 2000 to 2015, and assessed important landscape and management factors affecting the impacts of PAs. Although the majority (71.4%) of the PAs contributed to preventing forest loss, only 30.5% of forest loss in the PAs have been prevented. PAs with higher rates of forest loss in their surrounding regions, located at lower elevations, within a few hours of travel from the nearest city, with higher agricultural productivity, and permission for fewer human uses were better able to prevent forest loss. Impacts on preventing forest loss were similar regardless of whether the PAs were privately or publicly owned. Our findings highlight the potential benefits of strict protections, involving private entities in the establishment of PAs, and situating PAs in areas exposed to high risks of forest loss to enhance the capacity to combat global forest loss.

Original languageEnglish
Article number145995
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date20 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by funding from the Smithsonian Institution , U.S. National Science Foundation [grant numbers 1340812 and 1924111 ], Michigan AgBioResearch , the Key Laboratory of Southwest China Wildlife Resources Conservation [grant number XNYB19-01 ], and the National Natural Science Foundation of China [grant number 42071279 ].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Protected areas
  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation
  • Deforestation
  • Matching


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