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Open AccessArticle

Does Certification Change the Trajectory of Tree Cover in Working Forests in The Tropics? An Application of the Synthetic Control Method of Impact Evaluation

1
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois, W-425, Turner Hall, 1102 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana, IL 61801, USA
2
Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, 3110 Jordan Hall, Raleigh, NC 27695-8008, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2018, 9(3), 98; https://doi.org/10.3390/f9030098
Received: 11 January 2018 / Revised: 13 February 2018 / Accepted: 22 February 2018 / Published: 25 February 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Forest Management and Forest Certification)
Certification by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) remains rare among forest management units (FMUs) in natural tropical forests, presenting a challenge for impact evaluation. We demonstrate application of the synthetic control method (SCM) to evaluate the impact of FSC certification on a single FMU in each of three tropical forest landscapes. Specifically, we estimate causal effects on tree cover change from the year of certification to 2012 using SCM and open-access, pan-tropical datasets. We demonstrate that it is possible to construct synthetic controls, or weighted combinations of non-certified FMUs, that followed the same path of tree cover change as the certified FMUs before certification. By using these synthetic controls to measure counterfactual tree cover change after certification, we find that certification reduced tree cover loss in the most recent year (2012) in all three landscapes. However, placebo tests show that in one case, this effect was not significant, and in another case, it followed several years in which certification had the opposite effect (increasing tree cover loss). We conclude that SCM has promise for identifying temporally varying impacts of small-N interventions on land use and land cover change. View Full-Text
Keywords: forest management certification; synthetic control method; tropical forests; Brazilian Amazon; Kalimantan; Gabon forest management certification; synthetic control method; tropical forests; Brazilian Amazon; Kalimantan; Gabon
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MDPI and ACS Style

Rana, P.; Sills, E.O. Does Certification Change the Trajectory of Tree Cover in Working Forests in The Tropics? An Application of the Synthetic Control Method of Impact Evaluation. Forests 2018, 9, 98.

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