Study Highlights Forest Protected Areas as a Critical Strategy for Slowing Climate Change

For Immediate Release


Monica Echeverria
(202) 495-4626

Study Highlights Forest Protected Areas as a Critical Strategy for Slowing Climate Change

WASHINGTON - A new study involving scientists from 13 different organizations,
universities and research institutions states that forest protection
offers one of the most effective, practical, and immediate strategies to
combat climate change. The study, "Indigenous Lands, Protected Areas,
and Slowing Climate Change," was published in PLoS Biology, a
peer-reviewed scientific journal, and makes specific recommendations for
incorporating  protected areas into overall strategies to reduce
emissions of greenhouse gasses from deforestation and degradation
(nicknamed REDD).

 "Deforestation leads to about 15 percent of the
world's greenhouse gas emissions, more than all the cars, trucks,
trains, ships, and planes on earth.  If we fail to reduce it, we'll fail
to stabilize our climate," said Taylor Ricketts, director of World Wildlife Fund's science
program and lead author of the study.  "Our paper emphasizes that
creating and strengthening indigenous lands and other protected areas
can offer an effective means to cut emissions while garnering numerous
additional benefits for local people and wildlife."

The authors
highlight analyses showing that since 2002, deforestation in the
Brazilian Amazon has been 7 to 11 times lower inside of indigenous lands
and other protected areas than elsewhere. Simulation models suggest
that protected areas established between 2003 and 2007 could prevent an
estimated area of 100,000 square miles of deforestation through 2050. 
That is roughly the size of the state of Colorado, representing enough
carbon to equal 1/3 of the world's annual CO2 emissions.  Within these
efforts, location matters; protected areas in regions that face
deforestation pressures would be most effective at truly reducing

"This study reinforces the wisdom behind global
investments in protected areas," says Gustavo A.B. da Fonseca, co-author
of the study and Team Leader Natural Resources of the Global
Environment Facility (GEF).  "In addition to protecting globally
important species and ecosystems, the 2,302 protected areas supported by
the GEF alone span over 634 million hectares and together store an
impressive 30 billion tons of CO2"

International policies for
compensating forest nations for REDD are under active negotiation.  To
access the resulting funds, developing countries will need to develop
programs and institutions to reduce forest emissions. "Protected areas
represent a valuable component of national REDD programs since they
already contain the necessary institutions and infrastructure to handle
funds, strengthen protection and generate results," said Claudio
Maretti, Conservation Director, WWF Brazil. "Establishing protected
areas usually clarifies land tenure and the associated carbon rights,
which has been a sticking point in some negotiations."  

addition, the study estimates that the cost of creating and better
managing protected areas is lower than many other options to reduce
emissions from deforestation. Completing and managing a network of
protected areas in the developing world might require $4 billion USD
annually, which is roughly 1/10 of the capital that could be mobilized
by international REDD policies.

According to the study, forest
nations can strengthen the role of protected areas in their REDD
strategies by:

  • Identifying where Indigenous Lands and
    Protected Areas would most effectively reduce deforestation rates and
    associated emissions;
  • Establishing national monitoring to
    measure deforestation rates and quantify carbon emissions reductions;
  • Establishing
    insurance mechanisms for illegal logging or forest fires;
  • Providing
    indigenous groups and local communities the information and capacities
    they need to participate;
  • Distributing payments transparently to
    reward those responsible for reducing emissions.

Note to
Editors The publication
"Indigenous Lands, Protected Areas,
and Slowing Climate Change"
is available at

showing carbon stocks and potential emissions of selected
forest protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon is available at Potential
emissions are estimated by simulating future deforestation through
2050, with and without forest protected areas present. The difference
(depicted by orange bars) represents the reductions of CO2 emissions
contributed by each forest protected area.


The largest multinational conservation organization in the world, WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally. WWF's unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature.

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