Studies on the effectiveness of the discourse motivating the creation of protected areas (PAs) and their empirical reality are scarce. The lack of knowledge in this area affects programs and policies on the maintenance and creation of protected areas. Thus, we investigated this matter using the case study of the Nascente Geraizeiras Sustainable Development Reserve (NGSDR) in Minas Gerais State, Brazil. The reserve comprises a transition area between Cerrado and the Atlantic Forest, two critical biomes in the world of biodiversity and the only two hotspots in Brazil. Changes in land use were identified over a period of 30 years, from 1987 to 2017, based on a compilation of the arguments associated with the creation of the PA, geographic information system (GIS) techniques, remote sensing (RS) data, and landscape ecology indices. Seven types of land use were identified using Random Forest classifier R software: native forest, silviculture, pasture, bare soil, rocky outcrop, watercourses, and agriculture. The overall mean accuracy of the classification was 90% for all five periods. The results demonstrated that the creation of protected areas is supported by contexts of land use still based on traditional. The case study showed the discourse served as a fundamental strategy in the beginning of the mobilization that culminated in the creation of the NGSDR, in the containment of forestry, in an increase in native forest areas, and in reduced fragmentation, leading to an improvement in the conservation status of the landscape. The present study encourages future researchers to apply the evaluated approach and demonstrates its potential in assessing the formulation of programs and policies on protected areas worldwide, providing valid indicators for the improvement of ecosystem services.
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