Our analysis shows two relevant results. First, the supported protected area Xe Xap National park (north of the map) was not affected by larger deforestation trends during the project implementation period. However, a neighboring protected area (Pho Theung) was.
From 2015 onwards, we also observe a dramatic decrease in timber exports due to the Laotian Timber Export Ban (data collected from different sources and the project documentation). Reducing these exports was an explicit goal of the project because much of the timber was collected in Xe Xap. In linking both datasets, we can infer that of reducing logging pressure on the core area of Xe Xap (Project Challenge 1) was most likely achieved.
However, in recent years, we also see a dramatic increase in deforestation in the northern buffer areas of Xe Xap. These trends are attributable to shifts toward slash-and-burn cultivation, which is a traditional land-use in Laos that endangers the remaining natural habitats if implemented on a large scale. Reducing slash-and-burn activities in the direct Xe Xap region by increasing agricultural productivity is, therefore, one of the most important challenges for future conservation in the project area and beyond. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and datasets like this can help us to identify where action is most urgently needed, and where we might achieve the biggest impact to assist the local population in fighting global climate change and securing their livelihoods.