Fires in protected areas reveal unforeseen costs of Colombian peace


Armed conflict, and its end, can have powerful effects on natural resources, but the influence of war and peace on highly biodiverse tropical forests remains disputed. We found a sixfold increase in fires in protected areas across biodiversity hotspots following guerrilla demobilization in Colombia, and a 52% increase in the probability of per-pixel deforestation within parks for 2018. Peace requires urgent shifts to include real-time forest monitoring, expand programmes to pay for ecosystem services at the frontier, integrate demobilized armed groups as staff of protected areas, and establish a domestic market for frontier deforestation permits.

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Fig. 1: Fire occurrence in Colombia.
Fig. 2: Modelled probability and recorded deforestation.

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Data associated with this paper have been deposited in the Dryad digital repository at


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D.A. is supported by NAS Subaward Letter number 2000007526. L.S. is a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Biodiversity and Sustainable Development. L.M.D. is supported in part by NSF-DGE 1633299. We acknowledge the use of data and imagery from LANCE FIRMS, operated by the NASA/GSFC/Earth Science Data and Information System, with funding provided by NASA/HQ. We also acknowledge the use of imagery from the Image Collections LANDSAT/LC08/C01/T1_SR and COPERNICUS/S2, accessible through Google Earth Engine. Finally, we thank S. Barreto for his technical assistance with Google Earth Engine and J. Balch for her comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

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D.A. contributed to the conceptualization, methodology, data collection, spatial and statistical analyses. L.S. contributed to the conceptualization. L.M.D. contributed to the statistical analyses and policy recommendations. All authors wrote the manuscript.

Correspondence to Dolors Armenteras.

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Armenteras, D., Schneider, L. & Dávalos, L.M. Fires in protected areas reveal unforeseen costs of Colombian peace. Nat Ecol Evol 3, 20–23 (2019).

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