Theses Doctoral

The Effectiveness of Protected Areas in Central Africa: A Remotely Sensed Measure of Deforestation and Access

Rogers, Jessica

For protected areas that are extensively forested, the rate of deforestation is one indicator of the integrity of the protected area, and the effectiveness of protected area management. The goal of this study was to examine the deforestation rate in protected areas in Central Africa. Using remote sensing techniques, I measured levels of deforestation in 87 protected areas in five countries in Central Africa from 1990-2000. To examine possible causes of deforestation I also measured the level of access in these protected areas. A lack of access to remote areas can limit deforestation, forest degradation, and the resulting loss of biodiversity while decreasing development in rural areas. Access was defined either as natural (rivers) or constructed (e.g. roads or transmission lines). The annual net deforestation rate for protected areas in Central Africa, among the protected areas studied, was 0.05%. This is lower than the annual rate of forest loss found by other studies for the entire Congo Basin forest. Based on the rates of deforestation in the entire Congo Basin and the assumption that protected areas are trying to avoid deforestation, this suggests that Central African protected areas may be effective safeguards against deforestation. Five of the 87 protected areas exhibited zero deforestation, while one forest reserve, Kaga Bandoro in the Central African Republic, showed a five percent net increase in forest cover since 1990. Cameroon's protected areas had significantly higher levels of deforestation than those in the other countries in Central Africa. Within protected areas in each country studied there was a similar level of reforestation of 5%. Deforestation in a 10km area around protected areas was not significantly higher than that found within the protected areas. Protected areas that border other protected areas had significantly lower levels of deforestation than protected areas that were isolated from each other. The increased disturbance caused by increasing access to the forest seems to be of an ephemeral nature, initially resulting in forest loss, but leading to reforestation. There was no difference in deforestation rates when a road or river bordered a protected area, or crossed through a protected area. Only the density of roads or rivers had an effect on the deforestation rates. The secondary impacts of human use on both the forest structure and the wildlife inhabiting the forest are likely to be detrimental, and worthy of further study.


  • thumnail for Rogers_columbia_0054D_10090.pdf Rogers_columbia_0054D_10090.pdf application/pdf 1.93 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
Thesis Advisors
Ginsberg, Joshua R.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 29, 2011