Global deforestation is advancing on 24 fronts, nine are in Latin America and one of them in part of Central America

Posted on
13 January 2021


Central America, January 13 de enero 2021- The report “Fronts of deforestation; Drivers and Responses in a Changing World ”, published today by WWF, analyzes 24 places that have a significant concentration of deforestation hotspots and where large areas of remaining forest are threatened. In the last 13 years, more than 43 million hectares of forest have been devastated in these areas alone, an area the size of California, United States.
 
Nine of the 24 fronts are in Latin America, a region that has experienced a 94% decline in wildlife populations monitored by the Living Planet Index. This alarming decrease in biodiversity is attributed, in large part, to the loss and degradation of habitat caused by changes in land use. The report identifies the main causes and efficient solutions.
 
The report found that deforestation was occurring at higher rates in the Brazilian Amazon and the Cerrado, the Bolivian Amazon, Paraguay, Argentina, Madagascar, and Sumatra and Borneo, in Indonesia and Malaysia.
 
One of these deforestation fronts is the Maya Forest, shared by Petén in Guatemala, Belize and the south of Mexico. The Maya Forest constitutes one of the largest tropical forest areas in the Americas. It provides significant environmental services, including carbon sequestration and biodiversity, as well as vital forest resources for rural communities. While this region has long been subject to deforestation, frontiers of forest loss have changed over time. In the last decade, deforestation has shifted from southern to north-western Petén (Guatemala), and has increasingly advanced over north-eastern Campeche and southern Quintana Roo (Mexico). Deforestation drivers have also changed. If cattle ranching and slash-and-burn were the main drivers in the past, commercial farming (small-scale but especially large-scale) now plays an increasingly important role.
 
At a global level, the report identifies 12 drivers of deforestation, among which commercial agriculture ranks as one of the major causes behind the loss of forests around the world, with forest areas cleared in order to create space for livestock and crops. In Latin America, cattle ranching, large-scale agriculture, subsistence farming, mining, transportation infrastructure, and fires stand out as the biggest drivers of forest loss.
 
The report explains that degraded and fragmented forests are more prone to fires, which in turn directly affect the climate. It is estimated that fires in the Amazon in 2019 caused 1.1% of global carbon emissions, and 80% of Brazil's emissions. This is how the report emphasizes the connection between deforestation and climate change.
 
"Reducing deforestation must also be part of the solution to the problem of climate change," said Pablo Pacheco, WWF's chief scientist for the forestry practice and co-author of the report. “Agriculture, forestry and land use account for a quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions, so by addressing the loss of forests, we can reduce our emissions. There is no alternative if we want to achieve our global climate goals. "
 
"While the numbers we share are alarming, the COVID-19 pandemic may provide an opportunity for the kind of transformative changes that are essential to the goal of safeguarding our forests," warned by Fran Raymond Price, global leader in the practice of WWF forests.
 
“We need to change our relationship with nature. We must reduce excessive consumption and place more value on health and nature instead of the current emphasis on economic growth and financial gain at all costs. The risk of new diseases emerging is higher in tropical forest regions that are experiencing changes in land use, ”Price explained.
 
Solutions to stop deforestation
The report analyzes solutions and responses to deforestation and concludes that these must be comprehensive and adapted to the local and regional context. It emphasizes that there is no single approach or universal criterion, and makes it clear that the most effective responses are those that combine multiple solutions.
 
Approaches to stopping deforestation have evolved over time. In particular, there has been a shift from reliance solely on state policies and regulations that promote long-term environmental sustainability, to a greater emphasis on market-based initiatives, including Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) and schemes. certification, which ensure economic growth in the short term. Corporate commitments to zero deforestation have also been on the rise, including those of financial institutions.
 
In the Maya Forest
In the case of the Maya Forest, some of the main outcomes that the report mentions indicate that protected areas along with secure collective land tenure regimes have proven effective in containing deforestation. Persisting deforestation has been associated with land speculation and encroachment of public land. Agricultural intensification incentives can, under some circumstances, be effective in halting deforestation, but lack environmental safeguards and sufficient integration with environmental policies. Efforts at ensuring value chain sustainability through voluntary standards or other mechanisms have been insufficient. 
 
Fort he Maya Forest, the report recommends taking the following actions:
 
  • Strengthen inclusive and participatory governance arrangements and improve capabilities for effective protected areas management.
  • Secure land tenure or resource rights for rural communities.
  • Strengthen and scale up community forestry projects, which have been shown to be linked to low deforestation rates, and reverse unsustainable timber extraction in community lands where it is still occuring.
  • Improve the linkage between agricultural intensification incentives, positive livelihoods and environmental outcomes.
  • Monitor and improve value chain sustainability.
  • Evaluate the effect that current public policies and infrastructure plans are having or will have in the región.