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Reduced deforestation and degradation in Indigenous Lands pan-tropically


Area-based protection is the cornerstone of international conservation policy. The contribution of Indigenous Lands (ILs)—areas traditionally owned, managed, used or occupied by Indigenous Peoples—is increasingly viewed as critical in delivering on international goals. A key question is whether deforestation and degradation are reduced on ILs pan-tropically and their effectiveness relative to Protected Areas (PAs). We estimate deforestation and degradation rates from 2010 to 2018 across 3.4 millon km2 (Mkm2) ILs, 2 Mkm2 of PAs and 1.7 Mkm2 of overlapped Protected Indigenous Areas (PIAs) relative to matched counterfactual non-protected areas. Deforestation is reduced in ILs relative to non-protected areas across the tropics, avoiding deforestation comparably to PAs and PIAs except in Africa, where they avoid more. Similarly, degradation is reduced in ILs relative to non-protected areas, broadly performing comparably to PAs and PIAs. Indigenous support is central to forest conservation plans, underscoring the need for conservation to support their rights and recognize their contributions.

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Fig. 1: Indicative map of the different protection types across tropical moist forests within our analysis, coarsened to 30 km resolution where each pixel represents the dominant type.
Fig. 2: Mean estimated deforestation rates from 2010 to 2019 (or 2018 for GFW data) predicted from GAMM regional models of protection types.
Fig. 3: ECJRC deforestation rates predicted from GAMM models of protection types for each country.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are all publicly available online (see Supplementary Table 4 for full source details). The map of Indigenous Peoples' Lands can be obtained from the authors on reasonable request (Garnett et al. 14).

Code availability

Code used for the analysis can be found in the Supplementary Methods.


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We thank K. Evans, Z. Molnár, S. Garnett and O. Saif for their constructive comments which greatly improved the manuscript. We thank D. Orme for writing a piece of Python code that was adapted for this study and Garnett et al.14 for providing the Indigenous Peoples’ Land map. Funding was provided to DPE from the Natural Environment Research Council (NE/R017441/1).

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Correspondences and requests for materials should be addressed to J.S.S. and D.P.E. J.S.S., L.R.C., D.C. and D.P.E. contributed to the conceptualization and design of the study. J.S.S. processed and analysed the data and all authors interpreted the results. J.S.S. led the writing of the manuscript and all co-authors contributed critically to the drafts.

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Correspondence to Jocelyne S. Sze or David P. Edwards.

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Peer review information Nature Sustainability thanks James Watson and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–8, Table 4 and Methods.

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Sze, J.S., Carrasco, L.R., Childs, D. et al. Reduced deforestation and degradation in Indigenous Lands pan-tropically. Nat Sustain 5, 123–130 (2022).

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