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We have received strong evidence that our work in partnership with Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) is preventing and reversing deforestation in Gunung Palung National Park. Just this week, new research conducted by ASRI staff revealed that deforestation in Gunung Palung has slowed significantly. Summing up their findings, the authors wrote: "Community empowerment, forest rehabilitation, and health care incentives as payment for ecosystem services can help reduce deforestation."
This news comes at a critical time for protected lands like Gunung Palung. Another new study, published in Science, has shown that one third of protected lands around the world- approximately 6 million square kilometers all together - are being severely degraded by human activity. Although the number of protected areas has doubled since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, almost all of them across the globe show signs of degradation because of human impact. These areas are the "last bastions of hope," for many endangered species, lead author James Watson told the BBC, but they are being logged, mined, burned, or otherwise damaged by heavy industry.
But we believe that Health In Harmony and ASRI offer a promising way forward for preserving these protected lands and habitats. Our new research shows that, "while there is still forest clearing and other encroachment in Gunung Palung, we seem to have passed a peak in deforestation, and some previously cleared areas are starting to recover," according to ASRI's former conservation director Jackson Helms. "This suggests that ASRI's programs are helping to slow forest loss."
With the alarming global trend of encroachment on protected lands, as documented in the Science study, there is an ever present danger that logging could continue or escalate in Gunung Palung. "That's where ASRI's deforestation monitoring programs come in, " Helms told us: "The forest guardian network, regular monitoring visits, and remote sensing. When new threats emerge, ASRI is in a place to respond."