The role of protected areas and land tenure regimes on forest loss in Bolivia: accounting for spatial spillovers

Related GLP Member: Sébastien Boillat, Graziano Ceddia


  • Protected areas and land rights can curb deforestation but also displace it.
  • We apply a spatial Durbin model to address this question for lowland Bolivia.
  • Protected areas do protect forests and also have protective effects in adjacent areas.
  • Deforestation is higher in non-indigenous collective lands and private lands and nearby.
  • Territorial institutions influence land use beyond their demarcated areas.


The conversion of tropical forests to croplands and grasslands is a major threat to global biodiversity, climate and local livelihoods and ecosystems. The enforcement of protected areas as well as the clarification and strengthening of collective and individual land property rights are key instruments to curb deforestation in the tropics. However, these instruments are territorial and can displace forest loss elsewhere. We investigate the effects of protected areas and various land tenureregimes on deforestation and possible spillover effects in Bolivia, a global tropical deforestation hotspot. We use a spatial Durbin model to assess and compare the direct and indirect effects of protected areas and different land tenure forms on forest loss in Bolivia from 2010 to 2017. We find that protected areas have a strong direct effect on reducing deforestation. Protected areas – which in Bolivia are all based on co-management schemes - also protect forests in adjacent areas, showing an indirect protective spillover effect. Indigenous lands however only have direct forest protection effects. Non-indigenous collective lands and small private lands, which are associated to Andean settlers, as well as non-titled lands, show a strong positive direct effect on deforestation. At the same time, there is some evidence that non-indigenous collective lands also encourage deforestation in adjacent areas, indicating the existence of spillovers. Interestingly, areas with high poverty rate tend to be less affected by deforestation whatever tenure form. Our study stresses the need to assess more systematically the direct and indirect effects of land tenure and of territorial governance instruments on land use changes.

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