Econometric Evidence on Forest Ecosystem Services: Deforestation and Flooding in Malaysia
Governments around the world are increasingly invoking hydrological services, such as flood mitigation and water purification, as a justification for forest conservation programs in upstream areas. Yet, rigorous empirical evidence that these programs are actually delivering the intended services remains scant. We investigate the effect of deforestation on flood-mitigation services in Peninsular Malaysia during 1984–2000, a period when detailed data on both flood events and land-use change are available for 31 river basins. Floods are the most common natural disaster in tropical regions, but the ability of tropical forests to mitigate large-scale floods associated with heavy rainfall events remains disputed. We find that the conversion of inland tropical forests to oil palm and rubber plantations significantly increased the number of days flooded during the wettest months of the year. Our results demonstrate the importance of using disaggregated land-use data, controlling for potentially confounding factors, and applying appropriate estimators in econometric studies on forest ecosystem services.
Tan-Soo, JS; Adnan, N; Ahmad, I; Pattanayak, SK; Vincent, JR
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