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Deforestation: Public Shame Reduces Tree Loss

Sep 28, 2015 01:28 AM EDT
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Publicly shaming areas that have high illegal deforestation rates has successfully reduced Amazon forest loss by 26 percent per years, according to a recent study. Areas that exceed deforestation limits find themselves on "blacklists," which have been regularly published by Brazil's public authorities since 2008.

Between 2004 and 2009, tree coverage declined from 27,000 square kilometers to 10,000 square kilometers. However, according to scientists from the Center for Development Research (ZEF) and the Institute for Food and Resource Economics (ILR) at the University of Bonn, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has recently declined. This is a result of the success of blacklists, because publishing the names of communities that have high deforestation rates allows authorities to identify the problem at its source, the researchers noted.

"The media and non-governmental organizations can then increase pressure to hold responsible local actors accountable," Dr. Jan Börner, a junior professor at ZEF, said in a news release.

Apparently the potential shame associated from being "blacklisted" keeps communities from cutting down trees illegally. "Blacklisted municipalities may have been worried about economic penalties, among other things," Elías Cisneros, a junior researcher at ZEF, added in the release.

Brazilian authorities use a satellite monitoring system to enforce stricter control to make it easier for environmental inspectors to track down those responsible for tree loss. For their study, researchers compared the 50 blacklisted areas to non-listed areas to better understand which face higher deforestation rates. They discovered that the blacklists play a key role in law enforcement.

"Between 2008 and 2012, many blacklisted districts have apparently witnessed a collective effort to safeguard their reputation. This effort seems to have been an important driver in protecting more than 4,000 square kilometers, about 40 times the area of the Black Forest National Park in Germany," Börner said in a statement.

Their findings were recently published in PLOS ONE

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