More than one-third of the world’s remaining pristine forests, known as intact forest landscapes, exist within land that’s either managed or owned by indigenous peoples, a new study has found.

The study, published Jan. 6 in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, builds on previous work by lead author John Fa and his colleagues that mapped out the extent of indigenous-controlled land throughout the world. In the current study, the researchers compared those results with satellite-derived maps showing the locations of intact forest landscapes, or IFLs. IFLs comprise blocks of forests and other naturally treeless areas of land that are at least 500 square kilometres (193 square miles) and have no detectable signs of human use or fragmentation.

Fa, a professor of biodiversity and human development at Manchester Metropolitan University in the U.K., said it was “very interesting indeed that so much IFL is actually found in indigenous lands.”

The team’s analysis also revealed that IFLs haven’t disappeared as quickly from indigenous lands over the past two decades. And indigenous-managed land had more high-quality forest — that is, a higher proportion of IFLs to total forest area — than non-indigenous land in 36 of the 50 countries in the study.

Read the full article about indigenous lands by John C. Cannon at Eco-Business.