Evaluating heterogeneous conservation effects of forest protection in Indonesia

Payal Shah, Kathy Baylis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Establishing legal protection for forest areas is the most common policy used to limit forest loss. This article evaluates the effectiveness of seven Indonesian forest protected areas introduced between 1999 and 2012. Specifically, we explore how the effectiveness of these parks varies over space. Protected areas have mixed success in preserving forest, and it is important for conservationists to understand where they work and where they do not. Observed differences in the estimated treatment effect of protection may be driven by several factors. Indonesia is particularly diverse, with the landscape, forest and forest threats varying greatly from region to region, and this diversity may drive differences in the effectiveness of protected areas in conserving forest. However, the observed variation may also be spurious and arise from differing degrees of bias in the estimated treatment effect over space. In this paper, we use a difference-in-differences approach comparing treated observations and matched controls to estimate the effect of each protected area. We then distinguish the true variation in protected area effectiveness from spurious variation driven by several sources of estimation bias. Based on our most flexible method that allows the data generating process to vary across space, we find that the national average effect of protection preserves an additional 1.1% of forest cover; however the effect of individual parks range from a decrease of 3.4% to an increase of 5.3% and the effect of most parks differ from the national average. Potential biases may affect estimates in two parks, but results consistently show Sebangau National Park is more effective while two parks are substantially less able to protect forest cover than the national average.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0124872
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 3 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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