||Throughout the last century, protected areas (PAs) have been the major policy instrument
for forest conservation worldwide, as well as in the Republic of Panama. The country
has strived to lower the decline in its tropical forest cover which is rich in biodiversity.
The importance of evaluating existing forest policies has been increasing, especially
with emergence of financial incentives given to mitigation of deforestation. Few studies,
however, have examined the effectiveness of forest policies in Panama, including the
adoption of PAs.
This study evaluates the impact of PAs on deforestation rates in Panama through the
use of matching methods. The methods are used to adjust observable selection bias
of PAs location. The conventional evaluation methods for protected areas failed to
consider such bias, thus results using matching methods were expected to give less
distorted estimates of the impact. Two types of matching methods were applied to obtain
the estimated impacts of PAs, namely propensity score matching and covariate matching.
The results were compared with those from the conventional evaluation methods. Countrywide
forested plots in two time periods, 1992-2000, and 2000-2005 were examined.
The results indicated positive effects of PAs on prevention of deforestation. They
also revealed that conventional evaluation methods overestimated the impact of PAs.
Such results agree with the previous matching analysis done for other geographic regions.
It seems that the magnitude of the impact was enhanced in areas where high deforestation
pressure existed. There was an indication of a geographical shift of deforestation
frontiers toward remote areas with time. Bias-adjusted estimates for evaluation of
PAs will be critical for formulation of future policy. With PAs being effective in
avoiding deforestation, the future focus should be on where to put major resources
for protection. As deforestation drivers make the deforestation frontier shift geographically,
PAs will need to meet needs of covering forests under large threat in the present
and the future.