Deforestation in Central America

May 14th, 2006 by David

   Deforestation is a major problem in Central America. A quick look at the statistics shows that in the past 15 years, 20% of the countries’ forests have been destroyed. As I have biked through Central America, I have seen countless roadsides which were once covered by forests, but are now ranch land or farmland.

Deforestation in Honduras
One of El Salvador's many volcanos (Volcan de San Vicente)
Lots of land cleared for cattle along the road.

   The problems associated with deforestation include loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, more landslides, greater flooding, and more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Cutting down forests releases a large amount of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and in these small, mostly poor countries, these emissions are comparable to the countries’ use of fossil fuels.

Deforestation in Costa Rica
Building a house out of adobe (mud blocks)

   While in Panama City, I talked to someone who wrote Panama’s proposal to reduce deforestation. The people cutting down the forests, in general, are very poor – subsistence farmers who need to clear land to grow food to eat. It seems that the only viable method of reducing deforestation here is to find these people other work or to pay them to not cut down the forest. Protecting forests without finding these people other income could cause great hardship.

   In Panama City, I also visited Futuro Forestal, a company that purchases pastureland and converts it to forest. The wood from the forest is harvested after 25 years, and sold. While this is not as good as a full forest, it still takes significant carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and is far better than ranch land. It also provides local jobs and makes a profit. You can also buy carbon credits through them as well.

This part was hilly.
First day of biking in Guatemala

   Stopping deforestation in poorer regions will require foreigners and locals to work together – with foreigners helping to provide financial incentives to protect the forests.

2 Responses to “Deforestation in Central America”

  1. Dave says:

    Futuro Forestal is doing the right thing its called sustained yield forest mgt. Young vigorous forest take more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere than older, so called, “old growth” forests

  2. Wow! i’m a 9th grade student, and I must say, I did not know that deforestation was such a huge problem in the Americas. (I’m currently doing a project in science, and your site is pretty informational.) I think everyone should know about this… It seems people are so blind now-a-days. They all just sit around, too preoccupied with material things to notice what is really going on in our world.. I think if word could somehow spread to people my age in a more dramatic way, people would wake up, and realize we are only setting our future generations up for failure.

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