According to the first global assessment of forest fire control effectiveness in tropical parks, poverty and corruption correlate closely with lack of fire protection in tropical moist forests. A better understanding of the links between corruption, poverty and park management will help conservationists and policy makers create sophisticated strategies to conserve tropical ecosystems.
The survey is published in the July issue of Ecological Applications, reported by lead author S. Joseph Wright, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute; Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa and Carlos Portillo-Quintero from the University of Alberta; and Diane Davies from the University of Maryland.
Satellite data on fire frequency provides a measure of park effectiveness across countries, Wright said. It is strikingly clear from our study that poverty and corruption limit the effectiveness of parks set up to protect tropical forests.
The survey indicates that parks were most effective at reducing fire incidence in Costa Rica, Jamaica, Malaysia and Taiwan; whereas parks failed to prevent fires in Cambodia, Guatemala and Sierra Leone.
Current integration of state-of-the-art remote sensing databases with Geographic Information Systems is allowing us to better evaluate the effectiveness of conservation efforts in tropical environments, Sanchez-Azofeifa said.
While nearly all tropical countries have established parks to protect rainforests, not all have the political and economic means to enforce park boundaries and prevent illegal extraction of park resources.
To better distinguish functional parks from paper parks and to characterize the relationship between social factors and park protection worldwide, the team created an index comparing fire frequency inside and outside of 823 tropical and subtropical parks.
Low fire frequency within parks was chosen as an indicator of park effectiveness because the background level of fire in tropica
Contact: Beth King
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute