A Spatially Explicit Estimate of Avoided Forest Loss

Jordi Honey-Rosés, Kathy Baylis, M. Isabel Ramírez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With the potential expansion of forest conservation programs spurred by climate-change agreements, there is a need to measure the extent to which such programs achieve their intended results. Conventional methods for evaluating conservation impact tend to be biased because they do not compare like areas or account for spatial relations. We assessed the effect of a conservation initiative that combined designation of protected areas with payments for environmental services to conserve over wintering habitat for the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) in Mexico. To do so, we used a spatial-matching estimator that matches covariates among polygons and their neighbors. We measured avoided forest loss (avoided disturbance and deforestation) by comparing forest cover on protected and unprotected lands that were similar in terms of accessibility, governance, and forest type. Whereas conventional estimates of avoided forest loss suggest that conservation initiatives did not protect forest cover, we found evidence that the conservation measures are preserving forest cover. We found that the conservation measures protected between 200 ha and 710 ha (3-16%) of forest that is high-quality habitat for monarch butterflies, but had a smaller effect on total forest cover, preserving between 0 ha and 200 ha (0-2.5%) of forest with canopy cover >70%. We suggest that future estimates of avoided forest loss be analyzed spatially to account for how forest loss occurs across the landscape. Given the forthcoming demand from donors and carbon financiers for estimates of avoided forest loss, we anticipate our methods and results will contribute to future studies that estimate the outcome of conservation efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1032-1043
Number of pages12
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Análisis espacial
  • Avoided deforestation
  • Deforestación evitada
  • Estimadores pareados
  • Hábitat de mariposa monarca
  • Matching estimators
  • Mexico
  • Monarch butterfly habitat
  • México
  • Pago de servicios ambientales
  • Payment for environmental services
  • REDD
  • Spatial analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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