Deakin University
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Effectiveness of regulatory policy in curbing deforestation in a biodiversity hotspot

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journal contribution
posted on 2018-11-23, 00:00 authored by B A Simmons, K A Wilson, R Marcos-Martinez, Brett BryanBrett Bryan, O Holland, E A Law
© 2018 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd. Recent rates of deforestation on private lands in Australia rival deforestation hotspots around the world, despite conservation policies in place to avert deforestation. This study uses causal impact estimation techniques to determine if a controversial conservation policy - the Vegetation Management Act (VMA) - has successfully reduced deforestation of remnant trees in the Brigalow Belt South, a 21.6 Mha biodiversity hotspot in Queensland. We use covariate matching to determine the regulatory effect of the policy on deforestation rates over time, compared to two counterfactual scenarios representing upper and lower estimates of policy impact. The VMA significantly reduced the rate of remnant deforestation in the highest impact scenario, saving 17, 729 ±1733 ha during 2000-2016. In the lowest scenario, 'panic clearing' before and after enactment of the VMA minimized the amount of remnant forests saved and may have marginally increased deforestation relative to the counterfactual (-404 ±617 ha). At peak effectiveness, the VMA successfully counteracted the amount of remnant deforestation during 2010-2012, but this only represents 4.78% of the 371, 252 ha of remnant forests cleared in the bioregion since enactment in 1999. Thus, while deforestation rates in the region have substantially reduced since the policy was enacted, our results of positive yet limited direct regulatory impact suggests the policy's effectiveness is strongly confounded by other deforestation drivers, like changing socio-economic or climate conditions, as well as new social signals provoked by the policy. The mechanisms through which the policy influences deforestation behavior must be further investigated to ensure real, desirable change is achieved.



Environmental research letters






IOP Publishing


Bristol, Eng.







Publication classification

C Journal article; C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2018, The Author(s)