While an increase in the size and number of conservation areas is expected as part of global environmental commitments, at the same time, Protected Area Downgrading, Downsizing, and Degazettement, or PADDD, is becoming more frequent worldwide. This paper analyzes the causal relationships between land claims and human settlements on the one hand and the downsizing process of a protective forest in southeastern Ecuador on the other. Industrial-scale commodity production, extraction, infrastructure development, and local land claims or existence of human settlements constitute the main drivers, but a deeper understanding of PADDD causality requires detailed documentation of the history of PA growth and loss. We analyzed official documents, conducted qualitative research through semi-structured interviews with stakeholders, and carried out a thematic analysis. We found that institutional and legal changes at the national level drive downsizing, and that local demands to land titles are a proximate cause. Our analysis demonstrates how driver and cause operate in an intertwined, multi-scalar relationship, and concludes that there is a need for more detailed understanding of PADDD causality, either to prevent such events or to define alternative tools, which can replace the idea of having areas with fixed borders to promote conservation, especially in inhabited zones.
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