New paper: Sociopolitical drivers and environmental outcomes of protected area downgrading and degazettement in Cambodia

rotected area estate of Cambodia highlighting sites that have been downgraded or degazetted. PADDD, protected area downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement

New publication by Inspire4Nature fellow Scott Ford sheds light on the ongoing downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement of Protected Areas in Cambodia. Associated with large-scale concessions, these events are already resulting in increasing levels of deforestation, with likely impacts of species only found in this region.

Ford, S.A. Persson, J., Jepsen, M.R., Mertz O. (2022) Sociopolitical drivers and environmental outcomes of protected-area downgrading and degazettement in Cambodia. Regional Environmental Change 22, 114. Access Repository

Abstract: Many studies have demonstrated the efficacy of protected areas for conserving biodiversity; however, few have investigated
the drivers and environmental outcomes of losses in site protection. These events, termed protected area downgrading, down-
sizing, and degazettement (PADDD), have been documented in various contexts in recent years, one of the most prevalent
being Cambodia. We conducted a review of Cambodia’s recent sociopolitical history and assessed deforestation patterns
related to PADDD events to determine the drivers and environmental outcomes of PADDD in this context. The drivers of
these PADDD events can be traced to large-scale land concessions granted across Cambodia between 1998 and 2012. Policies
heavily promoted private investment in agro-industrial activities by way of economic land concessions, some of which were
located in protected sites, resulting in PADDD across 12.5% of Cambodia’s protected lands. In total, these legal changes led
to 18 downgrades and, eventually, two degazettements. Results show that levels of deforestation and forest fragmentation are
significantly higher in these downgraded sites compared to those which remained fully protected. Furthermore, heightened
levels of deforestation are apparent up to 7 km outside of economic land concessions on average. The conservation impact
of PADDD in this context is likely high, as we document that 20 species of threatened amphibians, birds, and mammals have
at least 5% of their global habitat range within or near a downgraded site. This study highlights one potential pathway and
outcome of PADDD and may be seen as a guide to preemptively identifying potentially harmful outcomes in similar contexts.