Buffer zones in the Peruvian Amazon bring conservation benefits despite ambiguous rules and uncertain authority
Many geographers have tested whether protected areas save forest, but they usually focus on parks and reserves, management units that have internationally recognized standing and familiar objectives. Buffer zones have received considerably less attention because of their ambiguous rules and often informal designation. Although buffer zones are often dismissed as an ineffective conservation tool, their prevalence in the Amazon and especially in Peru (where they cover over 10% of the country) calls for increased attention. This study examines the effectiveness of buffer zones in the Peruvian Amazon to: a) prevent deforestation and b) limit the extent of extractive concessions (a primary goal of buffer zone legislation). I employ annual deforestation data from the Hansen et al (2013) Global Forest Change dataset with covariate matching to determine the impact of 13 buffer zones on deforestation from 2007-2012. I find that despite uncertainty in management authority, buffer zones are associated with fewer extractive concessions and less deforestation. To understand causality of the result I draw on interviews with government officials and NGO employees in Lima and around the Tambopata National Reserve, the site of my case study. The approval process for extractive concessions in buffer zones appear to slow legal extractive activities, but management of illegal activities is ambiguous and less effective. In the Tambopata National Reserve, buffer zone managers have been unable to control the boom of illegal gold mining within the buffer zone. These results call for increased clarity in management rules and more research into the potential role of buffer zones as a conservation strategy.
Tambopata National Reserve
Includes Figures, Tables, Charts, Maps, Appendix and Bibliography. Text in English, Spanish.