Protected Areas Conserved Forests from Fire and Deforestation in Vietnam’s Central Highlands from 2001 to 2020

Samuel J. Ebright, Amanda B. Stan, Hoàng Văn Sâm, Peter Z. Fulé

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


As a tropical nation with ~40% forested land area and 290 protected areas in the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot, Vietnam holds an important part of global forests. Despite a complex history of multiple colonial rules, war, rapid economic development and societal growth, Vietnam was one of a few Southeast Asian countries to reverse deforestation trends and sustain net forest cover gain since the 1990s. However, a considerable amount of Vietnam’s forest gain has been from plantation forestry, as Vietnam’s policies have promoted economic development. In the Central Highlands region of Vietnam, widespread forest degradation and deforestation has occurred recently in some areas due to plantation forestry and other factors, including fire-linked deforestation, but protected areas here have been largely effective in their conservation goals. We studied deforestation, wildfires, and the contribution of fire-linked deforestation from 2001 to 2020 in an area near the Da Lat Plateau of the Central Highlands of Vietnam. We stratified our study area to distinguish legally protected areas and those in the surrounding landscape matrix without formal protection. Using satellite-derived data, we investigated four questions: (1) Have regional deforestation trends continued in parts of the Central Highlands from 2001 to 2020? (2) Based on remotely sensed fire detections, how has fire affected the Central Highlands and what proportion of deforestation is spatiotemporally linked to fire? (3) Were annual deforestation and burned area lower in protected areas relative to the surrounding land matrix? (4) Was the proportion of fire-linked deforestation lower in protected areas than in the matrix? To answer these questions, we integrated the Global Forest Change and FIRED VIETNAM datasets. We found that 3794 fires burned 8.7% of the total study area and 13.6% of the area became deforested between 2001 and 2020. While nearly half of fires were linked to deforestation, fire-linked deforestation accounted for only a small part of forest loss. Across the entire study area, 54% of fire-linked deforestation occurred in natural forests and 46% was in plantation forests. Fire ignitions in the study area were strongly linked to the regional dry season, November to March, and instrumental climate data from 1971 to 2020 showed statistically significant increasing trends in minimum, mean, and maximum temperatures. However, the total area burned did not have a significant increasing trend. Regional trends in deforestation continued in Vietnam’s Central Highlands from 2001 to 2020, and nearly half of all detected fires can be spatially and temporally linked to forest loss. However, protected areas in the region effectively conserved forests relative to the surrounding landscape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number164
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • Vietnam
  • deforestation
  • fire
  • national parks
  • remote sensing
  • spatial
  • tropical forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Building and Construction
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Safety Research
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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