Tropical forest loss currently exceeds forest gain, leading to a net greenhouse gas emission that exacerbates global climate change. This has sparked scientific debate on how to achieve natural climate solutions. Central to this debate is whether sustainably managing forests and protected areas will deliver global climate mitigation benefits, while ensuring local peoples' health and well-being. Here, we evaluate the 10-y impact of a human-centered solution to achieve natural climate mitigation through reductions in illegal logging in rural Borneo: an intervention aimed at expanding health care access and use for communities living near a national park, with clinic discounts offsetting costs historically met through illegal logging. Conservation, education, and alternative livelihood programs were also offered. We hypothesized that this would lead to improved health and well-being, while also alleviating illegal logging activity within the protected forest. We estimated that 27.4 km2 of deforestation was averted in the national park over a decade (70% reduction in deforestation compared to a synthetic control, permuted P = 0.038). Concurrently, the intervention provided health care access to more than 28,400 unique patients, with clinic usage and patient visitation frequency highest in communities participating in the intervention. Finally, we observed a dose-response in forest change rate to intervention engagement (person-contacts with intervention activities) across communities bordering the park: The greatest logging reductions were adjacent to the most highly engaged villages. Results suggest that this community-derived solution simultaneously improved health care access for local and indigenous communities and sustainably conserved carbon stocks in a protected tropical forest.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2009240117
View details for PubMedID 33106399