Deciphering forest change: Linking satellite-based forest cover change and community perceptions in a threatened landscape in India
Global conservation efforts have traditionallygfocused on biodiversity hotspots and other priorityglandscapes. However, large areas outside priority sitesghave high conservation value and are referred to asgneglected landscapes. The Eastern Ghats of India is angunexplored forest landscape of high conservation valuegwith several endemic and threatened species reported, andgis also home to many indigenous forest-dwellinggcommunities. However, it remains a neglected area forgconservation and only 3.53% of this landscape is protected.gHere, we examine the effectiveness of protected areas ingneglected landscapes in preventing forest degradation, andghow community perceptions can be used to understandgsatellite-based landscape change analyses at village level.gThis study was conducted in Papikonda National parkg(PNP) and its unprotected buffers in India’s Eastern Ghats.gForest degradation was higher in the buffer (32%) thanginside PNP (12%) between 1991 and 2014. Communitiesgattributed shifting cultivation, plantations and overextraction of forest resources as being the major driversgof forest degradation. Community observations of changegwere not significantly correlated with spatial measures ofgchange. Forest degradation was higher outside the PA at aglandscape level and inside the PA at the village level,gtherefore the PA was effective in reducing degradation atgthe landscape level but not at the village level inside thegPA. We further discuss the role of community observationsgin interpreting forest degradation in neglected forestglandscapes.